*Precious Maku, winner of the 2021 Miss Juneteenth Fort Worth pageant, and Andrea Sledge, head chair and director of the pageant, join TODAY to talk about the significance of the pageants as a way to celebrate the historic day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
“It’s not like me to enter a pageant and win,” said Maku, after gracing the stage at Texas Wesleyan University in an elaborate gown to be crowned. “I’m still processing everything. Like, I’m Miss Juneteenth!”
Maku joins a long history of young Black girls who have earned the title in the decades-old Fort Worth pageant, which has teens competing for a scholarship, usually to a historically Black college or university, and other prizes. The girls display their talent, wear an evening gown, write an essay and answer questions on stage.
But, over the years, Fort Worth’s Miss Juneteenth pageant has become even more significant: It’s a chance for Black girls in Texas to promote the historic holiday and gain funding for college, while commemorating the pain and joy of the life-changing day. Similar pageants have popped up in Texas and several other states over the years, and 2020 marked the first National Miss Juneteenth Pageant held in Tennessee. Delaware’s Miss Juneteenth, Saniya Gay, claimed the national title.
Below, Maku and Sledge talk to TODAY about the pageant.