Alexandria Hunter competed in her first pageant when she was eight years old under the Miss Black USA Princess program. Hunter is a freshman studying opera and vocal performance, and she now holds the title of Miss Black USA Teen — a competition she’s been watching since she started doing pageants.
“It really has been a culminating full-circle moment,” Hunter said. “When I was eight, I was like, ‘I want to be just like that,’ and I want to be able to have that same impact on young girls because it really did change the direction of my life when I participated in Miss Black USA’s Princess Program.”
Hunter said that when she first saw the Instagram announcement that she’d won the pageant, she was “shook.”
“I was like, ‘It’s actually me; that is so crazy,’” Hunter said. “I was with my mom at the time, and we were just jumping with joy. It really was a great moment.”
Miss Black USA is a pageant that’s focused on fighting against the stereotypes often portrayed about women and girls of color in mainstream media.
Renee Johnson, the pageant’s public relations coordinator, said Miss Black USA is about celebrating the achievements of women of color by awarding scholarships to exceptional young women.
“We're very impressed with [Hunter],” Johnson said. “She clearly stands out as someone who is a high achiever and extremely talented.”
Due to COVID-19, the pageant had to take place virtually this year, but the same three phases were still held: question and answer, fitness and talent. Hunter’s talent was opera singing.
Johnson said it isn’t uncommon for competitors to sing opera at the college-age Miss division of the pageant, but it’s rare to have them in the Teen division, as Hunter was. Johnson said Hunter’s talent was “way off the charts.”
Hunter said it’s affirming that her talent was viewed so highly, and she was excited to be able to share her passion with people on a national level — something Hunter said she thinks will be a serious career benefit.
Dorothy Maddison, Hunter’s vocal professor, also said the exposure from competing in the pageant will also be useful for Hunter’s career, adding to the natural talent she already has.
“African American Black singers have their own individual and unique way of singing,” Maddison said. “She has a beautiful voice that also has this richness [and] depth in the lower part of her range.”
Johnson said she can see Hunter performing at the Kennedy Center and that many people have started calling her a second Amanda Gormon — the American poet who spoke at the 2021 presidential inauguration. She also said she envisions Hunter on an international platform.
Hunter said Gormon leaves “some big shoes to fill,” but she can definitely see herself in a similar position to Gormon in the future.
Along with winning the title of Miss Black USA Teen, Hunter was also the recipient of a $2,500 scholarship, which she plans to use to further her education. Hunter also said she’s gained important life skills that’ll help her succeed in and after college.
“[Miss Black USA] has impacted my education so much,” Hunter said. “I've been able to learn so much by doing these beauty pageants. It really does teach me poise, elegance and public speaking.”
Maddison said the public speaking aspect of pageantry is an especially useful skill Hunter has to better herself as a person and that it’ll be of use while looking for a career.
“She's not afraid to use words,” Maddison said. “She wants what higher education does; it teaches you to think critically, and she's hungry for that. It's very easy for singers to just be vain and say, ‘Listen to how I sound; I’m beautiful,’ but you have to have the mind behind that to actually create art.”
After a couple of years, Hunter will be able to compete in the Miss Black USA pageant again in the Miss division. Until then, Hunter said she’s looking forward to the opportunities she has as the reigning teen winner. She said she’s already had a great experience and has learned a lot from the amazing people she's met.
Once Hunter is fully vaccinated from COVID-19, she’ll travel around the country — with a chance of traveling abroad as well — to make guest appearances and do opera performances. In the past, some of these occasions have been inaugural events.
Hunter said one of her primary goals is to be a spokesperson for Miss Black USA and to promote the organization, but she also wants to further her own platform to educate young girls who aren’t able to get voice lessons. Hunter said that she wants to be able to make an impression on young girls so that more people will be able to be in the same position as she is.
“I want to be able to plant that foundation a little younger so there will be more people being able to [be in this position],” Hunter said.
Overall, Hunter said, the Miss Black USA pageant has been a great opportunity for her to make a positive impact in the lives of other young women of color.
“That’s why this type of beauty pageant is so important,” Hunter said. “It really does give young girls the opportunity to role model.”
Johnson said she feels that Hunter will be a great role model for anyone looking up to her and seeing her as a mentor.
“I think they will learn they don’t have to choose beauty over talent,” Johnson said. “They can have it all. They can celebrate who they are, and they can be their whole selves. They don’t have to conform to society's standards.”
Hunter’s advice to other young women of color looking up to her is to “really keep working hard.”
“Try to be true to yourself and be fabulous and unapologetically you,” Hunter said.
Contact Avery Goodstine at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.