In each of the past two years, the student crowned Miss Johnson C. Smith University also has won the Miss CIAA crown.

Now it’s Tanoia Hill’s turn.

But the reigning Miss JCSU is in a tough fight. Students at other CIAA schools recently posted Internet messages boasting of their determination to deny the Charlotte school a three-peat.

Conference officials will crown the next Miss CIAA on Saturday, Feb. 28. Contestants are judged on several criteria, including grade-point average, a written bio, an essay, community involvement and online voting.

As of early today, Hill trailed Miss St. Augustine by nearly 60,000 votes on the CIAA website. Students at some CIAA schools were said to be hosting “voting parties” to support their candidates.

Hill, 21, recently sat with to talk about the competition and her time as Miss JCSU. What follows is an edited transcript of that interview.

What are your primary duties as Miss JCSU?
The Student Government Association is the voice of the students, while I am the face of the students. I’m supposed to go out and represent the university. As Miss JCSU, I have a platform that I have to fulfill, and the platform I chose was academic excellence. I believe in high academics. So what I usually do is go out into the community and talk to young students like elementary and middle schools and a little bit of high school, but I gear myself toward the younger kids. I try to talk about academics and raising their GPA and how important it is for us to set the bar high.

What made you seek the JCSU crown?
When I came here as a freshman, I didn’t really know too much about the queen, the title or what all they had to do. Coreea McCoppin, she was queen at the time, so I was watching her, everything she did on campus, all of her activities. And I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I want to be like her.’ So I ran for Miss Freshman, and I got it. So my junior year I ran for Miss JCSU, and I ran hard.

How much time do you devote to being Miss JCSU?
I devote all of my time. I don’t care where I am. I don’t care if I’m walking in the grocery store, I’m still Miss JCSU. I have to lead by example. I am the face of this institution, so I have to represent myself as well as this institution wherever I go. So, it’s only right that I do right. I feel I’m a role model to a lot of the girls here on campus. That’s why I feel it’s imperative that I lead by example because I know a lot of people are watching me.

Do you ever find that burdensome?
No (LOL). I wouldn’t say I find it a burden. At first it was kind of hard because everybody is looking at you. But then things started falling into place and everything started working out well, so I think it’s OK now. I like it.

Who most inspired you?
My mother. She’s a hard working person. She has been my backbone since day one. I’m a first-generation college student, and when I came here my freshman year, we didn’t have a lot of money. I was coming in on loans and maybe like one scholarship. Here you have to get validated (fully enrolled), and if you’re not validated by a certain time they send you home. And I needed $2,500 to be validated, and I needed that within two days. Now I don’t know how my mother came up with this money, but she was like, ‘Don’t worry about it, you’re going to stay down there. don’t pack nothing, you’re not coming home.’ And I was stressing, crying, like, ‘They’re about to send me home.’ Like I said, I don’t know how she came up with it, but I had it in my bank account within those two days.”

What do you hope to accomplish in life?
My main goal is to become a publicist for a music artist. And I kid you not, I believe I’m going to become a publicist for a music artist. And then my second one, even though it might sound crazy and weird, is to fly my mother around the world. I feel she deserves it, because without her I wouldn’t be here today. So I want to take her everywhere she wants to go.

What would it mean to be Miss CIAA?
It would mean a lot. Not only would I be representing my institution, but I’d be representing every institution in the CIAA conference. I feel I have the morals and stuff that it takes to represent everybody.

What does being Miss CIAA entail?
I believe they do have a few community activities that you have to be involved in, but it’s nothing like being the queen of your university.

You’re trailing right now in the vote. What if you don’t win?
Oh, I’m going to be able to take it if it doesn’t work out. I don’t know if everybody else is going to be able to take it. But I’m going to be able to take it because I know that if it’s meant for me I’ll have it. I worked really hard to become Miss JCSU. I prayed about it. I never asked to become Miss CIAA or Miss HBCU Hall of Fame or anything like that. I really asked to become Miss JCSU, and that was the highest honor or achievement I’ve gotten in my life. So I’m content right now with being Miss JCSU. So at the end of the day, if I don’t win any other titles, I’m still the queen here. It’s the love here at home.

What do you think of the effort to deny JCSU a three-peat?
I wouldn’t say scary, but there’s a lot going on as far as the Miss CIAA competition. For the past two years, our queen from JCSU has won Miss CIAA, and everyone is hoping that I get it again. So I find a lot of pressure being put down on me. But the only thing I can do is come hard or go home. So that’s what I’ve been doing thus far, so I hope everything works our in my favor.

To vote for Tanoia Hill, click on this link to the CIAA website.

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