Miss Native American USA Pageant Melds Tradition and Modernity in Tempe
Photography by Roshan Miss Native American USA 2012 Shaylin Shabi
If the Miss America competition is Barbie, then Miss Native American USA is Skipper, lesser known and smaller in scale, but still very much in production. Its second-ever pageant brings together 10 native women from tribes across the U.S. to compete for a crown that represents how tradition and modernity blend in native life. Contestant Jacquelyn Jesus (Navajo) says that's part of the pageant's allure.
Jesus chose to participate in this pageant because it's more modern than others, like Miss Navajo. Jesus says that she wanted to participate in that, but she didn't because it requires participants to speak fluent Navajo (which she does not) in addition to properly butchering a sheep.
Photography by Roshan 2013 contestand Jacquelyn Jesus
"I think the whole concept is having a beauty pageant, but also incorporating traditional elements," Jesus says. That means looking good is important, but so is respecting elders and judges through her fashion, presentation, and talent choices. She hopes her modest clothing mixed with squash blossom jewelry, presentation on Navajo mythology, and Navajo language adaptation of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star will win the judges' favor.
If she wins, she's interested in making an impact on her community and plans on getting involved with Native American Connections, an organization that isn't tribe-affiliated and works to connect with and provide services to native people.
Doing charitable work is one of the requirements of MNAUSA pageant winners, along with being a goodwill ambassor among her peers and the Native American communities, says Tashina Atine, the pageant's director and founder. Atine is no stranger to pageants, as she was crowned Miss Phoenix United States 2012.