Meredith Pitts, Webster University junior music major, said she would never do another pageant again. But a recent opportunity changed her mind.
Pitts will be the only caucasian contestant of five in the Miss Phi Beta Sigma Pageant, for the Gamma Eta City-Wide Chapter on March 23 at Harris Stowe State University. Participants reign from universities around St. Louis, including Webster University, Harris-Stowe State University, University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis University and Maryville University. The Gamma Eta City-Wide Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated is hosting the annual event.
Pitts was not aware of this pageant or of the organization when she chose to participate. With her past pageant experience, she decided to give it a shot. It wasn’t until the interview, she found out the organization’s history and purpose.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. is one of eight other Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLO) that serve under the National Panhellenic Council. BGLOs such as Phi Beta Sigma, serve within their communities through forms of programming, mentoring, public service, etc. According to its national website, the organization’s founders “desired for their fraternity to exist as part of an even greater brotherhood which would be devoted to the ‘inclusive we’ rather than the ‘exclusive we.’”
“These young ladies (pageant participants) will work in the community and uplift our principles and motto, ‘Culture for Service, Service for Humanity,’” said Harris-Stowe senior and Phi Beta Sigma member, Dominic Avant.
Pitts has participated in two pageants, Miss Illinois Outstanding Team and Miss Illinois Team Pageant. Pitts said, however, that they were completely different from her experience with the Miss Phi Beta Sigma Pageant. She described the contestants in the other competitions as shallow and their goal was to receive as many crowns as they could.
“These are the girls that have fake hair, fake teeth and that’s just not me at all,” Pitts said.
Pitts also said the way the foundation was built is important because it gives all of the participants a chance to be a beauty queen and see themselves differently from other girls. Pitts added they are expected and encouraged to become like a sisterhood and friends.
“It’s really important to me because I’ve always struggled with self-image and self-confidence. … That’s something I want to stand up for for younger girls,” Pitts said.
The Miss Phi Beta Sigma Pageant is a scholarship pageant that takes place annually for most of their chapters nationally. It awards one woman a scholarship. It also provides an opportunity for each participant to earn a title.
“We try to do a pageant not as usual,” Avant said. “We try to build and foster a mentoring program with these young ladies, a bond, a sisterhood, within the pageant.”
Pitts and the other participants partake in team building, gatherings and get together to have study sessions. Avant continuously pushes them to go and support each other’s endeavors on their respected campuses.
“They have really bonded,” Avant said. “Out of the three years that I’ve done this, this has been the best court ever.”
If Pitts wins the Miss Phi Beta Sigma Pageant on March 23, she would advance to the Southwestern Regional Pageant. Pitts would compete against other winners in this region. The National Conclave Pageant is where one woman will be crowned as Miss Phi Beta Sigma out of all participants nationally.
“If each one of the ladies, after the pageant, continue to work together as a court, I think throughout the community they can get a lot done,” said Jerry Washington, junior elementary education cross categorical disabilities major at Harris-Stowe. “It goes beyond March 23, although it’s one title, one scholarship, one crown. … They are one whole.”