When Lisa (from Tuesday’s Fit Chick Watch) e-mailed me to thank me for featuring her (btw, thank YOU for sending it in!), she mentioned this story… and I was instantly confused.
From University of Mississippi:
Campaigning was challenging and winning the election was rewarding, but making history in the process is mind-boggling for Courtney Roxanne Pearson, who recently became the University of Mississippi’s first African-American homecoming queen.
The 21-year-old senior English secondary education major from Memphis won the title in a run-off during annual campus personality elections. Pearson will be crowned Oct. 13 during halftime ceremonies when Ole Miss faces Auburn University in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time,” said Pearson, who considers her victory an opportunity for people to see how far the university has advanced in race relations since 1962, when James Meredith’s arrival at and enrollment in the university set off rioting. “Ole Miss, get ready. We just changed the face.”
Pearson received 1,477 votes, compared to 1,387 ballots cast for Ashleigh Davis of Gulfport. She credits her faith and her diverse group of supporters for her successful campaign.
“I am still in shock, but I am definitely very excited,” Pearson said. “My campaign team and I worked hard every single second.”
Dean of Students Thomas “Sparky” Reardon said Pearson’s election simply validated how deserving she is of such an honor.
“Courtney Pearson has been a real asset to our student body even before this election,” Reardon said. “She loves Ole Miss, and I knew her dad when he was a student here. Courtney was a valuable member of our Orientation Leaders Team and has chaired the University Judicial Council.”
The queen-elect received congratulations from both Chancellor Dan Jones and from Kimbrely Dandridge, who last spring became the first African-American woman to be elected Associated Student Body president.
“I am proud of Courtney and so glad she is representing Ole Miss as homecoming queen,” Jones said. “Courtney plays a critical role on our campus in leading the Student Judicial Council – a very challenging position. Yet, she maintains the confidence, trust and friendship of our student body to be selected as homecoming queen. This is so impressive.”
“Not only is she the first African-American, she is also non-Greek,” Dandridge said. “She represents Ole Miss to the fullest. I know that we will work very closely together this year. I hope that our elections will send a message to the public that Ole Miss is moving forward. That this institution is not the same institution that it was 50 years ago.”
By being the first minority to win the coveted title, Pearson joins a select group of other African-American female alumna who, as students, also shattered the glass ceiling.
“Rose Jackson Flenorl of Memphis was the first to campaign for Miss Ole Miss back in 1979,” said Julian Gilner, assistant director of alumni affairs. “Very similar to Courtney, she was in a run-off election but didn’t win. Years later, however, she became the first African-American woman to be elected president of the University of Mississippi Alumni Association.”
Years later, Kimsey O’Neal Cooper of Carthage was the first African-American to win the Miss Ole Miss title, in 1989. Carissa Alana Wells of Hamilton became the first African-American crowned Miss University in 1997.
Pearson chose the university over other nearby colleges and universities, basing her decision on several factors.
“My mother, father and stepmother are all alumni of the university,” Pearson said. “I really believed that Ole Miss was the right place for me. It’s very hard to explain, but I knew exactly where I was supposed to be.”
Pearson decided to campaign for homecoming queen two years ago after being inspired by Christin Gates’ unsuccessful run for the title and an unpleasant memory.
“As a child, I had a conversation with the son of a family friend,” Pearson said. “We sat and looked through a magazine one day and the front cover had a bigger, African-American young lady on the cover who had been announced as homecoming queen at some university. The young man did not find this young lady very attractive and he asked how in the world is she homecoming queen.
“As we kept reading, we found out that the homecoming queen at the particular university was chosen from the women who had the highest grade-point averages. This young man, who often had something sarcastic to say about my academic excellence, looked and me and said, ‘Maybe your grades will get you somewhere one day, because your looks sure won’t.’ That was probably the best motivation I could have had.”
In a national election year and around the time of the 50th anniversary of the university’s integration, Pearson discovered the realities of politics and role of race in public forums.
“It was undoubtedly a struggle, but it was worth it,” she said. “I did things that I thought I was too shy to do. I realized that I was a pretty good public speaker. And the most important thing I did was work hard.”
