I met the lovely miss Jasmine during our time at Princeton University and thanks to the wonderful world of Twitter, we get to chit chat from time to time. Of course, anything hair-related piques my interest so when I saw Jasmine tweet about weighing her options on how to style her hair for her next pageant, I tuned in. Currently Miss New Orleans USA 2013, Jasmine shares with us how her decision to wear a shorter hairstyle became a factor while competing in her first pageant for Miss New Jersey USA.
Hi, Jasmine. Tell the people a little bit about yourself.
My name is Jasmine “Jazzy” Ellis, and I am a 24 year old teacher at Sci Academy, a New Orleans public high school. I majored in Religion, minored in Spanish, and I was pre-Med at Princeton University.
What first piqued your interest in pageants?
I was applying to medical school in 2010 after graduating, and I was bored just sitting at home. I saw the opportunity to compete in the Miss New Jersey USA pageant, and I took it. It was only a month before the pageant, but I thought it would be fun.
What do you hope to accomplish?
In my first pageant, I just wanted to have fun. It was just an experience.
How was your experience running for Miss New Jersey?
Competing for Miss New Jersey USA was one of the most fun experiences of my life! I made the best of friends– like literally, 2 of the girls I competed with I consider to be my best friends– Shoutout to Becky and Lauren!
What is the pageant experience like? What are you judged on and what do you think is your strongest area of competition?
The pageant experience is pretty surreal. We are told that we are judged on poise, grace, personality, interview, overall physical health. I think I’m strongest in interview. I have many experiences to share and love to talk about them. The judges were very surprised that I had lived in the Amazon jungle and graduated from Princeton, and that was the basis of my private interview with the judging panel. All the contestants were beautiful with great walks, but I believe what set me apart from the rest was my on-stage interview. They asked me “Were you to meet the First Lady what would you talk about?” My answer focused on educational enrichment programs for children (I wouldn’t talk about Princeton because I know that’s a touchy subject for her).
What pageant are you competing in now?
I am now working towards competing in Miss Louisiana USA (my new home). I am currently Miss Orleans USA 2013.
Do you have natural hair? Would you ever consider it?
I don’t have natural hair, but I would definitely consider it. I was raised by strong black parents who always steered me away from being ashamed of the way I was made. I believe I pushed my mom towards getting me my first relaxer because I was so ashamed of my “nappy” hair and having to wear cornrows all the time.
When did you get your first relaxer? What is your usual hair care regimen? Any favorite styles from over the years?
I got my first relaxer when I was 11. I do my own hair now. I relax it once a month, and wash /condition it 3-4 times/week (whenever it starts to smell like something other than shampoo). One of my favorite styles was when I cut my hair right before college graduation. It was super short (kind of like Rihanna used to have it), and I love how quickly and easily I could style it.
When we talked before, you mentioned that you were told your hair was a factor in why you may not have ranked higher in the Miss New Jersey pageant. Can you tell us about that?
The pageant was only 3 months after my Princeton graduation, so my hair was still short from that brave cut. I opted against weave because I didn’t feel comfortable with it. I felt very comfortable with the style and didn’t think it would be a factor until the winner from the year before came up to me after the pageant and told me next time to wear a weave. She said that she just knew I would win, but that when I didn’t she knew it was because of my hair.
How was your hair styled? How will you be wearing it for your next pageant?
I just wore my own short hairstyle half up (in a poof like a true Jersey girl) and half down. If my hair is not long enough, I will wear some clip on extensions (I’m not comfortable with sew-in/glue-in) and just curl it (super-pageant style). If it is, I will just curl it and wear it down.
What inspired you to grow your hair out now? How is that going and what is your goal? What length is your hair now?
For my next pageant, I’ve been growing my hair out so that I don’t have to have a full head of weave. My hair is now 3 inches below my shoulder. I have 4 more months to keep growing it. Hopefully it will be long enough. Long enough would be in the middle of my back (wishful thinking? maybe, but it’s worth a try)
Do you feel pressure to conform to the image your coaches and the judges outlined for you? Did anyone try to advise you on how to style your hair before? What made you decide to wear your hair as it is?
I do feel pressure to conform. With many things, you can’t make changes until you reach a higher position. The Louisiana judges are much more conservative than New Jersey, I’m sure, so I have to play my cards right. I have to go into that pageant making them believe that I already look like the queen they’ve envisioned. I have to go there looking like Miss Universe (which is my ultimate goal). I was told to get weave before, and opted out because of my comfort level. I am now more secure with who I am, and know that a little hair that isn’t my own won’t change who I am. My goal now is to win to make the changes that I want to make happen. I’m pushing for better education reform and educational enrichment programs, so a little discomfort for me is worth it to revolutionize education.
Do you have any thoughts on long hair and how people like to connect this with femininity?
Pageant queens historically have long hair. Miss Universe from every country had long hair (from her roots or from the bag). Judges at every stage of the competition are looking for that girl who will eventually become Miss Universe. If they don’t see it, then you will not win. Hair is a huge factor.
Did you always wear your hair short before? What made you cut your hair? Was it a big move for you?
I cut my hair for the first time in the summer of 2008. Gave myself bangs (didn’t last long, but the length did). I sort of got addicted to cutting my hair and keeping it short after that. It was a huge move, and it was pretty liberating. Everytime I cut my hair it was as if I was moving on to a different stage of my life, a new beginning.
How would you describe the typical pageant look? How do you stand out from this image?
The Miss Universe pageant look is like Victoria’s Secret model in a ball gown. That’s the best way to describe it. I don’t think I stand out from this image. I think the difference is what I add to this image with my educational background and my end goal of awareness around education reform.
Do you know anything about the number of Black women who usually compete in pageants versus other races?
I don’t know. From the pageants I have competed in, the number of Black women seems to be representative of the population. The only difference is the number of Black women who make it to Top 15 or Top 5.
Any advice for us? On confidence? On being comfortable with your image?
My advice for all women would be to stay true to who you are. Hair is just that. Hair. It will grow back. You can cut it off. You can color it. In the end you are still you. No matter what your hairstyle, length, color, texture, etc, remember your goals and do what you can to accomplish that.
To support Jasmine as she prepares to compete for Miss Louisiana USA, check out the info below:
- To make donation:
- Make a check out to “Miss Louisiana USA” and mail to: Miss LA USA Pageants, 541 Holley Lake Rd, Aiken, SC 29803. Write “Jasmine Ellis” in the memo line.
- Go to www.misslouisianausa.com to pay online with your credit card. This will be credited directly to her account.
- Please contact Jasmine if you have a specific good or service that she might use toward her pageant fees. She would love to arrange a meeting time with you.
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