Pageant queens come in all sizes, shades and cultural backgrounds.
The director of the Miss Diaspora Africa International Pageant, Tiffany Lovell-Effiong is launching the first ever U.S. African Diaspora competition this year to commemorate the “everyday woman.”
The pageant focuses on women of color who were born outside of Africa. The five pillars of the competition are culture, unity, respect, elegance and empowerment.
“We are redefining what beauty is for women of color in the media,” Lovell-Effiong said. “How we are portrayed. We are over it. What we see on reality TV and in the music videos … is not working anymore.”
The CEO of Fashion Ghana Magazine reached out to Lovell-Effiong after seeing her work as the pageant coordinator of Miss Nigeria USA. He proposed the idea of a Diaspora pageant.
“I immediately grabbed the opportunity,” Lovell-Effiong said. “It’s amazing how my life kept on moving in that direction of the Diaspora. For me, we are all one people.”
The pageant is centered on sisterhood, self-love and African roots and culture.
“It’s about knowing who we are as a people and being unified in our every movement,” Lovell-Effiong said.
Applicants for the MDA competition are from the U.S. and from as far away as Israel.
Although some of the participants have had prior modeling experience, many of the women work at low-income jobs or are the main providers of their households.
“I read every line of the application and every sentence to determine how I can help these women,” Lovell-Effiong said. “We are developing all of them.”
To accommodate the women in the competition, Lovell-Effiong lowered the price of the application fee from $50 to $30 and removed the $500 requirement in sponsorships. She has selected 14 women for the competition. There are only a few slots left.
“It’s amazing what these women do as far as charity, community and outreach,” Lovell-Effiong said. “My mission is to be their mentor for life and to create a sisterhood with all the girls to come.”
Cultural and communications workshops will be available for the women.
“We are not looking for the models or the beautiful Black girl that doesn’t know her history or know her culture,” Lovell-Effiong said.
The pan-African and Brooklyn native is an alumnus of Pace University. She has worked to develop a career as an event planner and is the founder of Tal Global Events Inc.
Lovell-Effiong struggles to find sponsors and campaign donors to offset the costs of the pageant.
“It’s been really rough on me,” Lovell-Effiong admitted. “I’m finally getting some of the pull and the response that I want, but how do I fund this now?”
She hopes to increase MDA’s social media following to get more traffic to the website and venue. So far, Lovell-Effiong has contributed $3,000 to the MDA pageant.
Over the past weeks, Lovell-Effiong has worked more than 20 hours a day to fulfill the pageants needs.
Winners of the 2016 MDA competition will receive a trip to a Latin American or Caribbean country and will be featured in a biographical documentary.
The MDA pageant is Oct. 22 at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“They are everyday women who want to teach people about their culture, learn about their culture and make a change in the world,” she said.