All That Glitters is Gold

JU holds first Mr. and Miss Gold Pageant to celebrate diversity on campus


Olivia Dougherty

Natavia Reddick (left) and Johnny Cooper (right) pose with their Miss and Mr. Gold awards

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— Jacksonville University made history on Feb. 1 by holding the first campus pageant celebrating diversity.

Organizers hope this can become an annual event.

The founder of the pageant and JU senior, Leonna Howard said the pageant was created as an effort to make minority students feel equally represented.

“I’ve seen it,” Howard said. “I’ve felt it. I didn’t do much about it. I’m about to leave and this is my chance to create a pageant for minority students specifically.”

The pageant is a scholarship program that awards each winner $250 to go toward their expenses while at school. Howard said the pageant received positive feedback, with donors for next year’s pageant already lining up.

She also said the pageant was a boost of confidence for the participants.

“From the first rehearsal to the pageant, there was a huge change among everybody,” Howard said. “The confidence that people walked in with before they started is at a whole new level now.”

Participants in the pageant were selected following a round of applications and interviews. Once in the pageant, contestants participated in introductions, evening wear, talent showcase, and interviews, all to be scored by three judges.

The winners of Mr. and Miss Gold were Johnny Cooper and Natavia Reddick. Cooper and Reddick will be able to organize events on campus to continue to raise awareness, with the support of Shake Culture Crew, the organization that hosted the pageant.

Reddick, a sophomore, said the pageant was a new experience she is grateful for, because it helped her grow as an individual. She says her family is extremely proud of her holding this title at a primarily white institution.

Reddick says she hopes that holding this title will give her a platform to plan events in the future.

“I feel like people will be more respectful and professional about me trying to do events on campus,” Reddick said.

For next year’s pageant, Cooper wants to encourage more people to step out of their comfort zone. He says being able to do something like this in front of people is a useful skill for all men to have. Cooper says the title is meaningful to him as well, although he tries to keep his focus on the big picture.

“I just try to be the best person I can be,” Cooper said. “I don’t get caught up in who I’m representing.”

Of course, with planning such an event come lessons learned. Shake Culture Crew spent hours to ensure that the event would go smoothly and having everything approved by the university.

Howard said the hardest part about having a diversity pageant come to the campus was getting through the negative response that the event first received. Some people expressed concern that the new event is too similar to the Miss Dolphina and Big Man on campus pageant.

This is held every year as a campus event to pick the two students who best represent the Jacksonville University spirit throughout the homecoming pageant events.

Howard said the intention for this pageant had nothing to do with other organizations on campus and was only created to represent black and minority students on campus.

Howard says that she is proud of everything she has done on campus.