Busta’s Phenomenal Women of the Week: The ‘inner queen’ shone brightly at the inaugural N.C. Plus America Pageant

(left to right) Aja Ivey, Alana Walker, Whitney Sockwell

Busta’s Phenomenal Women of the Week: The ‘inner queen’ shone brightly at the inaugural N.C.  Plus America Pageant
March 17
09:25 2022

By Busta Brown

The inaugural N.C. Plus America Pageant was glitz and glamour at its finest. The Hawthorne Inn Conference Center was transformed into an elegant Queendom full of beautiful, intelligent, civic-minded and talented queens from all around North Carolina. 

When most of us think of a pageant, we expect an all-out competition. But this was a display of sisterhood and togetherness like I’ve never seen before. The love and respect the delegates showed to one another was a sight equally as beautiful as their appearance. Yes, these queens looked amazing! 

“Seeing each of them hit the stage with confidence and shining brightly warmed my heart. The N.C. Plus America Pageant helped to remind women of all sizes and ages that there is a beauty inside of them that shines on the outside,” said Dr. Renita Webb, the reigning Black North Carolina USA since 2019. 

Dr. Webb was also the MC for the evening and not even Steve Harvey could’ve done a better job. She did a perfect and hilarious impression of the song, “She’s Your Queen To Be,” from Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America.” And yes, she sang the lyrics, “An object of affection to quench your royal fire, completely free from infection.” The audience and the judges roared with laughter for nearly five minutes. I was one of those judges falling out of my seat cracking up. Dr. Webb’s mixture of humor, inspiration, and class kept the audience entertained and locked in throughout the entire evening. 

“She had my husband and I laughing all night long. It was nice because I haven’t seen him laugh like that in years,” said Wanda Greenwood. 

The lights dimmed and then music began to play. “Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re about to witness history! Meet the queens of the inaugural North Carolina Plus America Pageant.” The elegant and gorgeous delegates gracefully walked onto the stage to thunderous cheers and a standing ovation. 

“I loved how these queens displayed courage and boldness as they walked onto the stage,” said LaShunda Milner, founder of Urban Steam Foundation. She was also one of my fellow judges. I would love to share the judges and the audience’s favorite category, but the delegates looked absolutely gorgeous and did a magnificent job in every category. They kept the audience captivated and each judge agreed it was one of the most difficult jobs we’ve ever had. 

But in the end, we had to choose three winners. The nine delegates were: Alana Walker, Miss Greensboro Plus America; Alease Allen, Ms. Winston-Salem Plus America; Monica Jackson Buxton, Mrs. Gastonia Plus America; Aja Ivey, Mrs. Fayetteville Plus America; Whitney Sockwell, Ms. Kernersville Plus America; Antionette Sheppard-McCollum, Mrs. Winston-Salem Plus America; Shamale Crawford, Mrs. Lexington Plus America; Crystal Jefferson, Ms. Greensboro Plus America; and Crissy Faison, Ms. Forsyth County Plus America. 

“This was a powerful demonstration of collective empowerment and progress. Very significant is its role to assure there is a conduit for the expression and appraisal of intellect, beauty, and style among these courageous and phenomenal women,” shared TL Consulting’s Dr. DaBeth Manns. 

Aja Ivey’s platform definitely connected with the audience. Most of us struggled with it personally or with a family member or friend. “Alcohol and substance abuse are gripping our nation. It’s not for a lack of awareness, but a lack of knowledge of resources available to those who suffer,” she said. Aja ended with a few words of inspiration that brought the audience and judges to our feet. “Remember that God is always on your side and with Him, you can live without fear. F-face, E-everything, A-and, R-rise!” 

I spoke with Mrs. Fayetteville Plus America afterwards. “The event itself far surpassed what I could have imagined and the friendships I’ve gained in its duration have been a blessing. We are family. We are sisters!” 

The youngest delegate was 19-year-old Miss Greensboro Plus America, Alana Walker. “This pageant meant so much to me. As someone who struggles with self-love due to being plus size, it really made me love myself even more. When it comes to my platform, I inspire others to look in the mirror and POSE. Positivity, overcome your challenges, slay with confidence, effectively authentic. Being in this pageant helped me push my platform and be more confident when I spread awareness about self-love.” 

