USF St. Petersburg sophomore Solange Gorleku won the Miss People’s Choice Award during the Mr. and Miss USF Pageant at USF Tampa on April 10.
Gorleku wanted to participate in the pageant “mostly because I wanted to prove, or remind everyone, that we are all the USF system,” she said. “I wanted to represent USF St. Pete and I’m happy that I accomplished that.”
Gorleku described the application process as “rigorous,” because the applicants not only had to apply for the Miss USF pageant but for the Miss Florida pageant. The winner of Miss USF will go on to compete in the Miss Florida pageant in July. The only criterion was the candidate had to be a USF student. There was an interview process after applying to select candidates.
Six, including Gorleku, competed for Miss USF. All except Gorleku were from USF Tampa.
The Miss Florida judges selected the Miss USF winner, while the People’s Choice award was decided by an audience vote on Facebook and donations at the door. All of the donations went to the USF Don’t Stop, Don’t Drop campaign, which encourages students to stay in school despite economic difficulties.
The pageant started with an opening number where all the Mr. and Miss USF contestants did a dance to entertain the audience. The Mr. USF contestants went first and then the Miss USF contestants followed. Each contestant had to answer an onstage interview question, hold a private interview with the judges, model formal wear, swim wear and then perform a talent. Gorleku performed “He is A Pirate” from “The Pirates of the Caribbean” on the violin.
The pageant as “intimidating” when she first started, she said.
“I was the only one from another campus, but after all the rehearsals and the meetings it got better,” Gorleku said. “We got closer together.”
As winner of People’s Choice, Gorleku won a sash and a glass trophy. The award was announced at the end of the pageant. Her close friends and family, plus some of her mother’s work friends, all came to support her at the pageant.
She has never participated in a pageant before but plans to do something like this again in the future.
“I couldn’t be happier that I accomplished what I set out to do in the first place, which was to represent this campus,” Gorleku said.
Photo courtesy of Samia McKeever