Tallahassee native Eunice Nuekie Cofie, 27, is disappointed that she will not travel to Gambia, West Africa next week to compete in the Miss Black USA Pageant. Instead, the venue has been moved to Las Vegas.
The pageant, scheduled for June 17 to 23, will be held at The New Orleans Showroom Theater, The Orleans Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas.
The 2007 pageant, the first to be held at a venue outside of the U.S., took place in Gambia, according to Sherisa Franklin, executive director of Miss Black USA Pageant and Scholarship Fund.
“We held the pageant there for our 20-year anniversary,” Franklin explained. “The contestants had a phenomenal time re-affirming their identity through their experiences in the mother country.”
Franklin said “the cost to travel will be a great expense, a hardship to some that will certainly decrease the number of supporters,” so the pageant will pay travel and hotel expenses for each contestant and one family member.
Because of the great response the pageant received, organizers decided it should be brought back home to the states, said Cofie, who was named Miss Black Florida earlier this year. “Many may not have the opportunity to travel to Gambia to support the event.”
The Miss Black USA Pageant and Scholarship Foundation, Inc., is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to provide educational opportunities to outstanding young women of color and to develop the whole woman: mind, body, and spirit.
Cofie uses her platform as Miss Black Florida to promote the prevention of childhood obesity through Project H.E.A.L.T.H. (Health, Education and Life Transforming Habits), a private study and afterschool program.
Cofie’s parents are from Ghana, and frequent trips there have made her no stranger to Africa.
“I love being there,” she said, “and of course I’m disappointed that I won’t be returning. But I’ve never traveled to Vegas and [I] am excited about going.”
Prior to the pageant finals, the group of 38 contestants will participate in events including in a media tour, performing as guests during George Wallace’s comedy show, and attending the Healthy Heart Luncheon, a kickoff event for Dr. Ian Smith’s 50 Million Pound Challenge, Cofie said.
Celebrity judges for the event include singer Mary Wilson, formerly of The Supremes; Drew Sidora from The Game; Bryan Monroe, vice president of Ebony and Jet magazines;
Lamman Rucker from Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, and “Tom Joyner Morning Show” producer Deya Smith, will co-host.
Kalilah Allen-Harris, Miss Black USA 2007, will also attend.
“I have been preparing for this event, making appearances, speaking on my platform,” Cofie said about her activities since being crowned. “I plan to continue working with the children and their parents on making healthy food choices and pursue my dream of becoming a physician and entrepreneur.”
For more information on the Miss Black USA Pageant and Scholarship Foundation, visit www.missblackusa.org.
Photo: Miss Black Florida Eunice Nuekie Cofie