The Association of African American Students (AAAS) is bringing back their traditional Mister and Miss Black USC (BUSC) pageant for the first time since 2019.
Doors will open to the Booker T. Washington auditorium at 7 p.m. on Oct. 26, and the event will begin at 7:30 p.m. with runway walks, outfit displays, candidate questioning and a crowning ceremony to end the evening. Though the pageant has a deep history, it is set to create a new charitable tradition this year.
Members of AAAS will compete for various titles, including Mister and Miss Smooth Talker, Most Photogenic and the grand title of Mister and Miss BUSC for senior winners.
AAAS President and third-year political science student Jada Hudson said that as president, she recognized the importance of the event returning and worked with the University's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to secure funding for the event.
“This is something when I was first running for president that I campaigned on because I wanted more events to highlight Black students in a positive light on campus,” Hudson said.
With old winners returning to crown this year's winners, Hudson hopes to not only celebrate current Black students, but to remind them of the event's history of recognition on a predominantly white campus.
Mister and Miss BUSC began in the 1970s as a way for Black students to get the traditional homecoming experience despite not being included in the university’s homecoming court. AAAS stopped hosting the event in the 1990s, but it was brought back in 2019 to celebrate the organization’s 50th anniversary.
Breaking routine, this year aims to make the pageant a charitable event by giving students the opportunity to run for Mister and Miss Moneybags. The title will be given to those who raise the most money during their campaign. The recipient charity will be announced once candidates begin tabling on Greene Street.
Candidates and pageant participants also have found ways to make the night their own kind of fun.
Dania Malachi, the event’s cohost and AAAS co-public relations chair, and her cohost Jaylen Phillips plan to make the stage their runway, competing to see who the best dressed host can be amidst this year's "Great Gatsby" theme.
"Right now, I'm wearing a dark brown suit with more like a beige turtleneck and I'm gonna have a gold broach and I'm probably gonna wear my hair up," Phillips, a fourth-year engineering student, said.
AAAS membership has more than doubled since last year and 34 candidates are competing in this years competition. Candidates already have gotten to work making posters, t-shirts, pins and other reminders to vote for them.
“Seeing the campaign teams come together, bringing friends together all for one main focus and purpose is really nice,” Malachi, a second-year political science student, said.
For the competitors, winning means much more than a crown, a scepter, a plaque or a sash. Miss Junior Candidate Temperance Williams said she sees the competition as a way to be center stage for once — a contrast to times she believes many have felt left in the shadows.
"It makes us feel like, 'Okay, now we have a community to connect with, a place where we're kind of being put on a pedestal for once and not on the back end,'" Williams, a third-year journalism student said.
The pageant draws on the sense of friendly competition, allowing candidates to feel seen and while simultaneously acknowledging their competition's beauty and the beauty of the Black student community as a whole.
“I think this helps impact Black students on campus by letting you know you’re being recognized, and you’re not only being recognized, but you’re being appreciated,” said Mister Sophomore candidate and political science student Caleb Buford. "It makes us feel beautiful as one and as individuals.”