The individual awards and placements of each contestant were as follows:
- Jaylyn Graham: Pageant Winner, Most Ambitious, Crowd Favorite
- Jaylyn McDonald: First Runner-Up, Most Likely to Continue Pageanting
- Timoria Cunningham: Second Runner-Up, Most Humorous
- Saturnina Dominguez: Most Encouraging
- Most Ad Sales: Taleia Wells
Source: Ball State 2021 Unity Pageant
Three weeks removed from the conclusion of Ball State’s Unity Week, the Black Student Association’s (BSA) 53rd annual Unity Pageant kicked off in person on Sunday evening at Pruis Hall, as well as on Zoom.
Sporting a disco theme this year, the pageant featured five contestants who shared their unique talents, styles and experiences with around fifty audience members in person.
When all was said and done, senior fine arts major Jaylyn Graham was crowned the pageant’s winner, gaining recognition for his art show about the Black experience.
“Even within our own culture, we have our own demons to battle,” Graham said in a narrated video. “I have crafted a comprehensive experience that explores my culture and racial identity in a fractured society. If you are an African American gazing upon my work, I want you to remember all the names and sacrifices our people have made so far.”
The pageant had to make several accommodations to account for the COVID-19 pandemic, including social distancing for audience members, requiring contestants and audience members alike to wear masks when in groups, and making the show available live online.
Junior chemistry major Sydnee Cummings, the BSA secretary and 2021 Unity Pageant chair, said the show’s longevity speaks to its importance to the campus community.
“I think that for BSA to keep this up is really great,” Cummings said. “Unity Pageants [at Ball State] started in 1968 because Black people and minorities weren’t allowed to do pageants here at Ball State, so for BSA to keep this running is just a great thing.”
Contestants were judged in several categories, including a talent of their choice, community dedication and a brief Q&A session.