US Virgin Islands' Akira Pickering Crowned Miss Black USA Talented Teen 2018

Washington, D.C., July 1, 2018. -- The Miss Black USA Organization crowned Akira Pickering as Miss Black USA Talented Teen 2018 at TheARC Theater in Washington, D.C.  The event, which took place on Sunday, July 1, featured young women across the U.S. and the Virgin Islands.

Pickering is a 16-year-old high school junior temporarily relocated to Fayetteville, North Carolina after experiencing the devastation and destruction of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Despite being born with temporary stridor, a medical condition where the inside of the throat is not fully formed and the ability to speak and eat is impaired, Akira wowed the Judges with a winning talent performance of "Stand Up for Love" by Destiny's Child. 

Contestants competed in Talent, Athletic Wear, Evening Gown, and On Stage Interview.  Angela Pierre-Louis crowned Akira her successor at the conclusion of the annual event.  

Final Results:   

First Runner-Up:  Miss Black North Carolina Talented Teen USA Jaala McCall
Second Runner-Up:  Miss Black New York Talented Teen USA Damitri'ana Douglas
Third Runner-Up:  Miss Illinois Teen USA Sydni-Dion Bennett

For the first time ever, MISS BLACK USA TALENTED TEEN USA® took place in conjunction with MS. BLACK USA, the first national Mis. Black USA pageant for women of color ages 28 to 35 years. 

A part of her prize package, the new Miss Black USA Talented Teen receives a $2,500 scholarship for continued education; travel opportunities representing The Miss Black USA Organization, sponsors, and charitable partners; and a personal appearance wardrobe allowance.

For crowning moment video of Akira, please visit HERE.

Find MISS BLACK TALENTED TEEN USA® on Facebook and follow on Instagram.


Miss Black USA Partners with Ethnic Custom Doll Maker

It's only befitting that Miss Black USA, the nation's premier pageant for women of color partner with the Queen of Ethnic Doll-Making, Karen Byrd.  Miss Black USA is proud to announce this partnership to empower young girls of color to see themselves in dolls and Queens that look like them.

Miss Black USA CEO, Karen Arrington, an award-winning women's empowerment expert and global philanthropist applauds, Karen Byrd on the importance of instilling positive self-image in our young girls through her ethnic doll collection featuring ethnic inspired hair styles.

Karen Byrd is a mother, artist, natural hair enthusiast and business woman from California. In 2011, Karen created Natural Girls United, a one-woman business that gives makeovers to black Barbies by replacing their straight hair with natural styles, to have the look and feel of ethnic-inspired hair styles.

What started as a hobby has grown into a full-time business. Auburn dreads, charcoal twists, a honey-blonde 'fro — Karen makes them all! 

Karen has always understood the need for our young girls and women to have positive images of themselves because it impacts self-esteem, confidence, and how we feel about ourselves overall. Her hope is that her dolls will help others to recognize their beauty and find joy in having locs, braids, kinky hair, curls, waves and more. Karen is working hard to show everyone that our beauty is amazing and worth celebrating.

Her Natural Hair Dolls have been featured nationally and internationally on MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry Show, The Steve Harvey Show,,, Clutch Magazine, Upscale Magazine and more, and on natural hair blogs in France, Spain, Germany, and Brazil. Karen is looking forward to continuing to inspire young women and growing her business.

As a child, I remember playing with dolls that were beautiful. But they never looked like me. Their hair, features and skin tones did not match mine.  I always wondered - if my Barbie doll is beautiful and it doesn’t look like me… does that mean that I am not pretty?  This is a question I struggled with through my childhood into early adulthood. Even though I had an amazing mom that always told me how beautiful I was, all the images around me in the media contradicted this message.  And seeing other young women in my community that did value their own beauty also did not help.

As an adult, while shopping with my own daughters, I was shocked to find that stores still did not have dolls that reflected the beauty of the ethnic community. There were a few dolls that would surface every now and again, but it was not very often.  On the average, a young girl of an ethnic cultural background could not go to just any store and find a doll that looks like her. This is something that needs to change. 

There has been a continuous problem in our community where we don’t seem to value our own beauty, history or heritage.  It is something that has been a problem for a very long time.  In articles, videos and news stories such as “Black Girls Want White Dolls”, “What a Doll Tells Us About Race”,  “Black Doll White Doll & A Girl Like Me” - it is apparent that this is something that affects many children and adults;  and that there is a need for positive community change. 

There is a need for our young girls to be able to have dolls that look like them.  It is something that affects their self-esteem and confidence, and how they few about themselves from an early age. There have been quite a few studies done (as noted above) that show that African American boys and girls often think of black dolls as bad and white dolls as good.  Of course, this is not something that the parent is teaching their child. So why are they getting these mixed messages about good and bad skin color or good and bad hair?  It all has to do with the images they see as they grow up. If a child is constantly looking at images, dolls, television, books and magazines - and only seeing beauty as something or someone with non-ethnic features and someone that has long straight hair - then they are going to assume that this is what beauty is. It is something that has hurt our young people for centuries. But each day we learn that it is important to show them and teach them that their beauty is indeed beautiful.

