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Adelphi Celebrates Cultural Pride at Inaugural Miss AUniverse Pageant

By Arpan Josan

Adelphi’s first multicultural pageant Miss AUniverse was hosted on April 20 in the UC Ballrooms. Derived from the school’s acronym, AU, the pageant was a Panther-esque spin on the iconic annual Miss Universe pageant. The Asian Students Intercultural Alliance (ASIA) hosted this event alongside Swing Phi Swing Social Fellowship, Inc. to celebrate Adelphi’s women from all across the globe.           

Miss Colombia and Miss USA with their hosts and Chotsani Williams-West.

The pageant was organized by senior computer science major Kennie Dionisio and sophomore psychology major Octavia Simon. Throughout the night, nine Adelphi students competed for the crown while representing their countries.   

The event came about last semester after Black Students United and Swing Phi Swing Social Fellowship, Inc., hosted their Harlem Elegance Fashion Show, according to Dionisio.

“I attended to support my peers from both organizations and I was absolutely amazed at how it turned out,” said Dionisio. “During PantherPalooza back in August, I remember jokingly talking with my friends about hosting a multicultural event where each multicultural organization would be a representative in a pageant-like scenario.” 

Dionisio and Simon then spent the entire semester recruiting representatives and spreading the word about Miss AUniverse. 

“Originally the pageant started with three delegates from three countries: Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Georgia. But as the day of the pageant came closer, it gained more traction,” Dionisio said. “And we were able to find nine delegates, each from different countries.”

The judges were Chotsani Williams-West, executive director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging; Groove Phi Groove Social Fellowship, Inc., brother Christopher “Glitch” Jerome; and Michelle Sarker, 2024 Senior Class Vice President. 

The pageant consisted of three rounds. In the first round, all nine delegates introduced themselves and also strutted down the red carpet while gracefully flaunting their outfits. During the second round, seven delegates advanced and answered a question regarding their perspectives on their individual cultures. The third and final round allowed five delegates to bring their talent to the stage. Each round ended with multiple eliminations from the judges. 

The contestants were: Nathalia Lawrence, who represented Colombia; Cassidy Bedell for Cuba; Maggie Lin for China; Mariami Shvangiradze for Georgia; Alana Bernstein for Guyana; Tekhira Francis for Jamaica; Jessica Diaz for Peru; Siena Maria Charles for Trinidad and Tobago; and Alecsandria Lawrence for the US. 

Co-host Simon explained her experience while putting together this event. “It was a very fun experience overall. Over my last year of being a Swing on this campus, I have hosted many events and there's always some anxiety that comes with that, but this event didn't bring much of that up. It was a lot of work behind the scenes, including promoting on social media and by mouth.” 

Simon said her favorite memory was getting ready with the contestants. “There was a sense of warmth and community in the bathroom and the Green Room. Friends and family of contestants would help other contestants and there were a lot of laughs throughout the night between us all that kept us calm and excited to keep going throughout the night.”

Bedell, the first-year English major who represented Cuba, talked about her experience participating in the pageant. “My favorite memory has got to be laughing and having a fun time with the friends who came out to support me. It was the first time in a long time where I actually felt beautiful and loved.” 

Lin (Miss China), a sophomore biology major, said, “It was really really fun. All the participants were really nice.” 

Lawrence (Miss Colombia), a first-year nursing major, said her favorite moment of being in the pageant was “getting to know a little about each contestant” and “the instant camaraderie”  she found alongside her sister between their interactions with the other contestants. “[T]he talent portion was my favorite part of the event,” said Lawrence.

The first Miss AUniverse ended with junior psychology major Diaz (Miss Peru) winning the crown. The runner-up was Bernstein (Miss Guyana), a junior psychology major. Sophomore health sciences major Charles (Miss Trinidad and Tobago) stole the hearts of the audience and won Miss Congeniality. 

Diaz said, “Participating in Miss AUniverse was such an honor. I truly feel so grateful to compete beside such beautiful and talented women, filled with the utmost camaraderie, making the experience that much more valuable.” 

She added, “One of the memorable moments that will stick with me is sharing how I integrate the love I have for my family into the work I do for the community, all while my family was in the audience. It was really special. I think the nine of us representing our countries on stage was really important and hope for this experience to become a tradition for many others to enjoy.”

When asked about her favorite memory, Bernstein said, “It’s been my childhood dream to be a superstar and Adelphi finally giving me this opportunity was a true honor. I’m extremely thankful I was able to get to second place, which made completing my dream more cherishable to me. Also, bringing the lovely but not so talked about Indian-Carribean culture to my community felt like a valuable contribution. My family and I will always remember this beautiful day forever.” 

Bernstein highlighted her experience in performing in Miss AUniverse. 

“Because of the passionate, hard worker I am… and how I wanted my dream to have the best possible outcome… I prepared day and night by myself with my friends and family. The preparation was very stressful and distracting but also fulfilled my life with the hobbies I love most at the same time,” she said. “However, I was able to relax the minute I met the girls at the event due to their warmth and friendliness. I felt like I was enjoying the process more when I finally got to the event and I felt I was in a safe space to express my personality. I truly felt like I was in a real Miss Universe Pageant, which is something you don’t get to do regularly.” 

Dionisio hopes to have Miss AUniverse become an annual event. “I also really hope this becomes a tradition at Adelphi, so when I leave, I hope somebody continues it!” 

Congratulations to everyone who participated in this magical event.    

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