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Colorado's Miss Juneteenth pageant is empowering young Black women

"For me, Juneteenth means freedom and opportunity," said Taylor Flowers.
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Posted at 12:00 PM, Jun 16, 2024

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Juneteenth holiday is coming up on Wednesday. It marks the day when the last enslaved people in Texas learned they were free.

As part of the celebrations, young women across the country compete in the Miss Juneteenth pageant, which is designed to help them embrace their Black heritage.

Miss Juneteenth Colorado, Taylor Flowers, and Little Miss Juneteenth Colorado, Shyann Fey, share their experiences and how the pageant helped them overcome obstacles.

Both reigning Miss Juneteenth queens were in attendance on day 1 of the Colorado Springs Juneteenth festival Friday.

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Taylor Flowers - Miss Juneteenth Colorado 2024

Flowers has been crowned Miss Juneteenth Colorado 2024. The 18-year-old lives in Colorado Springs and just graduated from high school. Flowers has competed in pageants since the age of 12. She said her parents put her in pageants because she was shy as a child.

"Originally, I started doing them because my mom wanted me to get out of my shell. But after I kept doing it, I just liked doing them because they were fun to me," said Flowers.

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Miss Juneteenth USA is a national scholarship pageant program that encourages young African American women to embrace their diversity and culture while pursuing higher educational goals. This national platform aims to showcase African Americans' beauty, poise, and rich culture.

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Taylor Flowers - Miss Juneteenth Colorado 2024

"Winning, it feels great each time. It makes me feel really good about myself. And you know, not winning, it's fine too, because I'm so happy to see my friends who I gained during that that time win as well. I really like how we can all help each other, even though we're all competing against each other. We're just all there to have a good time," said Flowers.

Nationally, Miss Juneteenth offers three unique competition categories:

  1. Little Miss Juneteenth USA
    1. Age Category: 7-10 Years Old
  2. Jr. Miss Juneteenth USA
    1. Age Category: 11-14 Years Old
  3. Miss Juneteenth USA
    1. Age Category: 15-18 Years Old
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Shyann Fey - Little Miss Juneteenth USA 2023 & Little Miss Juneteenth Colorado 2023

Eight-year-old Fey currently holds two titles: Little Miss Juneteenth USA and Little Miss Juneteenth Colorado.

"I was about to cry. I had to hold my tears back because I was too happy. It makes me feel strong, and I can do anything," said Fey.

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Fey's platform is built on helping others. She loves volunteering with the Human Society. However, she is too small to actually walk the dogs. Instead, she reads to them. The book she reads is "Juneteenth: A Children's Story," written by civil rights icon Opal Lee.

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Fey said that she wants to be a firefighter when she grows up.

"They put out the fire and help people survive a fire. God wants me to do it," she said.

The Miss Juneteenth pageant aims to enhance the lives of young Black women. Participants attend workshops, learn etiquette and public speaking skills, and complete community service. State Director for Colorado Shauna Sankey said that Miss Juneteenth is a sisterhood she has been unable to find anywhere else.

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"We want to empower African American young women in order to become their best selves, and we allow them a national platform to do that. We are a dedicated and focused on children and young women who look like me," said Sankey.

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In 1997, Sankey was crowned Miss Juneteenth. Now, she helps other young girls fill that role.

"In 2024, we have the national attention. Back in the 90s, Juneteenth was just a local event. Juneteenth wasn't even a national holiday. The ladies who compete in the Miss Juneteenth pageants are tasked with writing essays, raising funds, completing community service, as well as learning opening numbers, practicing their poise, their talent, public speaking and interviewing skills," said Sankey.

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Sankey explains how this is different from other pageants.

"It's different because we allow girls who have walks, we allow girls who have braids or Afros, whereas the national beauty standard, other pageantries, other pageant systems critique that look, our look, and discourage girls, black girls, brown girls who look like me from entering pageants," she said.

Miss Juneteenth USA's national competition will take place October 16-18. Flowers will compete for the national title, and Fey will be there to pass her crown to the new Little Miss Juneteenth USA.

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If you would like to support Flowers in winning the Miss Juneteenth USA title, you will be able to cast your vote on the Miss Juneteenth USA website. Votes cast also contributes to their national scholarship fund.

Colorado's Miss Juneteenth pageant is empowering young Black women


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