MY JOURNEY OF competing in the Miss USA/ Universe Organization as an African- American woman did not begin as such, and is not laced with adolescent experiences of tiaras and sequins.
Being raised in south Baton Rouge, my ultimate objective as a child was to fortify my dreams and potential and to not fall prey to the same statistics as my peers. It wasn’t until early adulthood that I was inspired to compete in the Miss USA/Universe Organization in 2008 when CrystleStewart won the coveted title, Miss USA.
However, being overweight and in an abusive relationship, I was greatly discouraged from pursuing the newfound dream. With a compilation of faith, heartache and God’s divine order I was able to successfully lose more than 60 pounds, lose the jerk, start an event-planning firm, return to college and launch a career in film, music and stage.
While recovering from an injury last summer, I was encouraged by my 13-year- old sister to compete as she, her friends and I watched the national pageant from my home. I applied later that week and to my surprise would soon hold the title of Miss Capital City USA 2014.
Already an active member in my community as a mentor and philanthropist in the arts, I was partaking in the activities of a dutiful beauty queen prior to my affiliation with the organization, however I was pleasantly surprised to find how many young women were inspired to see a woman of their ethnicity, from their community join such an elite sorority of women. It was at that moment that I realized that my ethnicity did matter, but only because it was resounding proof to many women that now it no longer does not.
I’ve learned in mentoring and with my philanthropic work that people only do better when they know better and they only pursue better when they are aware that the possibility of attainment exists.
I can say without reservation that my ethnicity did not play a factor in competing in the 2014 Miss Loui- siana USA Pageant, but I’m sure it played a factor in the positive self-image of women when I beamed with pride after being an- nounced as a finalist.
This journey called life has been an eventful one but what I can impart from are two things: there is nothing more anti-climatic than opening a beautifully presented gift box to find that it holds nothing…hold something and have an opinion about it; and if you ever want to make God laugh, just tell Him what your plans are and He will show you that His are better whether you like it or not.
BY Shanna Burris
Miss Capital City USA Shanna Marie Burris is a professional performer in stage, film, music, and dance. She is a Baton Rouge native.