Life changing experiences don’t come along every day. When they do, they sometimes change lives in positive ways. The Miss Ebony Teenage/Miss Princess Pageant changes lives in a positive way, according to Tameka Mathews-Taylor, whose daughters competed in both.

Tazha Mathews competed in the Miss Ebony division the last two years and Marva Taylor, in the Miss Princess division, in the 2011 pageant.

PROUD WINNERS—Miss Princess, MaKenzie Wright, left, and Miss Ebony Teenager, Daysiah Foy proudly hold their trophies. See more photos on contestants in next week’s edition. (Photo by J.L. Martello).

“[Tazha] was very shy last year. I had to actually pull her in the room. Since [her first year in] the pageant, she has danced for a number of churches. She’s taken the lead role in her school play,” said Taylor, whose oldest daughter, Jajuana Murphy, competed in the Miss Black Teenage Pageant in 2008. “Had it not been for the pageant that taught her that there is an inner beauty, so be confident in that, I don’t think she would be where she is right now.”

May 15, was a night to remember. Friends and family gathered in the intimate Peabody High School auditorium for the second annual Miss Ebony Teenage/ Miss Princess Pageant. Singers serenaded them; orators provoked them; dancers charmed them; mimes comforted them. They were treated to two piano selections. The step and martial arts routines were done to music. Judges scored the contestants in three categories, appearance (30 points), personality (35 points) and talent (35 points).

“I really feel blessed that I can sit here and see my legacy continue,” said Miss Black Teenage founder, Jean Bryant, as she sat in the audience. “That is a blessing that very few people get to see.”

The Miss Black Teenage Pageant ended in 2008, after 35 years of delighting audiences and inspiring young girls throughout the Greater Pittsburgh area, leaving fans and supporters feeling bereft. At their behest, Bryant passed the baton, along with her motto: Always wearing your CAP, confidence, awareness and pride, on to her committee members. The Miss Ebony/ Miss Princess Pageant is headed by former Miss Black Teenage life skills coach, Debra Roberts, as director and Penny Walker Ramsey as coordinator. Ramsey had two daughters go through the Miss Black Teenage pageant.

The committee decided to change the name, Walker said, out of respect for Bryant because the Miss Black Teenage Pageant had been Bryant’s pageant for 36 years. Bryant mentored her former committee members during the Miss Ebony Teenage/Miss Princess Pageant’s first year. She also judged. Now, she’s ready to let them find their own way because although the Miss Ebony Teenage/Miss Princess program is derived from the Miss Black Teenage model, it is, in fact, a different pageant.

“I think it was a good opportunity for the [young ladies] to not only meet new friends, but to also learn some social skills, learn some etiquette skills and some things that [they] don’t have the opportunity to learn at home or at school. We thought it was an excellent opportunity to have Ms. Bryant’s vision continue on … young ladies now need it even more than the ones who were in it 36 years ago,” said Roberts when asked why she and the committee members wanted to create the Miss Ebony Teenage/Miss Princess pageant.

Several former Miss Black Teenage contestants, such as Ramsey’s older daughter, Donna Walker, have returned as guest speakers and volunteers. Jatara McGee, Miss Princess 2005 and Miss Black Teenage 2007, helped out during the eight weeks of rehearsals alongside her mother, fashion/grooming consultant, Brenda McGee, who was introduced to the Miss Black Teenage program when her older daughter, Janaye, competed in 2000.

“It’s a necessary thing. It does instill a lot of self-confidence in our young women, and that’s what they need going forward in life,” said Bryant.

The committee will start accepting applications for the 2012 Miss Ebony Teenage/Miss Princess Pageant in February 2012. All contestants, upon acceptance, must pay a $20 entrance fee. Rehearsals will start in March 2012.

(For more information, you can call Penny Walker Ramsey at 412-727-1092 or email Debra Roberts at

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