From the desk of Jeaiza Maria Quinones, the 84th Miss Prairie View A&M University:

Earlier this summer I watched the world stand in awe as a Black woman, an HBCU grad at that, won the title of Miss USA. As I watched her stride across the stage and eventually claim the title with tears and shock, I felt my heart fill with overwhelming joy and pride. In a world that has made it so difficult for women of color to see representations of ourselves in the media, a Black woman was finally winning. It brought me back to that joyful feeling I had experienced just months before when my dream of becoming the eighty-fourth Miss Prairie View A&M University became a reality. As I sat there watching a new queen, I began to wonder if it was finally time for me to begin the fight for a larger span of representation in the world of pageantry. With that small ounce of inspiration, I decided to apply for the upcoming Miss Texas USA pageant.

Filling out the application was nerve-racking. I must have started and stopped again a few dozen times. Each time I would tell myself, “Girl this is a HUGE pageant…they are going to view this application and laugh.” After all, who was I to apply? I had already defeated my insecurities and gone on to defeat the odds as a plus size woman in the pageant I had just completed, but was this an arena I was even prepared for? Still I completed the application, and with hesitation I submitted the form and closed my laptop hoping to forget the “silly” thing I had just done. I remember speaking to one of my pageant sisters and laughing about the whole thing. “I know that is not going to happen girl…” I’d say. There was no way a plus size woman representing Prairie View would be accepted.

So months later as I sit here with a letter in hand, which states that I have been selected to represent my area in the 2016 Miss Texas USA Pageant, I am in utter shock and simultaneously humbled. Yes, it did happen. Yes, there is a way that this plus size woman representing Prairie View was accepted. Unfortunately, this won’t be happening for me this year. You see, this amazing opportunity conflicts with a once in a lifetime opportunity related to my first love, Prairie View A&M University.

I truly believe that as much as a queen is DESTINED to receive limitless blessings and opportunities, she must always recognize that there is a time and place for every blessing, opportunity, and crown. Coincidentally, the Miss Texas USA pageant will take place on the very day that my prestigious HBCU opens the doors of our very own stadium; one my student body has dreamed of for almost a decade. One that my beloved administration and alumni have supported wholeheartedly. On that day, I will become the first Miss Prairie View to walk into that stadium with my Panther family. I will never be able to relive that experience, or my reign.

I will, however, be able to try again on the journey to Miss Texas USA.

As I look at this letter, I don’t just see an acceptance. I see a dream that has become a reality for me and for women like me. I see a future that surpasses my current reign, and an opportunity to build a legacy for the university I adore in 2017. I will hold on to this vision throughout the upcoming year, and with that hope in mind, I will try once again.