Former Miss Black USA Inspires Girls at KidsPeace
Orefield, PA, April 2009 … Around 30 female teens at KidsPeace in Orefield, PA, recently received a surprise visit from a very inspirational young woman. Celi (pronounced see-day) Marie Dean was Miss Black USA in 2005 and 2006, representing strong, intelligent, beautiful black women across the U.S. and in West Africa. A 22 year-old Master’s degree student at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, Celi has been an intern at the KidsPeace Columbia, MD, Foster Care and Community Programs office for several months and jumped at the offer to come talk to a group of young women in residential treatment. She is also a big fan of TeenCentral.Net and made a video to play on the free anonymous site for teens.
Celi is a big proponent of empowering young women and helping them to realize their own inner beauty and internal ability to overcome difficulty. She shared her own story with the rapt audience, describing how she was born with sepsis and required a complete blood transfusion at birth in order to survive the infection. She started competing in pageants when she was six and did some modeling as well. The most difficult thing in her life was the divorce of her parents when she was eight. She confided to the teens who were nodding their heads in understanding that she felt that the divorce was her fault, and she was very, very sad. Celi and her mother moved around a lot, which required her to adjust to new schools and make new friends frequently. Celi also had identity issues since her mother is white and her father is a black Liberian immigrant. She grew up in two different cultures and unsure where she fit in socially. She admits that she made her share of mistakes, but she had a wonderful support system of women in her family, schools and the YMCA who helped her stay grounded and emphasized the importance of education. In fact, Celi is the first in her combined family of 10 siblings to finish college and go on for a Master’s.
In 1993, Celi met Miss Black Minnesota in her home state, and she decided that she wanted to follow in her footsteps and one day represent MN in the Miss Black USA pageant. When she won the crown, she was so shocked that she showed no emotion at all. “I think they thought I was arrogant as I calmly walked to the front of the stage, but I could not believe that this was really happening to me,” Celi says. Once the other girls surrounded her to congratulate her, the tears came and she was ecstatic with her win. She told the teens at KidsPeace that she really liked the fact that the pageant had contestants appear in evening gowns and active wear and concentrated heavily on the interviews and questions and answers. Her performance was spoken word, reciting a poem she had written about being a black woman. Since being named Miss Black USA, Celi has traveled to Africa 11 times and is now a goodwill ambassador. She is thrilled that she had the opportunity to visit Liberia and also to take part in the pageant’s first presentation in The Gambia in 2007.
Celi talked seriously to the teens about self-esteem and empowerment. She told them that the media’s depiction of beauty is not realistic, because we are all diverse and unique and beautiful from the inside out. “I was created beautiful and so were you,” Celi emphasized. “If you have passion and drive and love for yourself, it all shines through and makes you glow and fabulous.” The teens gave her a big round of applause and lined up to get personally signed photos of the former Miss Black USA.