Meet Miss Black US and Teen US Ambassador Pageant founder Patrice Harrison

Patrice Harrison (Courtesy)
Patrice Harrison (Courtesy)

What is the name of your organization? What’s your mission?
Miss Black US Ambassador and Miss Black Teen US Ambassador.
Mission: To encourage, empower and enlighten communities, states and nations.

Why did you start it?
We launched in the fall of 2012 and crowned our first queens, Erica Christina-Little and Whitney Johnson. Erica had to step down due to health issues and we later crowned Jazmine Scroggins.

When is your next event?
It will be held on July 3-9, 2016, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

What is the purpose?
The Miss Black US Ambassador experience is more than a competition. It’s a scholarship program that gives 365 days of support and resources to communities in need. A platform for today’s savvy, intelligent and socially aware women of color to express their educated viewpoints, demonstrate their extraordinary talents and showcase not just their pretty faces, but their gorgeous minds. The crowned national Ambassadors receive scholarship opportunities to further their education.

What are your day-to-day duties as it relates to directing the pageant?
I actually don’t direct the pageant. I have a VP, Lauren Parkes who handles producing the pageant. My day to day as the CEO and founder consists of networking to maintain and secure sponsorships, working with community, state and national/ world leaders to develop programs that combat issues those communities are facing. I am constantly on the phone or working on business plans and plans of action. I also make the time to speak with each state delegate throughout the process to make sure they are having a successful reign. The key that starts my day is prayer. I get up each morning praying for direction, praying for my team and praying for the young women in the system.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Getting people to follow through and getting our own community to be supportive. We have an amazing program and sometimes people will overcommit and having to chase after people to follow through for the sake of the girls is frustrating and time consuming. Also, getting our own community and media to see the value in Black pageants. People don’t realize when you don’t support or follow through, you hurt the young ladies who are trying to impact the communities they serve. Miss USA has had nine Black women as queen and when a Black woman wins, everyone gets excited, she is celebrated in all of our media. But every year we crown a Black woman who can actually use her reign to heavily impact our communities and advocate for change on issues that face us, and we barely get a news story on our own stations or our own newspapers. Our communities and media need to see what we have, support us, preserve our legacy and bring hope to our people.

How do you help contestants with their posture, walk, image?
I have been coaching for 16 years, so I start with teaching on confidence and reminding them they are fearfully and wonderfully made. You can have the baddest walk and posture, but if you don’t know who you are and how amazing you are, you have lost. So I start from the inside out. It’s all about personal development. Once you are strong and secure in yourself, you can learn to walk and talk.

What’s the most unique talent you’ve seen?
Miss Black US Ambassador recently did away with talent competition, because we felt that [the] interview and personal presentation w[ere] more in line with our mission. Since then, I haven’t really seen a talent competition since the first year. I will say in my years of pageantry I have seen a young lady paint a picture while dancing in less than three minutes and it was simply amazing.

What’s the biggest misconception about pageants?
The biggest misconception is that we are all the same. Most people believe it’s just about beauty or that “black pageants” are run poorly. MBUSAM prides itself on the slogan,”Not Just Another Pageant” We are way more than glitz and glam. We pride ourselves in developing agents of change and really focusing on inner and outer beauty. Our production is flawless and worthy of television and we start on time.

In your experience, what stereotypes do pageant participants face?
Some of the biggest stereotypes would have to be; “Pageant girls aren’t smart”; “Pageant girls are self centered”; “They only show up for appearances, not to help.”

What are some success stories?
Success to me is defined by the lives that are changed by this system. We traveled to Selma 50 and I took several state and my national queens with me. Some of the girls never heard of Selma. We were able to sit down with civil rights leaders, listen to the president of the United States, and the biggest highlight and success to me was having these young ladies lead 3,000 children across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. To me, everything I had to go through, prove and work on was worth it. To see MBUSAM lead the next generation of change agents was something I will never forget. It changed the lives of these young women. With tears in their eyes, they finally understood that if our nation and our youth were going to change, it would be up to them to be the light that leads them across the hardest bridges in life. Each year, I take our Queens to Selma so they know that to be successful it will take teaching them to not let anyone turn them around.

Another success is the Call Me Miss Ambassador Conference. We are the only pageant system that host a young women’s conference during pageant week. We have also hosted this conference overseas. In defining success, we have impacted young ladies around the U.S. and other countries by providing them with a one day intensive conference that empowers them to be change agents in the communities they serve.

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