The 2020-2021 Miss NCCU Imani Johnson poses with her crown and sash. While living in the midst of COVID-19, most N.C. Central organizations had to restructure their campaigning efforts this year for campus queens and other royal court positions as a whole. Photo courtesy: Imani Johnson's Instagram Page

“We have the power to change the world.” NCCU campus queens discuss challenges amidst a pandemic


While living in the midst of COVID-19, most N.C. Central University organizations had to restructure their campaigning efforts this year for campus queens and other royal court positions as a whole. 

Most organizations on campus nominate two members who will serve as the Mister and Miss, or the face of the organization at NCCU’s coronation during homecoming.

Although many students vied to be queens for the royal court and campus organizations, there were a series of obstacles and changes during this year’s spring and fall campaign seasons that were unlike any other. 

Imani Johnson, the 2020-2021 Miss NCCU, said she and other candidates running in the spring had to condense their campaigning experiences into a virtual setting despite obtaining event materials and preparing for in-person events.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity because I know a lot of people would be in this role and quickly give up,” the 78th Miss NCCU said.

“I feel as though I was chosen for this position because I am strong enough to live through it.” 

With a pageant career spanning nearly ten years, Johnson also served as the 2019-2020 Miss Black and Old Gold of the Gamma Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.

From hosting in-person events to interacting with students face-to-face, Johnson illustrated that her campaign experience as Miss Black and Old Gold differed from her Miss NCCU campaign.  

Despite being crowned in a global pandemic, Johnson added that serving as a campus queen today has shown how much work people can get done when they are determined.

“Living in a pandemic is not ideal,” Johnson emphasized.

“We missed so many opportunities but my hope is that I can continue to be an impact even if it is in a virtual component.” 

In a time when college students feel disconnected from each other, Johnson’s driving force as a campus queen is utilizing technology to her advantage, carry out her duties, and promote civic engagement for students. 

“Right now, we need leaders and people who care about the community,” Johnson said.

“We need voices more than ever right now so pageantry pushes us to be creative and to have more of an impact even if it is virtual.” 

Although many campus queens may not have as many interactive experiences they may have anticipated, many former queens illustrate there are still many skills contestants can learn within their positions. 

Ashanti Modlin, the former Miss NCCU who reigned 2017-2018, learned how to plan programs and effectively lead others. Modlin added that her campus queen skills benefit her as a high school educator.

“Serving in student leadership developed me more than I would’ve known when I was in college,” Modlin said.

“Basic skills hard and soft were developed while I was in student leadership.”

Within her position as a pageant coach, Modlin added she has seen first hand how N.C. Central and other pageant contestants’ campaigns were affected by the pandemic. 

“It was heartbreaking to see them pour their hearts out for things to be uncontrollably snatched from them,” Modlin said.

“The pageant is part of the experience of becoming queen!”

Many other former campus queens share the same sentiments as Modlin surrounding the pandemic’s negative impact on the campaigns and terms of campus queen.

 Chassity Coston, former Miss 1941 for the Gamma Beta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, said serving as a campus queen helped her make connections and form bonds with people.

She added that many of her experiences as a campus queen may not be the same for queens today. 

“Everybody is adjusting in this time of COVID-19 and that is the same for our campus queens,” Coston added.

“The show must go on and crowns must still be worn.” 

As a secondary school principal in Kuwait, Coston said it has to be creative and innovative in her role. She added that campus queens “must do the thing” to reign as campus queens during COVID-19. 

“There is a means to do whatever you want to do,” Coston said.

“You just have to have the mindset to do it and the innovation to think outside of the box. There is no limit.”  

Although the pandemic has halted certain campaign events, Johnson emphasized that aspiring and current campus queens should remain positive, encourage people, and push to have a greater impact. 

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