Campus Life | February 9th, 2022

The Cost of The Crown

By: Devani Allen
The Cost of The Crown

Spring semester at a historically Black college or university (HBCU) means preparing for spring elections. These are not the typical school elections. These are multiple week-long productions: endless giveaways on Instagram, the quad filled with throngs of potential candidates, and even a grand candidates’ pageant. The lofty standards for HBCU campaigns can only make students wonder what exactly is the cost of vying for a crown.

“I probably spent the most money on clothes.”

Michelle “Marva” Johnson, the 111th  Miss Florida A&M University for the 2017-2018 academic year, says she didn’t have a budget. When it came to her campaign, anything she wanted, she got. Johnson estimates that she spent around $10,000 on her campaign. While much of her budget was allocated towards the extravagant outfits of campaign season, graphics and giveaway items, such as a $400 TV, required a decent amount as well.

“I probably spent the most money on clothes. If there was an event that I was having, I changed outfits that day,” Johnson says. “I got them from a bunch of different places, some from department stores, a gown from a store in Texas (her home state) and I had a stylist who would bring attention to different pieces as well.

Photo of Michelle “Marva” Johnson | Photo courtesy Instagram

Johnson is an outlier; most college students can’t come up with endless amounts of money for clothing. However, most former titleholders, including Johnson, have one thing in common: networking. Reaching out to extended family and friends via  sponsorship letters and crowdfunding helps bring awareness to the financial needs of candidates — ultimately carrying them through. 

Candidates also network with their peers, finding students who can help with things such as hair and makeup. Aside from the financial cost of running a campaign, there is also a physical and mental cost candidates pay.

“I felt like giving up once or twice a week.”

Morgan Pinnock ran a campaign during the peak of COVID-19 and found herself wanting to give up constantly.

Photo of Morgan Pinnock | Photo courtesy Instagram

“I felt like giving up once or twice a week because my group of people campaigning were the first group to ever have to do it virtually,” Pinnock, who served as the 2019-2020 Queen of Orange & Green at FAMU, says. “If I could go back and change anything, I would plan ahead because I waited until the last minute to run and kept psyching myself out.”

Wanting to give up is a common feeling among candidates. Running a campaign requires tremendous time and effort, often resulting in sacrificing personal time. While some professors are sympathetic to the circumstances of candidates, most still expect work to be turned in on time and for students to meet a certain level of scholastic achievement.

On top of hosting events and giving away free goods and services, candidates prepare for the inaugural candidate’s pageant where they don their most extravagant fashions, display their talents and answer questions regarding being a leader. Aside from everything else, the candidates’ pageant can be considered one of the most critical  parts of campaigning. Students gather to watch all their future royals on a big stage, criticizing both on and offline.

“The advice I would give to someone who wants to run is think hard on your values.”

While running to become a part of the royal court requires many things, a positive mindset is noted to be one of the most important elements. Victoria Smith served as Miss Freshman at Fisk University for the 2020-2021 academic year and she believes running requires a lot of confidence.

Photo of Victoria Smith | Photo courtesy Instagram

“The advice I would give to someone who wants to run is think hard on your values,” Smith says. “Don’t stress over your platform. I didn’t come up with my platform until the day before launching my campaign.”

Campaign season is a beautiful part of tradition , for both the candidates and the school. Every year, new leaders emerge and bring new ideas with them. After a year of virtual spring campaigns, the return of in-person seasons are set to reignite the standard.