Raven Harper | Staff Writer
Five contestants competed in the “All That Jazz” 2019-2020 Miss Hampton University Scholarship Pageant on Oct. 4. That evening, the crown for the 62nd Miss Hampton University was given to graduating senior Carmen Mahogany Jackson, a strategic communication major with an area of emphasis in performance, from Lithonia, Georgia.
During the week of the pageant, Jackson said that she experienced a plethora of emotions. She was on a strict regimen and consistently prayed leading up to the big night.
Even though she was nervous before the pageant, Jackson felt sure that if Miss Hampton was in God’s path for her, no one could take that away. That thought helped her remain calm as the pageant began and stuck with her until the end. Jackson had a huge support system in the audience from her entire family, friends and sorority sisters. “When the curtains opened, I was like, ‘Wow, I have to go hard now. I have to,’” she said.
Hearing her name announced as Miss Hampton, Jackson said that she was in awe.
“Even now, I’m just in awe,” she said.
“I am beyond blessed and truly honored to have earned this title. Being Miss Hampton is so much bigger than me, and with every step of the way, I have to realize that. I’m not just doing this for myself. I’m representing Hampton.”
Jackson’s interest in running for Miss Hampton began her sophomore year. As a part of the Greer Dawson Wilson Student Leadership Training Program (SLP), she had the opportunity to assist in past pageants as a runner and as the assistant to the co-director her sophomore and junior years.
“Throughout those two years seeing the pageant come to fruition, along with forming close relationships with former Miss Hamptons’ Nyia and Lulu as my sorority sisters, I was able to recognize the change these women have made on campus,” Jackson said.
“To be crowned Miss Hampton is to understand that you are there to assist your community, but to also improve yourself. I wanted to become a part of the same legacy, and I am blessed that I am able to now.”
Jackson remembers always dancing and singing as a child, and at the age of 6, her parents decided to enroll her in a performing arts program. Thus, Jackson’s platform as Miss Hampton S.T.A.G.E.: Students Taking Arts Grow Educationally was born. Jackson recognized that, at Hampton, not everyone has been able to participate in the arts as a child, but she knows the importance of being able to hone your skills, whatever those skills may be.
“People did so much better in their academic classes because they had 40 minutes out of their day to fully indulge in their craft,” Jackson said.
“The confidence I have now comes from being on stage as a child as a part of the arts. People don’t see arts as one of those things that matter, but I’d argue that they are vital.”
As Miss Hampton, Jackson plans to work with the Boys and Girls Club in Buckroe to ensure that their after-school programs include the arts.
“I want to know if they have instruments for the kids to learn and play with, and if not, fundraising money so they do,” she said.
Jackson also hopes to start free, HU student-led classes in the arts to kids in the Hampton Roads area as a way of showing local children that there are people who look like them that do what they want to do. With her new platform as Miss Hampton, Jackson wants people to know that underneath the sash and crown, she is still Carmen. “I don’t want people to put me on a pedestal,” she said.
“I still want people to see me as that sweet southern belle from Georgia that is always singing and dancing.”
As a senior, Jackson’s time at Hampton is coming to an end. However, she will leave feeling full. “It is crazy to think about my growth from a freshman to now,” she said. “I’ve dealt with a lot of things, but I’ve loved every moment.”
Jackson decided to attend Hampton after her experience at Admitted Students Day, but finding her people here was what made her stay. Jackson is a part of SLP, a main anchor for WHOV-TV and a member of the Gamma Theta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Although she will be sad to leave Hampton in the spring, Jackson is eager to start her career in the entertainment or theatre industry with her strategic communication degree.
“I’ve met my bridesmaids and lifelong sisters here,” Jackson said. “I’ve met my people here. That’s what I am most thankful for. Hampton is my home away from home.”