Diasporian News of Friday, 18 July 2014

Source: Paa swanzy-essuman, GhanaNewsMedia

Untold Stories Behind Miss Ghana USA Pageant (Part 3)

My name is Mary Lorraine Andoh. I am 23 years of age and currently a graduate student pursuing my Masters in Public Administration. I participated in the 2013 Miss Ghana USA Pageant, and I proudly represented the Greater Accra Region. The Miss Ghana USA pageant was held in Chicago the year before I participated, and that is how I became familiar with the competition. I felt that it was a great representation not just of women, but of African women in general, so I sent in my application, along with the application fee for the 2013 round. I was also very excited about the promised prizes which included cash, and a round trip ticket to Ghana to participate in a mission of one’s choice. I was contacted about a month later and told that I had been picked as a finalist, and I was extremely excited. My family and friends showered me with such a tremendous amount of support that I will never forget. In my time at the pageant house, I met so many beautiful, smart, talented and driven Ghanaian women (past and present contestants) and that was the highlight of my time in the MGUSA competition. Nevertheless, there seemed to be some lowlights which could be addressed in order for organizers to step up the quality of the pageant in future.

The night before the pageant, I had a feeling things were not as they seemed. We were gathered in a group meeting, and told that there were would be no prizes unless the sponsors of the pageant held up their ends of the bargain. This meant that, until the night before the pageant, there was no cash to be given, and there was no round trip ticket to Ghana. I was very surprised; because that meant that the organization had falsely claimed that these prizes were available. I was uncomfortable, but still had hopes that the sponsors would eventually come up with the money and ticket for the eventual winners. We were also told that the head judge of the competition would be coming to speak with each and every contestant the morning before the pageant. We all woke up and dressed, expecting to be interviewed, but he never showed up and we never received an explanation for that. The night of the pageant was going beautifully, until we noticed that a judge and a host had been replaced. Things started to get funny when the host announced the scores of the top 5 girls. The winner received over 800 points. This is not to say the winner was undeserving, because I admire her very much. It is just that the point system made no sense, especially because we were told we would be judged in 5 different categories, and the highest points one could receive in each category was 20.

Meaning that at best, the winner should have received 100 points. Also, as the winners were being crowned, a contestant was given the third place sash, with all the accessories. However, a few minutes later, she had the sash stripped from her due to error. It was the most confusing thing I had ever witnessed, but both contestants handled themselves with dignity and grace. Afterwards, when I (and several other contestants) inquired about our score sheets, we were given the run around for months. To this day we have never received our score sheets.

My time at the pageant house was an amazing one, but I cannot recommend any young lady to participate in the MissGhana USA pageant with a clear conscience. In some instances, we heard of situations that appeared to be characterized by “conflict of interest”. It is deceitful to advertise prizes that do not exist. I do not believe it is okay for people working for MGUSA to have had previous relationships or contact with potential pageant contestants. I do not believe it is okay for contestants to know the judges before the competition. It is just not right. After the competition, I was confused, especially when I learned that there were many more contestants, even winners from the years past who had never received prizes either. This is not a case of sour grapes or bitterness. Everything I had hoped to accomplish with the Miss Ghana USA crown, I have been fortunate enough to do, and I see my fellow sisters doing the same. I have decided to speak up now because it has come to my attention that some of the same things that went on in the pageants of the previous year, are still going on. I would hate for girls to compete year after year and leave disheartened. Miss Ghana USA should be a springboard for young Ghanaian women to display their talent, intelligence and smartness on a FAIR and UNBIASED platform. I am hoping that in the future MGUSA will be exactly that.