U hosts 2014 Miss Africa Utah pageant

N-Miss-America Colby Patterson
Contestants for the Miss Africa Utah pageant lined up on stage on March 8 in the Union building. Photo by Chris Ayers.

Contestants for the Miss Africa Utah pageant lined up on stage on March 8 in the Union building. Photo by Chris Ayers.

On March 8, the Union Ballroom transformed into a miniature version of the African continent for nearly four hours.

Representatives from Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe came to the U for the 2014 Miss Africa Utah pageant.

This is the first time the U has hosted the pageant. The previous three years UVU has hosted the event. Roughly 500 people attended the event this year.

The show started with nine women wearing red dresses dancing to the mixes of DJ Double O. The stage was framed with a variety of golden balloons, and soft white lights lit the dancers.

Pastor Ron Brown and Jane Seegmiller, a former Miss Africa Utah contestant in the 2011 pageant and native of Ghana, hosted the event.

“I’m not your typical pageant girl, but it was a good experience for me,” Seegmiller said. “It brought out my confidence, and I gained connections and made really good friends.”

The Miss Africa Utah contest aims to create opportunities for participants to develop professionalism and share their culture with American citizens.

The contestants came out one by one in traditional clothing from their country of origin. In the talent portion of the show, each participant performed a routine — most chose to dance, but some recited poetry and told stories.

“The music and the cultural dances are my favorite part,” said Diana Gikonyo, a freshman in business from Kenya.

After the talent segment, the women answered questions about the best places to visit in their country, the best qualities that parents can share with their children, what issues their countries face and what differentiates their country from the rest of Africa.

Between portions of the contests, different crews, including the Best Afro Dance Company and various African drummers, entertained the crowd.
The competition ended with the women in evening gowns. Before the top five contestants were selected, awards were given for Miss Congeniality, Miss Photogenic, Best Talent, Best Evening Dress, Miss Ambassador and Miss Popular. Miss Africa Utah 2013, Jawahir Ahmed of Somalia, joined them on the stage to give her crown to the successor. She urged the contestant to “reach for Mars, the stars and whatever may seem far” in her farewell video.

“Even though we are the Miss Africa Utah pageant, we try to be diverse as we can. We are trying to unite and honor everybody by having them participate,” Seegmiller said.

Miss Zimbabwe, Winnet Murahwa, was crowned Miss Africa Utah 2014. Seegmiller feels the judges chose wisely.

“I can’t think of a moment when she made a mistake, she was flawless — talent, outfit, answering questions, dancing … but any of the girls could have won, really,” Seegmiller said.

k.mcdonald@chronicle.utah.edu