Interview with Miss Louisiana Collegiate America 2020 – Taja’ White
Firstly thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions about your pageant journey for my pageant lockdown blog. It’s lovely getting to know fellow pageant queens and more about the systems that they represent.
Can you introduce yourself ?
Miss Louisiana Collegiate America 2020, Taja’ White, 25
What made you enter pageants?
Pageants originally started out as a bonding experience for my mother and me. In high school I didn’t really like proms and homecoming, so pageants were something that I did to give her the experience with the pretty dresses and makeup. It also filled in the gap I was missing after changing my major from Theatre to Speech Pathology. It then evolved into a journey of self-exploration that provided me a platform to speak on things I cared about.
Can you tell us about your pageant journey so far ?
My first real pageant was my university’s pageant: Miss UL Lafayette USA. It is an official preliminary competition to the Miss Louisiana USA pageant. From 2014- 2016 I competed in the Miss UL Lafayette USA pageant twice and then the Miss Lafayette USA pageant in 2016. Not placing in any of those!
I took a break from pageants in 2017 after my state was impacted by The Great Flood of 2016, which actually affected me. In 2016 I was going to go to Miss Louisiana USA but could not because I had no idea what state my belongings were in, etc. It was the best decision I ever made!
I came back to pageantry after 2 years of not even placing and began placing! I decided to wear my hair in a style that mimicked my natural hair and I saw the differences in my performance. I first placed 2nd Runner up at Miss UL Lafayette USA (I also took home Miss Congeniality) and then 4th Runner up at Miss Lafayette USA. I was now ready to compete at Miss Louisiana USA where I placed in the Top 16. After I competed for Miss Louisiana Collegiate America where I placed 1st Runner up and won the awards for Photogenic and Evening Gown.
In 2019 I competed for Miss Pelican State USA where I was 2nd Runner up and then came Miss UL Lafayette USA. I wasn’t going to compete initially because I’d lost so many times and was afraid to be judged, especially going in as the only graduate student. I’m so glad that I pushed past that fear because that year was my year! I accomplished my goal of becoming Miss UL USA 2019 and won the Congeniality award! That year I placed once again in the Top 16 at Miss Louisiana USA, which was enough for me because I was experiencing serious health difficulties that forced me to take a medical leave from school and almost stopped me from getting to the Miss Louisiana USA stage.
After Miss Louisiana USA I had another opportunity to go for Miss Louisiana Collegiate America, a title that I got so close to the previous year. Again, I was going through health difficulties, but I knew this was something I wanted and knew that I was prepared for the job. I put in my all and won the title of Miss Louisiana Collegiate America 2020 and won the awards for Community Service, Photogenic, and Fun Fashion! I am now on my way to Miss Collegiate America!
What made you decide to compete in the Miss Collegiate America System ?
This system has pushed me so hard in the best possible way since the moment I was introduced to it in November 2018. I love that it first emphasizes young women from all levels. It is a system that celebrates education, family, community service, and encourages you to really get out there and use your voice. I love that the national anti-bullying platform allows us all to tackle it the way we sit fit. We are all spreading the same message but in ways that we know are important.
What the best thing that pageants have taught you ?
There are so many things I’ve learned. One, there is not one form of beauty. I gave up trying to conform long ago because of that. Two, I’m a true storyteller. I love going places and just sharing my story or just any story that I feel will have the greatest impact. Three, I can push past anything to achieve my goals. I’ve battled with walking tall and strong with scoliosis on stage while still appearing elegant. I’ve pushed past my health barriers and have still been able to achieve my goals. Four, I’ve learned a lot of pageant girl ‘secrets’ that I can use in real life. Makeup application, bronzing mousse to even out tone, keep Band-Aids always!, and that my authentic self is enough for whatever goals I have in life.
What’s your pageant platform and why?
It has been an honor to be a B.R.A.V.E. ambassador and teaching others about Building Respect And Values for Everyone. My platform was originally only focused on those with invisible disabilities. That has been a topic I’ve advocated for for years as an individual with invisible disabilities and as a Speech Pathology graduate student.
Upon my travels I asked myself: Why is this still a topic? Why is it that people bully other people? From there my platform B.R.A.V.E.ly Unique was born! This platform is all about celebrating the unique qualities an individual possesses, whether it be due to an invisible disability, likes/dislikes, race/ethnicity, etc. It is to teach the person participating in bullying behavior to appreciate these differences and to teach the person being bullied to love their own unique qualities. I say, “why fit in when we can all be B.R.A.V.E.ly Unique”.
What’s your dream title ?
It would be more than a dream, but my mission to be the next Miss Collegiate America!
If you were to win the title of Miss Collegiate America what would it mean to you ?
