|Subject: Celebrating Black History Month|
[ Edit | View ]
Date Posted: 17:04:28 02/22/17 Wed
Over the course of the next four months, Miss USA 2017 will be chosen. This will be the second consecutive year that the pageant will be produced by the IMG organization. I'm predicting true to form that they will continue to evolve, and represent a women of intellect, beauty and substance. The organization has done an exemplary job of marketing and promoting a 21st century view of womanhood. Beauty Pageants across the board have become obsolete and unappealing to people in the mainstream. Most progressive women consider them demeaning and unpractical. They no longer have the luster or appeal beyond pageant enthusiast.
In order for the industry to survive IMG had to make radical changes. During the Madisan Square Garden/CBS years, Miss Universe, USA and Teen USA figurehead was prestigious. Network television, huge corporate sponsors, and reliable viewers and spectators alike supporting all three pageants. The prizes were substantial and the prestige of the titles were significant. It was an enormous platform to launch careers in television, film, modeling and entrepreneurial endeavors. These were the days when the winners were spokes people for major retail giants like JC Penny.
In honor of Black History Month. I wanted to reflect on my introduction and exposure to the world of pageantry. In 1986, I watched my first Miss USA Pageant while a senior in high school. That year, a stunningly beautiful Chirsty Brinkley clone won from the state of Texas. I attended my first State Pageant in Michigan in November 1988, in support of two of my friends outgoing Miss Michigan USA Anthonia Dotson and competing contestant Kenya Moore. Me, Carole Gist, Kenya Moore and disgraced Mayor of the City of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick graduated from Cass High School in Detroit. I graduated1986, Kenya, Carole and Kwame graduated in1987 and 1988.
Carole and Kenya were stunningly beautiful, tall and popular with all the boys in school. Carole demeanor was a little reserved but Kenya was outgoing. This was during the eighties when black women started competing in mainstream pageants. Both Carole and Kenya had won Miss Black World Michigan. It was a cultural pride pageant that was a spring board to launch girls careers in modeling and entertainment. This was a prestigious pageant during that time, and enticed the very best and brightest African American women in the State. It was a televised event and huge in popularity and prestige. Kenya won on her first attempt in 1988 and Carole on her second attempt in 1989.
By this time, I began to become more involved in the industry as coach and advisor. In 1988, there were very few straight African American men in the history. The Miss Michigan USA/Teen USA Director was a black man name Gary Grizzell. He was a local businessman that was married to a stunning white lady who was a former Miss Michigan World in 1975. He was very nice looking and we'll spoken. He was a nice guy, but his organization was cheap. Several former Miss Michigan USA winners received very little time or resources preparing for the national competition. Miss Michigan USA 1989 Karen Funican was stunning. With proper preparation she could have put Michigan on the map. The lack of preparation for that young woman was atrocious.
In the spring of 1989, Carole year of service for the Miss Black World Michigan organization was over. By this time,I was engrossed in the industry. I was still in undergraduate school, but making money and certifying my credentials working on various prep teams. I was responsible for recruiting, marketing and promoting women in pageantry competitions around the States. This was prior to cell phones and the social media revolution.
In the fall of 1989, we stated preparing Carole Gist for the State Pageant. Kenya had won another title is the State (Miss Michigan United) and was to busy to compete. During this time she was traveling with the auto show while balancing her studies at Wayne State University in Detroit.
I had established a great rapport with Mr. Grizzell. He asked me to serve on the judges panel of the State Pageant that year. I had to decline because we were preparing Carole for the competition. He needed a replacement African American judge. I referred my good friend former Mr. Black Michigan Craig Green. He knew of Carole but didn't know her on the pageant circuit. I knew Craig would be impartial and I never revealed to him that our team had been working with her. I knew Carole was the real deal and she could win it fairly.
In November of 1989, Carole Gist won the title of Miss USA in a landslide. There were six judges on the panel. Her on stage presentation was flawless. Ironically at the coronation ball gathering Craig and Mr. Grizzell told me that she won the pageant in interview. Her stage presentation cemented the deal. Everyone in that ballroom knew that history was going to be made in Kansas City. On February 1990, Carole Ann Marie Gist became the first black woman to win the Miss USA title and it made headlines around the world. Debbye Turner was Miss America that year and Renee Tenison had become Playboy Playmate of the Year. USA today labeled the achievements the year of triumph for black women in pageants and fashion. Carole paved the way for black women to follow in her footsteps. I'm grateful to have been a part of her journey and black history.
[ Post a Reply to This Message ]
- Very interesting Tom, thanks for sharing. I didn't know Carole and Kenya knew each other before the Miss Michigan USA pageant. (NT) -- ..,., 08:26:16 02/23/17 Thu
- Really interesting, thanks for sharing! (NT) -- RockyGirl, 09:48:48 02/23/17 Thu
- Great recap of pageantry in late 80s/early 90s. (NT) -- Ciao500, 22:45:24 02/23/17 Thu
- This was a very informative read. That Kwame, Carole, and Kenya went to the same high school is insane. Talk about a group of people who were most likely to succeed. Also, that Kenya and Carole competed in other pageants and the outcomes/titles they both share. (NT) -- Florida State Fan, 10:53:11 02/24/17 Fri
- Tom has posted here before that he is from Michigan but I never knew that he was involved in the Michigan USA pageant in the late 1980s/early 1990s. This was a good read, thanks for posting. (NT) -- Basketball Fan, 18:11:59 02/24/17 Fri
- Great read, thanks for sharing! Would like to hear about their preparations for Miss USA if you like to write more Tom (NT) -- Samuel, 12:44:07 02/25/17 Sat
- Loved it (NT) -- Cinthi, 15:54:25 02/26/17 Sun