I have wanted to take on the project of customizing dolls hair, to have the look and feel of styles and textures of African American & Multi-Cultural (ethnic) women and girls, for a long time.  From this came the Natural Girls United project that has now turned into a business, and is something that I hope will help to bring a positive view of what ethnic beauty is.  

My goal is to have a doll line that ranges in skin tones from a light to dark complexions. I would like for there to be a variety of hair styles that represent the styles that can be seen in many ethnic cultures – Dreadlocks, Sisterloc’s, Loc’s, Afro’s, Braids, Twist, Cornrows, Curls and more.   The doll's features should also represent the girls and women from ethnic backgrounds.  Empowerment is a big driving force behind this line of dolls with customized hair.  Each doll will hopefully send a message of hope. It is a goal to have dolls that are doctors, artist, businesswomen, athletes, teachers and more.  A little girl should be able to look at their doll and say my doll looks like me and I want to be a doctor just like my doll when I grow up. 

Tennessee Teen Wins $5000 Kennetra Searcy Scholarship for Girls

Kennetra Searcy, Ms. Black USA and The Miss Black USA Organization is pleased to announce the selection of Carlisha Mckenzie of Chatanooga, Tennessee as the 1st Winner of the Kennetra Searcy Scholarship for Girls.  The $5,000 award is open to high school seniors throughout the U.S. Carlisha is a senior at the only all girls STEM school in Tennessee, Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy.  She has an intense passion for science and math.

Carlisha is the second oldest of three siblings.  She plans to major in Chemistry to become a forensic pathologist. She would like to become a forensic pathologist to make a difference by turning a tragedy into something positive, by saving lives and giving closure to families.

We wish to thank all of this year's applicants and wish them well as their pursue their academic pursuits.  Applications for 2018 will open on January 1st, 2018 at 7:00am EST.  

To date, the Miss Black USA Organization has awarded over $450,000 in scholarships and excited to partner with Kennetra Searcy to establish the Kennetra Searcy Scholarship for Girls.

How to Get $250 for College Savings with the Maryland 529 Save4College Program

Open a Maryland 529 College Investment Account and be Eligible to Receive a $250 Contribution through the Save4College State Contribution Program!

Saving for college is a challenge for many families. That's why the State of Maryland and Maryland 529 want to help Maryland families through the Save4College State Contribution Program.

The Save4College State Contribution Program is designed to help lower to middle-income families in Maryland save money for higher education. Individuals who open a new Maryland College Investment Plan (MCIP) after December 31, 2016, file an application prior June 1, 2017, and make at least the minimum contribution* to the account, may receive a $250 contribution by the State.

How Does It Work?

To be eligible, an applicant must meet the following requirements:

The beneficiary must be a Maryland resident.
Your Maryland taxable income cannot exceed $112,500 as an individual or $175,000 as a couple.
You must open a Maryland College Investment Plan and submit your application for the Save4College State Contribution Program and file an application prior to June 1, 2017.

Former Miss Black USA Talented Teen 2009 Cast in West Side Story

Jasmine Alexis, the first crowned Miss Black USA Talented Teen 2009 was cast as one of the Shark Girls in West Side Story at the prestigious Signature Theatre, 2009 Regional Tony Award recipient.  The actress, former national Miss Black USA Talented Teen and professional ballroom dancer is an alumna of Concordia University in Bronxville, New York.

Throughout her year of service, Jasmine traveled the US and West Africa speaking on behalf of various organizations all while continuing her support for a chance at a safer, healthier and brighter future for young women. One program she supports is JEWELGIRLS, an economic and art therapy program for adolescent girl survivors of human trafficking, sexual violence and street life. 

A former Miss DC Teen USA (2007) and Miss District of Columbia’s Outstanding Teen (2008), Jasmine competed in the 2009 Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant where she placed in the top ten as a national semi-finalist. A talented and accomplished dancer, Miss Alexis has won numerous first place awards in International Latin Ballroom Dancing, including the 2008 Mid-Atlantic Dancesports Championships. She has also been the featured halftime entertainment for the NBA’s Washington Wizards.

Win $5,000 Kennetra Searcy Scholarship for Girls

In keeping with its mission to empower girls through education, the Miss Black USA Organization has established the Kennetra Searcy Scholarship for Girls.  The $5,000 scholarship is open to any high school senior in the U.S. who is a member of the Class of 2017.  The deadline to apply is now closed for 2017.  Application for 2018 will open on January 1, 2018.