front page - search - community 

Bring on Atlantic City

Miss D.C. prepares for Miss America pageant

(Published March 22, 1999)

By LUTISHIA PHILLIPS

Staff Writer

She filled out the necessary papers. Wrote the essay. Spoke with her council member. She even wore the swimsuit. And then on March 26, 24-year-old Toyia Taylorís face turned as red as her dress, as the crown of Miss District of Columbia 1999 was placed on her head.

Taylor, who works for the D.C. Housing Authority, competed against 16 young women age 18-24. They were judged on their prepared answers to questions about D.C. issues, a talent competition, eveningwear, and a brief spontaneous interview before a live audience Ė and, of course, a swimsuit competition.

Among Taylorís prizes were $1,500 for lessons in public speaking, $3,000 in scholarship money and $3,000 to cover the expenses of competing in the Miss America pageant in September in Atlantic City, N.J.

Like most of the contestants, Taylor said she would focus on educational reform as Miss D.C.

"Competing was an avenue to give my children a voice," said Taylor, who is family coordinator for the Rock Creek Region of DCHA. She provides resident technical assistance, writes proposals and designs programs for housing at DCHA.

Originally from Seattle, Taylor came to the District hoping to attend Howard University. But when she couldnít get enough scholarship money, she ended up earning her bachelorís degree in political science from the University of Washington in Seattle.

While working at DCHA, Taylor implemented "Do Your B.E.S.T" (Balancing Excellence through Service and Training) summer youth academy, an eight-week program for youth ages 14-18 to prepare them academically for college and work through apprenticeships in DCHA as well as other businesses, both public and private.

Taylor currently is planning her "Community Blueprint for 2000" program, which will be an after-school version of "Do Your B.E.S.T." that will allow for more outside interaction ó including field trips and classes taught by college professors and individuals in the workplace. She said she hopes to incorporate the whole city in the program.

While most contestants sang or danced for the talent portion of the competition, Taylor chose to present an oration titled "Wake Up." She focused on the communityís need to recognize children as everyoneís responsibility.

Taylor said being Miss D.C. is like a second job and she plans to be active in the community. She noted that a lot of the cityís residents donít realize the District has a pageant and sends a representative to the Miss America Pageant. The Miss D.C. Pageant was created in 1912.

"I think Miss D.C. has to represent the city before she competes in Miss America," she said. Taylor also said Miss D.C. should be more visible and familiar with the community.

One of her goals is to host a welcome breakfast for children of all ages to talk to her and D.C. officials about their problems. Another goal is to create a Junior Miss D.C. Scholarship Pageant for D.C. teenage girls in which they would be judged on an essay, academics and their knowledge about city issues.

Taylor, who was crowned Miss Black University of Washington in 1996, said the hardest part of the pageant was the interview done before the actual program. Taylorís highest scoring came on her interview.

The new Miss D.C. said she chose a red gown with matching chiffon scarf for her eveningwear interview because it was conservative yet soft. "I didnít want my dress to take away from what I was saying," she said.

Contestants were judged up to 30 points for the interview, 40 points for talent, 15 for eveningwear and spontaneous interview, and 15 for swimsuit.

Judges for the pageant were Vanessa L. Baldwin, president of Elegant Beginnings; Francie Dalton, founder and president of Dalton Alliances Inc.; Maj. Byron James, deputy chief of U.S. Air Force news and information; broadcast journalist Ann P. Orleans; Daanean Strachan, executive director of Techworld Public Charter School; John Vasilj an advocate for Croatiaís interests in the United States; and attorney Kevin Williams of Bryant, Bryant and Williams. These same judges will act as Taylorís coaches for interviewing and advisers on what issues to touch up on for the Miss America Pageant.

Taylor said she felt well-prepared for the local pageant after spending time doing mock interviews, contacting Advisory Neighborhood Commission representatives and her city councilwoman, Sharon Ambrose, D-Ward 6, and reading papers like The Common Denominator and The Northwest Current.

But she said the best practice for the Miss America Pageant will be just being Miss D.C.

As soon as she won the title, Taylor thanked all the young people she works with, who were also in the audience supporting their mentor.

"I want to thank my kids," she said in tears. "Iím doing this for yíall," she added, patting her crown.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator