The Daily Gamecock

First-time pageant contestant crowned Miss Gamecock 2023: 'I found confidence'

Third-year retail student Jordyn Lewis (center, right) stands amongst judges after winning the Miss Gamecock pageant on Nov. 12, 2022. This was Lewis' first time entering the pageant, and she is the second Black woman to win the contest in USC history.
Third-year retail student Jordyn Lewis (center, right) stands amongst judges after winning the Miss Gamecock pageant on Nov. 12, 2022. This was Lewis' first time entering the pageant, and she is the second Black woman to win the contest in USC history.

Jordyn Lewis stood in a shimmering green dress on stage in the Russel House ballroom during the Miss Gamecock pageant. She was waiting for someone else's name to be said over the speakers but instead heard her own. 

She couldn’t believe it.

“I was like, wait a second, this is not real life, and it still doesn't feel real right now,” Lewis said.  

In Lewis' first pageant, she was crowned Miss Gamecock 2023 on Nov. 12. She is the second Black woman to hold this title in the now seven years the pageant has been run. Miss Gamecock 2022, Felicia McGill, was the first.

Lewis received $3,000 in scholarships for being the winner and $700 for winning additional titles, such as the Emily Doyle Talent Winner and Miss Fundraiser. 

It was a new endeavor for the third-year retail student, who had an interest in the pageant over the summer. After attending the first interest meeting, Lewis decided it was a challenge she was ready to take on. 

She never expected to win. But once she won, she realized the crown is more than just an accessory. Lewis sees it as a gateway to expression on campus, she said. 

“Something I was thinking about earlier, is that there was a time in which women that looked like me could not go to the university,” Lewis said. “I want to inspire other Black women to take a leap.” 

Spreading the word about the title is something McGill has incorporated into her reign to make the Miss Gamecock Pageant known around campus. 

"It was so disheartening to hear so many Black people say they had no idea this pageant existed," McGill said. "Miss Gamecock isn't exclusive, but in some ways, it felt like only certain types of people knew about it. So that was the main thing I wanted to do, was to use my spheres of influence to bring Miss Gamecock to the forefront." 

McGill used being a student in the honors college to her advantage. She was sure to wear her sash and crown to every luncheon, award or meeting. 

The pageant included a 10-minute interview with multiple questions prior to the pageant and an onstage question that can be based on that interview. While Lewis was used to the stage as a competitive dancer for most of her childhood, speaking on stage was a different story, she said. 

“I can get on stage and dance for five minutes straight, but ask me to give a presentation, I can't do it,” Lewis said. 

Lewis said the judges were looking for people's opinions and how they back them. So to make things easier for herself, she thought of it all as a simple conversation. 

The pageant posed other challenges, Lewis said she didn’t know what she was supposed to wear and people questioned her choice to do her own hair and makeup. But she wanted to be bold. 

"I love to be different and try to stand out as much as I can," Lewis said. "I kind of was going for the theme of feathers, so my interview outfit was a hot pink (suit) ... and I was glad I chose that because I really did stand out."

Lewis recognized she struggled with business attire because she always felt it was boring. She decided to take her own spin on the traditional style and really express herself. 

"It kind of made me think like, 'maybe this is a little over the top' and making it seem like I really have never done a pageant before or even like done my research," Lewis said. 

But Lewis took the time to learn about the pageant world through podcasts and Youtube videos, and found confidence in marching to the beat of her own drum. 

“I found confidence in doing things in a way that makes sense to me … like, I'm okay with figuring out the stuff on my own,” Lewis said. 

For Byron Thomas, the founder of the Miss Gamecock Pageant, that's the whole point.

“The goal has always been just empowering the ladies,” Thomas said. “And giving them the opportunity to showcase their abilities.” 

Lewis was asked about empowerment while she was on stage, and in her bright pink suit she said, "I feel empowered right now in this pink outfit." 

McGill said she encourages Lewis and all future Miss Gamecocks to make a big deal out of the title.

She said to use the title to make an impact in some way, “people love to listen to a woman with a crown and sash on.” 

Lewis says she cannot thank her little village enough for all of the support she received throughout the pageant process and she is excited to inspire others with her reign. 

Lewis is following in the footsteps of McGill, which she said is added pressure to holding the title. However, Lewis sees the win as a message to all of USC. 

"We're not the first two or the last two," Lewis said. "I want other Black USC students to feel welcome to be part of Gamecock Pageant."