An above-average student, Pearson has also served as an orientation leader and as an Ambassador. She credits faculty members in English as having contributed most to her successful university experience.
First of all… I sincerely… sincerely… hope that she avoided being in the presence of whatever little scumbag said to her, “Maybe your grades will get you somewhere one day, because your looks sure won’t.”
This is the kind of thing that makes me wanna holla. We raise our little girls to tell them all about “inner beauty” – “beauty is only skin deep, but ugly is to the bone,” “focus on the beauty within,” “beauty is on the inside” – only for that to be crushed by some dirtbag who tells her things like her looks won’t get her anywhere. I’m sorry, but what the hell ever happened to “merit?” Considering all the structures we put in place to ensure that people are hired fairly and on merit, a woman is supposed to aspire to “get somewhere” based on her looks?
Is this why little girls are rolling around rocking shirts that say “I’m too pretty for math,” meanwhile those jobs that require that heavy math are some of the highest paying in the country?
All of this makes me think about my homecoming queen from high school. We didn’t elect her because she was pretty, because she was thin, or because she had money. She was – easily – the kindest, most gracious, most honorable, loving person we could’ve put in that spot. She represented our graduating class well… which is why it crushed us all when she was taken from us far too soon.
It makes me think about what being “homecoming queen” really means, and what it’s supposed to represent for women… especially when we give a side-eye to a woman who wins, yet doesn’t fit our “adult pageantry” ideal.
Congrats to her 🙂 Multiple people in my family are graduates of Ole Miss. They have come a long way, but they still have a way to go regarding race relations.
Congrats on your win! I am an Ole Miss Alum and am elated that although this was a long time coming.. It finally happened! I do not know this lady but am proud of her Courage and Accomplishment! You have Truly MADE HISTORY!
“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Congratulations to her for being the first African American Homecoming Queen for Ole Miss despite the haters. I agree with you that I hope that the person who discouraged her all those years ago should have been dropped from her circle. If that wasn’t possible, I hope that he is ready to change his attitude. Ms Pearson appears to be beautiful on the inside and on the outside. I commend her for being so.
That being said, we need to encourage our girls to be their best. Living in a world where a Presidential candidate wasn’t aware of qualified women for positions, it is necessary that we make sure that our girls grow up to not only be qualified but also confident in those qualifications. Way too often, we see women who sell themselves short in the presence of men. As such, they are invisible. Their hard work credited to their supervisor OR if they are the supervisor credited back to the “team.” By being confident in our abilities and serving as role models for girls and young women, we will have less wearing T-shirts that say “I’m too pretty for math” and more with shirts representing their college.
All i have to say is that I am in awe of her bravery.
Her swag is on a hundred thousand trillion. Beauty, brains and an indomitable spirit.
She’s awesome and that’s it.
Congrats to Miss Pearson on becoming a beautiful Homecoming Queen for Ole Miss! Times are changing and she is a lovely entrance for it.
That guy who said that to her hates himself and not just because he was probably Black, but because someone who has to put down another human being is something telling on him or her…
Bless his heart.
Regardless of outer beauty’s monopoly on the cultural standard, inner beauty will always – ALWAYS – come out on top. But that inner beauty has to be true. It can’t simply be for show. One has to constantly be bettering oneself – but if true beauty is the goal, then that happens almost naturally.
She is OUR QUEEN! I get to eat my words when I stated that Ole Miss would likely not elect an AA HC Queen in MY lifetime. I had hope for my children’s children…but not mine in that aspect. Several AA women have been on Ole Miss’s HC Court, including myself, but the Queen was a far and distant dream… Carissa Wells, a great friend of mine in college, was our first AA Miss University…but that was not until AFTER they crowned another woman at the pageant then the family demanded the judges count the numbers again…and low and behold…tadah! She was the winner…I believe the University and the judges knew the entire time, but was hard pressed to crown an AA for the world to actually see…and Ole Miss actually see. A small press conference later, she got her crown. All this to say is Ole Miss HAS come a long long way and though it is just a few milestones and many more milestones in race relations, diversity, and acceptance of ALL hard working and well deserving people to be won…I am so happy to eat my words…we HAVE an AA HC Queen! We are OLE MISS! I do love my school…and I love their progress…it really has come a long way baby…Hotty Toddy! UM, Ole Miss, c/o ’01
I was on a hair board full of black women and all they could concentrate on was how big she is and how much weight she needed to lose. Some even argued that her election was a joke on the black community because when they elected a black woman they went for a “Mammy” figure. Of course, after being called on not focusing on her achievement, they all CLAIMED they were just concerned about her health (insert eye roll here). It’s so sad that a bunch of supposedly accomplished black women have so internalized the ONE standard of beauty that we missed the historical significance of this young woman’s victory.