It would mean that it is time to get to work! I’ve spent a lot of time developing exactly how I would want my reign to be as Miss Collegiate America. I have a lot that I want to accomplish which is why I’ve begun laying the foundation down now. I come from a place where girls who look like me or who’ve had a life like mine can sometimes never dream of being on a stage such as the Miss Collegiate America stage. I have a responsibility to young girls like me while also a responsibility to the young girl I once was.
What’s the best advice you have for fellow pageant queens ?
Enjoy your experiences with or without the crown. I put myself through the Miss UL Lafayette USA pageant five times before I won, but my love for the experience is what kept me pushing. Don’t leave room for any regrets in your reign and please do not look at what someone else is doing. That may be perfectly appropriate for them, but not for you! Be proud of the work that you are doing and most importantly be yourself! You can be your own worst enemy if you allow it, but don’t. Make your Inner Bully silence itself.
What have you been doing in the run up to the final of Miss Collegiate America ?
Before COVID-19 I was not only visiting schools doing B.R.A.V.E. presentations, but also volunteering in my state. I’ve worked with the Ronald McDonald House, United Way, Boys & Girls Club, the DREAMS Foundation of Acadiana, and other organizations when needed. I was also mentoring young girls within my community.
Besides getting out there and providing service, I’ve worked on setting the foundation for my platform. I created a B.R.A.V.E. mascot for kids under the age of 5 along with a book that features Brody the B.R.A.V.E. In the story, he meets a snake who has an invisible disability and was being bullied because of it. I also created my 5-step program, The B.R.A.V.E. Tour, which I hope to get out there in afterschool programs, etc. Of course, I’ve also been preparing for the big stage! I’ve been perfecting my wardrobe, practicing walk & interview, and maintaining a positive mindset.
What’s your favourite ever appearance so far ?
I’ve had so many favorites, but I love when I read to a local daycare. The kids were under 4 years old but were so smart! They helped me read and when I passed Brody around and allowed them to share a response to a question, well I now understand why “Kids say the darnest things” exists. When I asked them to tell me about someone they love I got answers like “ice-cream” “cookies”, and “chocolate ice-cream”. It showed me that they were all ready for snack time!
How has the lockdown due to Covid19 affected your pageant journey ?
It stopped me from being able to do my presentations in person and also caused me to cancel events I had planned. I partnered with my library to do a big event in May but could not. I also had a fashion titled: “This is Me”, where I had 19 models with disabilities. The goal was to show that they are not their disabilities! Now I’ve found ways to adapt both into virtual events. I say that one thing that is positive about COVID-19 is that it really showed me that I can adapt as a titleholder. The next Miss Collegiate America may not be able to visit every state so how she can still impact everyone? This gave me the opportunity to think hard and really put my creativity to use. I’ve been a part of events in outside of my state, an opportunity that I may not have had if not for the pandemic. I now have created virtual content to be shown in my parish and on YouTube of me presenting content from the B.R.A.V.E. Tour.
Has your reign been extended due to COVID19 ?
I was crowned in November and the next state pageant will be in November 2020. This did push back the national competition, which was previously in June, but that was definitely been a blessing in disguise. It has given me the opportunity to challenge myself and perfect everything for nationals.
What makes a good pageant role model?
Someone who authentic, transparent, and relatable. I love going into schools and saying, “crown aside I’m just like you”. I do not try to be a “pageant girl” anymore. I go into a room, be myself, and I show is Taja’ is. I am proud of my past and present in shaping my future. When a girl sees me, I want her to see herself. I am not perfect and do not want anyone to see me that way. I’m this goofy girl with a gap-toothed smile, curly hair, a curved spine, and a whole slew of medical issues, but if you listen to me speak, I can move mountains.
What’s your favourite pageant round ?
I love on-stage question! The audience misses out on interview and only see the girl on stage. I like to call on-stage question the bow on the present. This round tells both the judges and the audience who their girl is. For some this portion of competition is scary, but this is the portion that I live for!
How do you deal with pageant nerves?
I take a deep breath, talk to God, and then I go out there and do exactly what I set out to do! I remind myself all of the hard work, the goal I’m hoping to accomplish, and I remind myself that the moment my heeled foot hits that stage, “You are superwoman”. My superpower is going up there, being my best self, and defeating my arch nemesis “The Inner Bully”. Like every good nemesis, it comes around every chance it can and gets defeated every chance.
Social Media Links
Follow me on @misslacollegiate on Instagram & subscribe to my YouTube channel (Miss Louisiana Collegiate America) as I get it up and running for B.R.A.V.E. content, story time, etc.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions it’s been lovely getting to know you and more about your pageant platform I wish you all the best at your pageant final. Much Love, Charlotte Ms Diamond South Yorkshire 2020.