Two best friends and members of the First Ladies dance team will take a new stage as they compete for the title of Miss District of Columbia 2017 this summer.
Sophomores Jordann Smith-Kingston and Mika Takahashi were named finalists this month for the Miss D.C. pageant – a qualifying round for the Miss America competition. Although the pair of friends don’t have a significant history with pageants, they both said it would be a good opportunity to promote their chosen platforms, develop their confidence and meet new people.
Miss D.C. isn’t a team sport like the two are used to, but the pageant’s competitive nature hasn’t affected their friendship, they said. Smith-Kingston said the two have been close friends since their freshman year and met through the First Ladies dance team.
“Since then, we’ve been almost inseparable,” Smith-Kingston said.
Takahashi said that from beginning their applications to the competition process, they have helped each other by brainstorming ideas for their performances and costumes together.
“It’s less about trying to bring other people down and more about trying to raise yourself up and be the best of yourself,” Takahashi said. “We’re both just doing it for fun.”
The best friends, who are 19 and 20 years old, are among the youngest contestants in the Miss D.C. competition this year and are the only two GW students. They will compete with six contestants from American University and two from Georgetown University in June.
Takahashi said that as members of the First Ladies, the two regularly represent GW at basketball games and are excited to be the only two representatives of GW during the competition.
“We’re all about promoting school spirit and promoting GW, so this is just another way to do that in another facet of our lives,” Takahashi said.
Both Smith-Kingston and Takahashi are Presidential Scholars in the Arts in Dance and have been dancing for more than 15 years. They will have the opportunity to flaunt their skills during the talent portion of the competition, where Smith-Kingston will perform a classical ballet variation and Takahashi will dance a contemporary jazz number.
“Talent is really what differentiates all of the contestants the most,” Smith-Kingston said. “A lot of people are labeled as dancers or singers, so it shows the most variety in people and what their interests are.”
Takahashi said there is a wide range of diversity in physical appearance and reasons for wanting to compete within the contestant pool, and that Miss America contestants don’t have to look a certain way or hold certain beliefs. Takahashi’s platform, which is the cause she has committed to volunteer and raise awareness for during her run for Miss D.C., involves increasing cultural diversity and inclusiveness in schools.
“I think it really helps with your inner confidence. Not everybody looks the same, in terms of hair, skin color and body size,” Takahashi said. “It really helps you realize that you can be confident in yourself and who you are.”
Smith-Kingston’s platform is “A Matter of the Heart,” which raises awareness for cardiovascular diseases. The contestants are also involved with The Children’s Miracle Network, the official Miss America platform.
Smith-Kingston and Takahashi said they agree that being in the competition has benefitted their professional development by providing training in interviewing, public speaking and networking. Leading up to the competition, contestants go through mock interviews to improve their interview and public speaking skills and attend networking events.
Although they are proud contestants now, Smith-Kingston and Takahashi said that they didn’t always have a positive impression of pageants. Takahashi acknowledged that pageants get a bad reputation from shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras,” but now she has changed her perspective.
Takahashi said she found the whole process more wholesome and relaxed than she thought it would be. The organization has been accommodating with their hectic class and dance schedules, and there is an emphasis on individual preparation, she said.
Smith-Kingston said she thought the judges would put pressure on the contestants to maintain certain physical appearances, but that has not been the case.
“I thought it would be focused on who the judges want you to appear as,” Smith-Kingston said. “They don’t want you to become someone else but to present the best version of yourself.”