My journey to becoming Miss Black Western

Shantel-Ann Pettway after her win of Miss Black Western/ Submitted by Shantel-Ann Pettway

Shantel-Ann Pettway

“And our new Miss Black Western is…”

I hoped I could at least place.

“Persistent constant four, Shantel Pettway.”

I stood in the spotlight with my sash, crown and trophy just laughing—immobile—at all the “you go girl” screams I heard from my friends. In the shadows I saw my aunt gesture her hand saying, “Walk!”  

‘I actually won this pageant’ I told myself as I finally walked across the stage. 

Prior to the pageant, I’d joked with my friends, Evansville sophomore Jessica Jackson and Paducah sophomore Shontoria Patterson, about how we’d be in the top five of the pageant and we all were. 

I didn’t realize I’d predicted the future in my jokes.

I joined the Miss Black Western pageant late. I was more reserved when I first began to practice with the girls, who already knew their walks and introductions. 

All I could say with my country accent and non-existent smile was, “Hi, my name is Shantel,” pivot and walk back to my seat

After a few weeks, I became the girl who knew her introduction and walk as new girls continued to join practices. I think at one point we had about 15 girls. 

“Friday I need everyone to bring heels,” Nashville senior La’Quinta “Mama Q” Hogan said. “We are practicing in heels from here on out.”   

After that day, a few girls has dropped out of the pageant. Then there were only 13. 

Everyday wasn’t all smiles. Sometimes we argued about what outfits we wanted to wear, who was late to practice and who was playing too much during practice time. 

Indirect and direct comments were dished out every practice and it soon became annoying. I grew more vocal about it because I felt I was the only one who understood that life happens and is still happening outside of this pageant.

It seemed that neither my pageant sisters nor the pageant directors understood that I held a few hats on campus.

I was a leader of an organization that met three times a week. I was starting my own organization. I was a reporter for the Herald and if that wasn’t enough, I was still a student. 

When I signed up for this, I didn’t know how much of my life it would take away, how many Blackboard deadlines would slip my mind after practice or how bad my feet would hurt from walking in heels everyday. 

Yet, we still bonded.

“I met so many new people that I will continue to have a relationship with,” Jackson said.

It was cool how we all helped each other with the talent section. We would all be like “no add this,” or “say it like this.” 

While it was a competition and someone had to win, we all wanted to see one another do well. 

The week of the pageant was the best part to me, because everyone was falling apart. Hectic situations became the funniest. 

The day before the pageant, I was sick, late for dress rehearsal because of an extended hair appointment, had only practiced once with my partner for my hip-hop routine and forgot my narrative. 

I prayed that I would remember everything I had rehearsed and that everything would turn out right. 

My prayers had been answered because somehow I remembered everything I needed to. I fought past my nerves and the force was with me because I won. 

It’s still weird to think I am the Miss Black Western for the year of 2015. 

The day of the pageant all 12 of us would pile up on the side of the stage as one took the stage. 

Everyone was doing great. Nervous. Yes, I wanted to win but how could the judges choose when everyone performed better than we had practiced. 

Win or lose, I was satisfied with just being around these girls and I didn’t want the experience to be over. 

The pageant flew by on Friday night, and before I knew, the hosts were calling the top five. 

My heart was beating quick. “Three, four, six, seven and 10.” I had made it. 

The question and answer part was the only thing separating me from the title. In the hallway, we spewed out all types of questions we thought the judges would ask before it was already time for me to go. 

Alone at the microphone with sweaty palms, the judges asked the question and after my answer I knew I had at least placed. 

How in the hell did I come up with that answer? I didn’t know where it came from but it flowed effortlessly. 

After the Q&A portion was over it was time to see who placed. My heart sank to my stomach when first and second runner up were called. 

For whatever reason, I had it in my mind that “first runner-up” was the next Miss Black Western. I was wrong.  My initial feeling was accomplishment. I achieved something I worked hard for. I didn’t think I was pageant material. I never smile and my walk has a lot of sass. 

I’m the girl who went from the hood to the suburbs, the girl who doesn’t let circumstance define her but push her. 

I’m those girls and they are me.