Activist and motivational speaker Anise Puckett is pursuing her dreams. Puckett is currently the reigning Miss Black Illinois Talented Teen 2021 and is competing for the Miss Black USA Talented Teen 2021 Crown. Puckett, 17, graduated from Lockport-Township High School with 12 college credits, a 3.7 GPA, and the last semester with a 4.3. Puckett will be attending Spelman College in the Fall, majoring in economics.
Inspired by role models such as Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Angela Davis, and Mellody Hobson, Puckett’s passion is being active in the community, helping others, committed to diversity and equality in schools and the workplace.
TG: How did you get started in pageantry, and how many pageants have you competed in?
AP: Winning Miss Black Illinois Talented Teen 2021 is my first official pageant. I wanted to do pageants because they provided scholarship opportunities and the friendship, networking, and sisterhood that comes with being in pageantry.
TG: Who inspired you to enter into pageantry?
AP: I would definitely have to say Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016. In one of her speeches on Twitter and Facebook, she talked about her failures and how many times it took her to become Miss USA. It took her seven times to win the crown. She never gave up on her quest to become Miss USA. There were times growing up, I wanted to give up, but after hearing Barber’s speech, she motivated me to push on.
Another role model is Ayesha Faines-Kamil. She was Ms. Connecticut in 2017. She was an amazing writer and influencer who recently passed away.
TG: How did you feel winning the crown, and what work did you put into winning the title?
AP: I felt nervous and excited when I won. My mom and I were in the car, and I told her that I was sad because I didn’t hear back from the pageant. When I found out that I won, I felt relieved and was overcome with happiness and joy.
I put a lot of work into the pageant to win Miss Black Illinois Talented Teen 2021. I had to learn how to walk in heels. I didn’t know there was a lot of stretching to walk in heels. I had to learn how to do interviews and talent. But I have to say the biggest feat was learning how to do a full turn in heels.
When I practiced for the pageant, I always give 100%. I have to make sure that I am mentally strong. I practice self-care by bathing and meditation. If I was not able to attend church, I would watch church services online. It’s very important that I take the time to take care of myself.
TG: What social issues are you passionate about, and how are you involved in the community?
AP: I’m passionate about equity and education. I will be on a panel for a national summit speaking about racist inequities, injustices in the American education system, feminine equity, and how to make anti-racist education a curriculum.
While attending school, I founded the Student Equity Action Committee. The mission is to fight inequities in the school, such as curriculum and how students are treated. I’m passionate about advocating for other people’s needs.
I’m also involved in the Chicago Period Project. The organization provides women with free feminine hygiene products in the Chicagoland area.
TG: What has being in pageants taught you?
AP: Being in pageants has taught me patience and being happy from within. At times, I can be hard on myself. I’ve come to realize that every day is a learning day. I have a lot of learning and teaching moments. I’ve learned from my failures to get back up and try again. I’ve been doing that a lot recently.
TG: You are attending Spelman in the Fall. How important is it for you to attend an HBCU?
AP: It’s very important for me to attend an HBCU. Not only do I want to learn about my history, but what it truly means to be surrounded among educated black women at one of the top-ranking black colleges in the United States. I have already connected with my Spelman sisters, so I am prepared and know what to do when I arrive on campus.
TG: What advice would you give to young girls who want to compete in pageants?
AP: Have patience, stay positive, and believe in yourself. I’ve learned being in pageants, you are most likely not going to get it the first time. Pageantry is not easy. It takes a lot of work.
It’s important to have family and friends around you to support and keep you grounded. I couldn’t have made this journey by myself. My parents made me the woman I am today. If my parents weren’t around, I could always call on a family friend or my mentor. I always have someone checking in on me. I never felt alone because I have a support system that cares about me in my corner. I am truly blessed.
To follow and vote for Anise Puckett, to win the crown as Miss Black USA Talented Teen 2021, go to https://www.facebook.com/Anise-Puckett-Pageant-Winner-Activist-111416401206113. Voting is open through Sunday, August 8, 2021.
Tammy Gibson is a black history traveler and author. Find her on social media @SankofaTravelher.