BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – More than 400 people came out to support the Miss Frank Pierce Pageant last Saturday night at the recreation center located at 2000 7th St. S. This year’s theme of Denim, Diamonds and Pearls was showcased during the creative wear, talent and formal wear portions of the extravaganza.
In a show of glitz and glam, eight contestants competed for Miss Frank Pierce in the categories of Tiny Miss, Little Miss, Junior Miss and Senior Miss. No one envied the judges who had to choose from such a spectacular lineup of beauties.
The pageant is the brainchild of Adrienne Douglas, teen supervisor for the Frank Pierce Recreation Center. She’s been coordinating the pageant for so long she can’t remember if it’s been 14 or 15 years since its inception, but she does remember why she started it.
“To give African-American girls a chance to participate in something that will take them further,” she said.
The pageant is open to anyone in the St. Petersburg community from preschool to the 12th grade. A nominal fee of $25 is the only money that has to be spent. Although judging by some of the formal wear, these young ladies’ parents spent a pretty penny to showcase them.
For three months, the girls practiced three days a week to perfect their introductions and to learn how to walk with grace and poise.
Douglas said she would work with the girls on the talent portion; however, her help is rarely needed.
“Since it has gotten to be this big pageant, everyone is so secretive so they basically do their own thing,” said Douglas, who is willing to walk any girl through the steps if need be.
Girls who have competed in Miss Frank Pierce have gone on to win larger pageants, even becoming queens of their colleges. But competition is not what Douglas wants the girls to take away from it; she wants them to become proper young ladies.
“My thing is to show them that there is more than just having boyfriends and having babies. Respect; learning how to carry yourself; learning that there are different things for young ladies other than what they see every day,” she said.
Douglas said she is willing to do anything to keep the girls off the street, so she recently started a dance team. Little did she know how popular it would be in such a short period of time. In its first year of existence, there are already more than 120 participating.
“Parents call everyday wanting their daughters to be involved but I just don’t have the manpower,” said Douglas, explaining that each dance coach is a non-paid volunteer. “I have to tell the parents that we can’t take everyone.”
Known as the St. Pete Diamond Prima Donnas, this fledgling group is a force to be reckoned with. Two weeks ago the girls beat out 10 dance teams in a competition held in Lakeland. These girls crushed the competition that came from all over the United States to compete.
These girls practice seven days a week, and if practice is cancelled, Douglas said you can read Facebook posts from them saying how bored they are.
Whether it’s spending long hours practicing dance moves for dance battles, or learning how to walk in a formal gown and hills, Douglas and her volunteers aim to teach these young ladies self-respect and keep them off out of trouble.
“Pageants, cheerleading, dance…I’ll take part in everything to keep the girls off the street.”
2016 Miss Frank Pierce Pageant winners:
Miss Frank Pierce – De’jai Williams, 12, attends John Hopkins Middle School
Tiny Miss – Skyelah Clark, 4, attends Jordan Park Head Start
Little Miss – Teniyah Jones, 10, attends Campbell Park Elementary
Junior Miss – Jordan Henry, 12, attends John Hopkins Middle School
Senior Miss – Lataria Adams, 16, attends Gibbs High School
Honorable Mention – Aubbrie Scott, 9, attends Bay Vista Fundamental School
Honorable Mention – Naveah Lovett, 12, attends University Prep Academy
Honorable Mention – Myya’nna McDaniel, 12, attends Lealman Intermediate High School