She’s beauty, she’s grace, she’s the first Black Miss Winter Haven. On January 22, many young women gathered and competed for the title of Miss Florida Citrus and Miss Winter Haven with Florida A&M University sophomore Jada Carter coming out with a win. Not only is her crowning a personal victory but a historical one as well.
According to citrusindustry.com, “The Florida Citrus Queen Pageant began in 1924 and has been part of the Miss America Organization off and on for years; Miss Winter Haven was added to the program in 2018.”
The pageant took place at the Polk State College Theater in Winter Haven, and consisted of different categories such as personal interview, social impact initiative, talent and red carpet attire.
“To prepare for these phases, I participated in mock interviews, prepared a 90 second tap dance for my talent, prepared a 30 second pitch summarizing my social impact initiative and picked my wardrobe for each represented phase,” Carter said.
Carter believes her personal interview is what made her stand out to the judges.
“The pressure of the pageant can sometimes make people answer questions in a way they think the judges want them to, but I’ve learned from my experience that answering as your most authentic self will get you much further,” Carter said.
With the title of Miss Winter Haven comes the duties of representing the city at the Miss Florida Pageant, promoting the Miss America Organization, promoting her personal social impact initiative and supporting the community of Winter Haven. The top winners also receive a scholarship.
“The Miss America Organization is also the largest provider of scholarships for women in the U.S.,” Carter said.
Carter’s previous pageant experience took place in North Carolina which made her nervous about competing in Florida for the first time. The highlight of her experience was getting to spend the day with her fellow competitors. She considered the most difficult part of the experience to be controlling the nerves.
With her family being her biggest support system and the opportunity to impact her community, Carter felt motivated to participate in the competition.
“My mission is to encourage young women to explore their interest in STEM, and eventually pursue careers in the field they’re interested in,” Carter said. “Being a woman of color pursuing a degree in computer science, I closely relate to these women and they also motivate me to be the best role model I can be.”
Carter also plans on getting involved with the Polk County Public School to discuss STEM with students and to meet with the local government.
In an interview with Growing Produce, Executive Director of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame and for Florida Citrus Queen, Brenda Eubanks Burnette, said, “I’m excited to have two such talented titleholders and look forward to working with them over the next year.”
Carter’s next big step is competing in the Miss Florida Pageant that takes place on June 25 in Lakeland, Florida.
“That winner will go to compete for Miss America, so fingers crossed,” said Carter.