The Miss JuneteenthKC Pageant returns for its second year on Sun., May 21. After two months of workshops and training, 18 young ladies from the Kansas City area will compete for the crown at the GEM Theater.
The pageant presentation will be hosted by Lauren Scott, from KSHB 41 the Spot, and entertainer Cherayla Haynes and features an opening dance number, an onstage Q&A session with judges, a talent show, and a fashion presentation.
“This is the kickoff of the Juneteenth celebration,” says JuneteenthKC Program Director Makeda Peterson. “It’s a way to engage with younger audiences within our community.”
Judges will give two awards at the pageant based on scores that consider talent, evening wear presentation, poise, stage presence, personality, creativity, and articulation. The contestant aged 16-18 with the highest judge’s score is crowned Miss JuneteenthKC, while the highest score aged 12-15 is crowned Lil Miss JuneteenthKC.
Two other awards, Miss Executive and Sweetest Peach, are given during the presentation. The Miss Executive award is given to the most industrious contestant as judged by ticket sales and fundraising for the project.
The Sweetest Peach Award is voted on by the contestants. Similar to “Miss Congeniality,” the award goes to the member who the other contestants view as a friendly and supportive young lady with an all-around positive attitude. The Sweetest Peach Award is named for JuneteenthKC committee member Denisha Jones’ business Sweet Peaches Cobblers.
In addition to cash prizes to award winners, the program looks to provide education, tools, and resources to young women to help build their resilience and confidence to make positive choices.
“This kind of program allows young ladies to be comfortable in their own space and realize that they aren’t the only one in the room who’s struggling with figuring out who they are, figuring out what’s actually cool and who they want to be,” says Peterson.
Before the culminating pageant presentation, the contestants take part in eight weeks of workshops with mentors who teach the historical significance of Juneteenth and what it means to be a member of the Black community in Kansas City.
Mentors also coach the girls in etiquette, interview skills, public speaking, and runway walking. Karen Griffin, from the Nelson-Atkins Museum, teaches art; Denisha Jones helps teach entrepreneurship; and Councilwoman Melissa Robinson leads them in a mock city council meeting.
“It’s really fulfilling because, given their age, you can see the girls coming into themselves and maturing,” says Peterson. “All these people are giving them time, mentorship, and caring who they are; you can see that the girls really appreciate it.”
The initial pageant application fee is $50, which is much lower than traditional pageants. If cost was an issue, entry sponsorships were available.
“It’s a labor of love,” says Peterson. “The pageant world doesn’t really have something like this that is low cost. After the application fee, we cover everything. We pay for the gowns, makeup, lunches, the workshop training, and they get to take home some pageant swag, personal hygiene kits, and things like that.”
Tickets are available at juneteenth-kc.com. The event kicks off at 4 p.m. with a reception for VIP ticket holders that includes mocktails, a meet-and-greet, and a contestant art display. VIP tickets are $15. General admission tickets are $10. The pageant presentation begins at 6 p.m.,