I am Ayanna Celeste Spivey and I was blessed to serve as the 83rd Miss Southern University and A&M College for the 2013-2014 academic school year. This year was granted with a host of firsts for this prestigious title and one of them was being able to actively compete in the Ebony Campus Queen competition with Ebony Magazine. I was really excited about being able to be in this competition a little after I won the title. It was really important to be able to showcase our university on a national level. Only one other queen before me actually competed in the competition, 80th Miss Southern U, Kenya Warren. Unfortunately she fell short in the Ebony Campaign and since then no other queen has entered it and it is an opportunity to give Southern a national platform whether they make the top 10 to be featured or not. Myself and about 50 other HBCU queens were competing to be one of 10 queens to be featured in Ebony Magazines‘ September issue. All candidates had to submit a 1-3 minute video giving a brief overview about their perspective campuses and the work that they have done throughout their reigns. See Spivey’s video here.
I was actually working on this project throughout the year amongst the other projects and initiatives I had planned. I got together with a friend of mine and founder of DaEdge1Productions, Garrett Edgerson. He helped capture footage throughout the year from games, pep rallies, and all of the programs I held or attended to give a broad view of all a queen does at SU. It was like I was campaigning for Miss Southern all over again, because we made campaign flyers to post around campus and on social media.
The competition actually started on April 16th at midnight and did not end until midnight on May 20th. It was difficult to get students to go to the website and vote and vote as often as they could because it does get tiring when voting lasts for a month long. I had to come up with as many creative ideas to get students to vote and stay in the top 10 throughout the competition. I held two voting parties: one was a pizza party in the Union computer lab for the students and an ice cream social in US Jones Residential Hall. Students came and ate, and of course voted as often as they could for 2-3 hours. I was appreciative to the Division of Student Affairs because they sponsored the food and drinks for the parties. I also got our Media Relations Office to promote on our school’s website. Throughout the entire experience I received so much support not only from my Jaguar family but other students from different HBCUs that I had the opportunity to encounter during my reign. That truly meant a lot to me to know that even if I didn’t make the top 10, I made some impact and gave my institution a platform to be recognized.
A week after the voting ended the coordinator of the competition and the photo shoot emailed my advisor and I, letting us know that I placed as one of the Top 10 HBCU Queens to be featured in their September Issue of Ebony Magazine. I was so excited I shed a few tears because I was planning and wanting this so bad not only for myself but for my university and it was a great way to end my reign. They also let us know that the shoot would be in Chicago, Illinois and that they would fly us out and give us hotel accommodations. They kept the rankings and who else made the top 10 confidential, little did they know all of the queens from the 2013-2014 year had and still have a great relationship so we are always communicating and we all got together to make a GroupMe message together. I was excited I got to share this experience with some of my favorite queens which included: Ambriya Neal (Miss North Carolina A&T), Erica Johnson (Miss Bowie State University), Donielle Williams (Miss Xavier University), Alexis Cole (Miss UAPB), Shayma Sulaiman (Miss Hampton University), Nicole Bowden (Miss FAMU), Dyonna Wilson (Miss Norfolk State University), Duana Revere (Miss Savannah State University), and our baby queen as we call her, Tequiles Celestin (Miss Tuskegee University 2014-2015).
As we counted down the days before we would head to the Windy City, we kept in contact, made a packing list, planned activities for us to do during our downtime and sat on pins-and-needles as we were so eager to see each other and be a part of this great experience.
The day finally came for my advisor, Ms. Twyana Cain, and I to leave for Chicago and unfortunately our flight got cancelled at 11 in the evening before we were supposed to leave due to the storms that were coming from Texas to Louisiana. So we called the Johnson Publishing companies to Ms. Tia Brown, who was our contact person but she was out of her office. Luckily Ms. Miya Williams answered and she worked tirelessly that night to get us a new flight. She did succeed in getting us a new flight later that evening however that flight as well was cancelled. Just like most times the third time is a charm and she got us a flight out the morning of the shoot.
I was bummed out because I missed the first day of the Campus Queen experience and missed seeing my sister queens but it all worked out. We finally made it to Chicago halfway into the shoot, a driver picked us up in a black expedition and as soon as I stepped through the door of the studio I was greeted with warm hugs from the queens, Ebony Magazine Editor Ms. Mitzi Miller, and the two ladies, Tia Brown and Miya Williams, who I was working with to get there. Everyone was so excited because they were worried from the 2 flight cancellations, if I would even make it to complete the shoot.
After the warm greetings and love, I went straight to wardrobe to get my outfits for the two scenes and then into hair and makeup. I immediately got nervous while prepping for the shoot, because the set was so nice and I kept thinking in my head “Gosh! I’m really about to be in a nationally syndicated magazine!” That feeling alone is quite overwhelming.
We all had props for our individual shots that reflected our future goals, my prop was a book because I want to one day pursue my doctoral degree in higher education. When my turn came for my individual shots, I instantly froze up in front of the camera. They started playing “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus so I could loosen up and the other queens came on the set and danced with me to help shake out the nervousness, which was surprising being that I’m usually so outgoing. After that I tried my best to work the prop they gave me and then got ready for our next scene, which was the group scenes where we all wore black, gold, and/or silver. That was the most fun and going off each other’s vibes to get a good shot for the party themed scene.
After the photo shoot we were a bit exhausted but all of the queens spent the evening together, we went shopping downtown and went out to eat and just shared stories that occurred during our reigns and gave as much advice as we could give to incoming queen Miss Tequiles.
We truly have a bond as HBCU Queens that many will not understand and I was glad I got to share this with these women and build lasting friendships and a network of amazing college educated women. This trip was a once in a lifetime experience for myself but just the beginning for my university. I am truly grateful for the support not only during this campaign, but also during my reign and the encouragement to be a great queen and overall student of the great Southern University.
Thank you to Southern University and to Ebony Magazine for this great opportunity!
Southern University is proud of former Miss Southern Ayanna Spivey! Thank you for sharing your experience with the Jaguar Nation and representing Southern well! – Office of Media Relations.