Leigh Moore


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Part one of a College Heights Herald article about the Miss Black Western pageant:

Lexington senior Shavonda Irvin held the knot of a black paisley tie between her thumb and forefinger, trying to position it in the exact center of Erika Nicholson's buttoned collar.

"I begged my dad to teach me how to do it, just in case I get a man who can't," said Irvin, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Irvin and her sorority sisters were behind the scenes making sure the 28th Miss Black Western pageant was a success.

It was Thursday night, and 12 black women were preparing to try and dance, sing, act or speak their way to the title of Miss Black Western 1999.

Nicholson, a Frankfort freshman, flashed a nervous smile back at Irvin.

The dressing room shrank as women flooded into every corner; some practicing dances, one reciting her personal narrative and others fluffing up hair and adjusting makeup.

Some bumped elbows with Irvin. She just kept working on Nicholson's tie, a part of every contestant's outfit for the opening dance.

"Does that look straight?"

Nicholson had more than her tie on her mind at the moment.

"I'm trying to go over the dance steps in my head," she said. "I'm trying to make sure I do well, and don't mess up on my talent or when we're walking out on stage," she said.

In another corner of the room, Franklin freshman Shadana Dickerson curled her eyelashes, then coaxed her long, dark hair into a smooth line. Louisville freshman Evonne Barlow walked up behind her and rested her hands on Dickerson's shoulders. Barlow looked into the reflection of Dickerson in a wicker-framed mirror, about 2 feet high, resting on the table.

"Don't be nervous," she said, giving a gentle squeeze on Dickerson's shoulders. The two were like grade school girls playing dress-up at a slumber party.

But last Thursday night was about more than just having fun. The 12 women gathered in that small room were more than just friends. They were competitors.

And the battle heated up when they walked onto the stage.

Smiles glared into the audience. Confidence and pride lifted their steps. the desire to wear the crown of Miss Black Western infiltrated their souls.


Western Kentucky University, Beauty Contests, Beauty Queens, African Americans, Blacks


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