Culture | November 18th, 2019

The Weight of the Crown

By: Aiyana Ishmael
The Weight of the Crown


Legacy. Tradition. Royalty. 

For Kyra Freeman and Crenel Francis their lineage on Florida A&M University’s campus is forever engraved. Serving as the 113th Miss FAMU and 20th Mister FAMU, respectively, means joining a newfound history of women and men who came before them. 

Mister and Miss FAMU are the face of the school. The royal court is used for promotional shots, commercials and recruitment which means being visible at all times. Their collegiate experience is now filled with recruitment trips, panels and seats to every event.

A tradition that began over 90 years ago still manages to be a coveted position during a student’s matriculation. And while the front page stories, glam and diamond crowns are inviting, being an important figure around campus means being under the public eye. 

“These are our recruitment tools,” Freeman said. “It’s just like how some schools use their football team. The eye-grabbers, they draw your attention and reel you in.”

The royal court is comprised of Mister and Miss FAMU, King and Queen of Orange & Green, Miss Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior and Graduate attendant and five male escorts.  

Photo by Aiyana Ishmael | Mister and Miss FAMU at the football game November 16, 2019.

The Campaign

The road to Mister and Miss FAMU began almost a year ago in early February with Freeman and Francis both “humbly vying” to serve as FAMU’s campus leaders.

Running a campaign for the Mister and Miss positions means hours of planning, strategizing, socializing and building for a team of loyal supporters who will help lead you to victory. 

Financially, students spend thousands of dollars to create the perfect brand — the winning brand. On FAMU’s campus, it is regular for candidates to go all out by purchasing flyers, cutouts, food and more. 

“The more you have, the more extravagant you can be,” Francis said. “I’ve heard of campaigns that took almost nearly $10,000 to run. I would say on average it takes about $3,000 to $4,000 to run a campaign. These suits aren’t cheap.”

Because of its notoriety on campus, the election process can bring tension and become a daunting task to fulfill for many candidates.

“It’s something that you can really get caught up in — maybe too caught up in,” Francis said. “I never thought I’d be doing something like this, but here I am.”

On the Hill, social media plays a huge part in student life and is especially prominent during campaign week. Many candidates learn to utilize social media in an effort to build a strong base of supporters. 

But with social media being so prevalent on FAMU’s campus, many candidates face the negative backlash that follows with running for a title. The Twitter page FAMU Shaderoom, a play on the popular gossip company The Shade Room, was spawned and posted several negative comments towards Kyra Freeman during her campaign. She already faced depression during her first reign as Miss Sophomore and soon felt the pressure once again from being in the spotlight.

“I’ve been bullied, I’ve been talked about and I’ve been painted as the bad guy for some reason,” Freeman said. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. There’s been times where I just sit in my room and sob because I was so hurt.” 


The Image

Decades of queens before Freeman built the foundation of what a queen should be. There’s an unspoken checklist created by the FAMU community on how a queen needs to behave. In a 1979 issue of The FAMUAN newspaper, the Miss FAMU, Brenda West, stepped down from the position after feeling pressure from students and alumni.

The article details that West was charged with petty theft before she ran her campaign. It also states that naysayers questioned “whether West qualified to be a candidate since she had been married and had a child.”

West ultimately felt like the role of Miss FAMU “was deceiving.” She went on to say “all that glitters is not gold” and that she was glad it was all over. 

Being Miss FAMU isn’t easy and years of different queens show that. Marcia Foster, Miss FAMU from 1990 explained in an old issue of The FAMUAN: “I am a symbol of the African-American woman. When I walk along the campus, I see myself as someone upholding the traditions representing so many women who have gone before me.”

After years of tradition built by the royal court people are very critical of the image they need to uphold. No one student is the same, so trying to build the perfect ensemble to showcase an entire school can be a difficult job. The leaders are not only tasked with being the voice of their school, but also its face while being held to a nearly impossible standard.

Being on the court means always being “on.” If not, there is room to critique. 

“You’re being pulled in every direction to fit this standard of what the Queen of Orange and Green is,” Jakela London, a former queen, said in an interview. “You have to be spirited, relatable, fun and funky, but you also have to be able to stand next to Miss FAMU and still radiate the same type of poise and elegance. It’s hard to be everything for everybody.”

Kyra Freeman doesn’t let the perceptions of what campus royalty should be get to her. Straying from the status quo, Freeman’s end goal as Miss FAMU is staying authentic to who she was before the crown. She says it’s less about her clothes and makeup and more about completing her platform points. 

“This position comes with a lot of criticism,” Freeman said. “But I’ve learned if they’re not here to help me, to let it run off my back. During this process I was told to change who I was and act different. A lot of people believe Miss FAMU is just about how you look and what you wear and not actually about who you are as a person.”

Francis believes there are a lot of expectations as the 20th Mister FAMU: being cognizant of relationships he has, showcasing himself in a good light and, of course, making sure that his appearance is always on point. But Francis believes there needs to be a mutual understanding from the FAMU community that these student leaders are still human. 

“You have to work around that and say ‘hey I can make mistakes, I may slip up, I may do this, but forgive me please. I’m still here I want to be your leader and I love everything that comes with this position,’” Francis said.


Photo by Aiyana Ishmael | Mister and Miss FAMU at the football game November 16, 2019.

The Reign 

As Freeman and Francis begin their reign, their ultimate goal is to stay true to who they were before the crown. The pressure to be everything a king or queen has been for over 90 years weighs well on their minds, but they know what legacy they want to leave behind. 

“When I first was elected I felt the need to be perfect, but now I really don’t care,” Freeman said. “I’m going to be unapologetically me, serve to the best I can and do what the students want me to do.”

For the 20th Mister FAMU this experience as king means so much more than just a crown. Francis is now a part of a decade-old legacy. Furthermore, he is the first Mister FAMU that is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. 

“It’s a legacy,” Francis said. “I’m the 20th Mister FAMU to come through this campus. I love everytime I put [the crown] on, I love the experience and I just enjoy the opportunity to be able to hold a position like this.”