I’m always skeptical of this “Mammy” complaint… just like I’m skeptical of the “Jezebel” complaint.
It’s tough for Black women because we’re so used to seeing “ourselves” in the media in every form of what society deems undesirable – overweight, dark, loud, hard-labouring… as opposed to fair, silent, thin, frail – that we’re swearing up and down that the answer to fighting those stereotypes is to not BE those stereotypes, instead of telling ourselves the TRUTH, which is that society has no business telling ME about ME or who I need to be in the FIRST place. Seriously – I’m supposed to trust
I’m not unrealistic about how utopian that is in nature. No one’s saying people need to make signs and go protest or something. What I AM saying, however, is that it’s JUST as easy to remain silent. If UM’s student body elected her “as a joke,” then the joke is on them because they still got an incredible human being to represent their student body, regardless of whether or not she looks like a thin, frail, freshly-tanned sorority queen.
I’m totally okay with talking about “health” being a qualifier for being a part of the court. Let’s make sure we also keep an eye on the thin candidates, too… and if they, too, have poor health (or an eating disorder, heaven forbid) then they’ve got to be scrutinized, too. Why not? *blank stare*
A health standard would BANKRUPT the HC Court, LOL! So many eating disorders, drinking problems, and possibly substance abuse going on (especially in the greek system) that no one, but atheletes could apply, LOL! Wait, I like that idea…most of our Ole Miss Athletes are black sooooooooo….okay, we can do the health standard… #leverage… LOL!
I LLLOVE everything about Courtney!!!! I am stunned for once it seems that who she was as a whole was the deciding factor and not solely her physical appearance. I was cheering even before I READ the article because I saw myself, a dark-skinned, full figured woman. Those ladies mentioned in earlier posts are just “crabs in the pot”. The thing about health is as pointed out earlier, thin can be unhealthy. I find that if you are big there are instant judgements made but no one seems to care that the thin girl may have thrown up before the photo shoot.
This doesn’t always equate healthy…I wish OUR people would get that through their heads. Is she considered overweight by BMI standards? Yes! I had less than 12 or 13% body fat as a collegiate track athlete and by BMI standards was considered borderline overweight for my height (didn’t take into consideration what was muscle mass, bone mass and fat mass. Only doing the underwater hydrostatic weighing gave me the best indication of that.) So could my HC queen be healthier, sure. We ALL can! However, on the contrary, Ole Miss has a shockingly high rate of eating disorders among female students (especially white students) who are anorexic or purge. So yes, we have had thin queens, but it didn’t mean she was at all healthy. I think WE as a people like to focus on all of the negatives before we can see the glimmer of light…again, the lack of support rearing it’s ugly head like a jealous two-headed dragon. So could she afford to lose weigh…sure. Can I, sure…I’m not an athlete anymore…but does that make her any less deserving? Heck NO! And they did NOT vote her as the MAMMY of the court…there are some “consipiracies” floating around about the election and why people voted her in (apparently they didn’t want a rival white sorority to have the HC title 2 years in a row so they rallied against her…almost like some conservatives rallied against McCain because of Palin’s stupidity and voted Obama just to make sure Palin didn’t get anywhere near the white house…right? No… Will I take it…heck yeah! My President won and my HC queen is a nubian queen!) And it’s OBVIOUS ignorance is not a one-way street…our own people are obviously just as equally ignorant…if one is so concerned with health…start with SELF…don’t pick on others before you pick yourself apart first (this is not directed at any posters here…it’s directed towards a variety of comments I have heard), but I am still elated! My Queen is BEAUTIFUL!
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