Meet Miss Black Minnesota USA Thandisizwe Jackson-Nisan. She’s not your typical queen. In this interview with rolling out, she delves into the art of pageantry and how she uses her title to serve as a role model.
What separates you from others in your field? What is unique about the experience you create?
The title that I hold as Miss Black Minnesota USA is diverse in itself. It gives me the opportunity to promote empowerment by just stating my role. I am always willing to assist, promote, volunteer and help in any way that I can, especially when my efforts help to grow and develop Black girls. My willingness to be there for others is one of my best qualities. The diversity that I bring to the pageant world is uncommon. I am young, which means I am learning. I am Black, which means I am beautiful. I am curvy, which means despite what the media tells us, one size does not fit all. I rock a short hairstyle, which means I am not my hair. I am unique and this translates to any experience, event, a piece of art, etc. that I create. I try to think as if there is no box, and if I am thinking outside the box, it’s a box that I have already created.
For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
I was taught that practice makes better. I would encourage anyone wanting to progress in pageantry or the world of art to study vigorously, train as much as possible, and really learn the arena that you want to grow in. Specific areas that should be focused on are interviewing, poise and posture, walking, the art of smiling and knowing how to always be microphone ready. Success is self-defined and the traits most conducive to my journey are discipline, work ethic and integrity, etc.
How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
Technology is a huge component of my work and helps me stay on top of my game. I work to always be better than yesterday. Training and seeking assistance from others is also a way to continue growth. I also try not to limit myself, if I want something I plan for it. Keeping my creativity is vital for my visions.
Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it.
An industry role model is Davina Bennett, Miss Universe Jamaica and second runner-up for Miss Universe 2017. Davina showed young Black girls all over the world that it’s OK to be you, unapologetically. She rocked her afro on a stage where the majority of contestants choose to wear straight long hair. She made a statement that was long overdue and she is a beautiful Black woman who celebrates herself and her people. I love Alicia Keys. She is and always has been a role model. I have not heard one bad story about her, which is impressive. She writes and sings about real issues and stays away from lyrics that help to degrade women. She is beautiful and has taken a courageous stance against beauty standards by not wearing makeup as often, which is truly remarkable. She is exceptional in talent and seems like such a kind spirit with a big heart. She has been a role model for me since I was in sixth grade.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
We often neglect one another and find ourselves focusing more on our electronics than our colleagues. Sometimes, we don’t speak to the person in the elevator with us, sometimes we won’t even smile at the person that we brush past in the hallway. We must love on one another because at the end of the day, we are all human and we all require positive energy to be our best.
What does it take to be iconic? In your estimation, who has achieved that status?
When I think of the word icon I think of affirmations like I can. People who are iconic help inspire others like myself to know that we can. I can be what I want to be (Nas), I can accomplish my goals no matter how distant, difficult and different they may seem. Queen Latifah is extraordinary and definitely iconic for many reasons. As a Black woman, she has knocked down many barriers. As a curvy woman, she has shown us that one size does not fit all and has encouraged us to celebrate body diversity and positivity. Though I haven’t met her I have a strong feeling she is a kind soul with a passion for people, a lover. I was sad to hear about the passing of her mother as it seemed like they were close. My mother and I share a similar relationship and I hope to make my mother as proud of me as I’m sure Queen’s mother was of her. That would be iconic.
What keeps you inspired?
My generation has kept me inspired; young people are so creative and we go after what we want. Watching entrepreneurs like Issa Rae; [actress] Yara Shahidi; Dashauna Barber, Miss USA 2016; and Grey, the “Vegan Thanksgiving” rapper helps to keep me motivated and proud of us as a collective. Young people all around the world, on a local and international level, are slaying and creating products, events, art, etc., that is inspiring the masses. I love seeing other like-minded young people living their dreams and being bold as they ask their audiences to open their minds and hearts.