By Peyton Garcia
Emma Dickson surprised even herself when she applied to be Miss Black Colorado 2020.
The 2018 Metropolitan State University of Denver graduate is pursuing an MBA and plans on opening a wellness spa focused on the Black population. She was scouring the internet for scholarship opportunities when she learned about Miss Black USA, a scholarship beauty pageant celebrating beauty, culture and identity. She applied for its Miss Colorado competition on a whim.
“I gained a lot of confidence in myself and my story,” Dickson, 25, said of winning the title. “I want to put myself out there and become the voice that I never had growing up.”
Dickson was adopted as an infant by white parents, raised in Highlands Ranch in a loving home and afforded a great education.
“I grew up with everything I ever wanted,” she said. “But I definitely lacked that racial-identity factor in my life.”
Her search for that identity took her from Highlands Ranch, where as a youth she endured racist criticism about her appearance, to Howard University, where she began her college career. She then transferred to MSU Denver, where she worked at Sephora while earning a degree in Speech Communication and minor in Africana Studies.
Her passion for Black wellness was sparked at that Sephora, where she witnessed the extent to which the beauty industry neglects the needs of Black women. She began studying Black skin and hair and soon cultivated a regular clientele of Black women who trusted her. After graduation, she enrolled in Denver’s School of Botanical & Medical Aesthetics and is on the cusp of earning her professional license as a medical esthetician, which she plans to pair with an MBA in her quest to open that wellness spa.
But first, she competes for a $5,000 scholarship in the Miss Black USA pageant, which because of the COVID-19 pandemic was postponed from June until February.
Having advocated for racial justice for many years, Dickson said she plans to seize the pageant platform to advance that work. Her fear is that white America’s support for racial justice will wane as it moves on to the next big issue.
“(Black Lives Matter) is not just a social-media hashtag,” she said. “This is us trying to save our lives, our future children’s lives.”
But beyond finding a platform on which to speak out, Dickson said, Black women need an audience that will hear them.
“More people want to talk to me; more people want to hear my voice,” she said. “That’s the first time that’s ever happened. I want our stories to be told by us, and I want white people to just listen.”
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