Cultural Beauty Pageant Empowers Women

Reach Reporter Madeline Anthony at (718) 260-4591. E-mail her at manthony@cnglocal.com.
Photo Courtesy of Giving Back for Tomorrow

A new kind of beauty pageant will take place for Bronx women this March.

Miss Guinea USA is an event that strives to empower Guinean women by focusing on brains over beauty.

After the success of its inaugural contest in 2008, the event now enters it’s eighth year.

The contest is the largest event of the non-profit organization’s Giving Back for Tomorrow, which encourages women to embrace their African culture and assist their home country.

When founder and CEO Fatima Diallo first came to the Bronx in 2004 from Gambia, she noticed that her African peers weren’t embracing their heritage.

“Especially the Guinean people, I wanted them to start dressing African, if you have all these beautiful clothes why not wear them?” said Diallo, who was dismayed to see Africans doing hair braiding instead of getting jobs.

“They are afraid of being told ‘no’,” said Diallo, “Because of where we grew up and the limitations we have in our minds.”

After contestants are chosen for Miss Guinea they are asked to develop a platform focusing on the issues they want to tackle in Guinea.

Participants often cite child marriage, lack of education, and female genital mutilation as problems that need to be addressed.

The eight contestants, ranging in age from 16-27 then take part in a weeklong series of events and workshops designed to educate and empower.

Contestants meet with politicians, community leaders, and CEO’s who teach them how to become leaders.

Councilwoman Vanessa Gibson, a supporter of Miss Guinea, met with young women last year, some of whom didn’t think voting was important, to teach them about the political system and how to get involved to create change.

She plans to speak again this year.

The Permanent Representative of Guinea to the United Nations spoke with participants one-on-one last year and will again be present this coming pagaent.

“This is different from Miss America mainly because of the traditions,” said Diallo “We don’t do bikinis.”

Diallo and her team doesn’t just want the African community to show up – they want everyone to come and educate themselves about African culture.

“They are more confident, more open, better speakers, and they embrace their culture more,” said Diallo of contestants post-pageant, “It’s not about a crown it’s about what they learn.”

This year’s winner will receive a $2,000 scholarship in addition to the title of Miss Guinea USA 2016 and the runner up will receive a $500 scholarship.

The pageant will take place on Saturday, March 19 at the African Culture Performing Art Center at East 123rd Street in Harlem and tickets can be purchased at EventBrite or on the pageant’s website.

Donations to the non-profit can be made at gofundme.com/givingbacktomorrow.

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