Ms. Kernersville and educator, Whitney Sockwell, moved the audience with her platform.“Every child. Every mind. The early childhood years. It’s important that I help grow, shape, and nurture life inside of the classroom so that every child feels love and support, and is empowered and equipped for the world.” 

As an educator myself, it’s very encouraging to see teachers such as Whitney, because there are far too many young plus size Black girls with low self-esteem. We spoke afterwards and she shared her thoughts on why the N.C. Plus America Pageant is important “It brings awareness that you don’t have to be a size 6 to be a beauty queen; it’s your inner beauty that makes you a queen.” 

After each queen shared her platform, everyone was locked in and awaiting the results. The former Ms. Plus America, Brandie Sue Hill, wooed us with a song, and Joel Hurt, aka Phyousion’s choreography to “Sing To The Moon” by Laura Mvula was dynamic! Joel is the son of the Regional Executive Director of N.C ,America Pageant, Dr. Stephanie Hurt. 

Winston-Salem is blessed to have such a phenomenal woman in our communities and schools. I want to personally thank Dr. Hurt for bringing such a necessary and important event to the Triad. She got very emotional when I asked what this moment meant to her. “The March 11th N.C. Plus American Pageant was the result of the most exhilarating, scary, happy, challenging, exciting, and overall fun-loving roller coaster ride I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing! Nine women saying yes to a system they would set the standard for in our state proved to me it is necessary that more women of this cut and caliber have the right and opportunity to prance across the pageant stage, with sincere heartfelt platforms, representing their local city or county, competing for crowns to represent our state at a national level.” 

Ahmad Johnson, owner of Curvy She modeling troup, worked as the delegate liaison and assisted every woman in achieving the beauty we all witnessed on Friday night. “We are currently working on preparing a fashion show to introduce the queens and their courts to those who didn’t have the opportunity to see them rock the runway. Date, time and location are soon to come.”

After speaking with Dr. Hurt, I had a chat with two more of my fellow judges. Carrie Woods, founder and CEO of T.U.R.N Inc, shared her thoughts on this past Friday night’s marvelous event. “It was my pleasure to sit with four other esteemed judges and witness nine beautiful, bold women share their stories and passion that inspired them to start their journey of infusing their gifts, skills and talents to promote their respective platforms.” Woods was the most humorous of all of the judges, including me. She kept me on my toes. 

Fashion designer and event planner, Swynette Stone, shared a personal testimony. “As a teenager, I always dreamt of participating in a pageant, but I knew mentally there was a physical barrier creating a blockage. I was too short and over the required size. When I heard the N.C. Plus America Pageant would be landing right at home, I was overjoyed that at once, someone recognized that BEAUTY IS A PLUS and lies within, leaving no place for size and height to take a position over the innate gifts, but to see an individual for their character, integrity, personality, and most of all, who they were created to be. Oh, what a dream come true!” 

This past Friday night was truly a historical moment. And I wish every Black girl in the Triad could have witnessed this wonderful and inspirational event. The inaugural N.C. Plus America Pageant really brought out the inner queen of each of these amazing delegates. I agree 100% with the whispers that I heard throughout the audience, “this is an extremely tough choice. I wouldn’t want to be one of those judges.” 

It was an extremely difficult choice, but we finally chose three winners. Aja Ivey, Mrs. N.C. Plus America 2022, said, “This experience has been extraordinary. True beauty represented in something other than the physical. Beauty transformed into knowledge, education, faith, friendships, and passions. It was truly an experience of a lifetime.”

Ms. Alana Walker, Miss N.C. Plus America 2022, said, “Being the youngest, I was able to make a connection with older women and was able to learn many new things from them. These women were always willing to lend a hand and push me to my best abilities. I’m so excited to attend nationals and bring back the crown with my lovely pageant family!” 

And Whitney Sockwell, Ms. N.C. Plus America 2022, remarked, “What the North Carolina Plus America Pageant meant to me was, appreciation for curvy and plus size women. This pageant didn’t focus on outside beauty like other pageant systems, but more so on inner beauty.”

Congratulations to the winners and my Phenomenal Women of the Week. 

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