Antwon Lindsey and fellow FGCU students wanted to develop an idea, so all students from different cultural backgrounds could come together and celebrate themselves. He came up with a name for a pageant that was motivated through values of scholarship and good deeds. This contest would judge participants on the basis of their individual character and the amount of time they would put into it in order to have a chance to say “I am divine.”
The I Am Divine Scholarship Pageant will operate its second annual event on Thursday, Feb. 25 in order to continue the promotion of an all-inclusive celebration of individual students at FGCU.
“It’s open field for everyone to come out and do what they enjoy and just kind of bridge that gap between different cultures,” Lindsey said. “We have the minority community here and then we have the majority community here. And, we want to bridge that gap so that way we are able to mingle and let people know that this is a pageant that stands for that, that stands for that union and that culture and that excellence.”
Lindsey felt that most of the pageant events held at FGCU had either an underlying cultural bias or an obvious barrier to entry for minority students on campus. The pageant committee had ideas for names like Mr. and Ms. BSA pageant or “My Black is Beautiful Pageant,” but Lindsey wanted to design a name that was all inclusive.
“I didn’t think that people would agree to it,” Lindsey said. “So, we were upstairs and having a meeting. And, they were like, ‘does anybody have a name?’ at the end of the day, I wanted something more inclusive, so I came up with the name I Am Divine.”
His constituents were instantly for the name, and the pageants ideals took shape.
“People saw it as not having a cultural barrier,” Lindsey said.
In the spirt of scholarship, I Am Divine became a scholarship award pageant. In its first year, Mr. and Ms. Divine were awarded $250 each.
This year, Community Outreach, which awarded all of the scholarship money the first year, along with FGCU Admissions together, raised $1,000. So, this year, the two winners will receive a $500 scholarship.
“If we can double it each year, we will have to move to Germain Arena,” said
Taelor Nolen, this year’s co-chair of the event. Last year, the pageant reviewed 15 I Am Divine contestant’s applications.
Four men and five women were chosen to compete for the title and scholarship awards. At deadline this year, Allison Melville, the chairperson of the pageant, was pleased to have a folder filled with applications, exceeding the number of applicants from the previous year.
“The other person I had on my side was Allison Melville, my right-hand woman,” Lindsey said. “She helped me make a lot of things happen.”
Melville was focused on the aspects of the student that measured them in school and community involvement.
“Also, with that, it’s ‘I Am Divine,’ but it’s also I Am Divine, the scholarship pageant,” Melville said. “So, the judges rate you on your scholarship also, your grades your GPA, your service-learning hours.”
Nolen drives the point home with the main theme of the pageant.
“A group of judges, they aren’t the people to tell you that you aren’t divine,” Nolen said. “We just showcase it and let everyone know what is divine about you. So, it’s just we are all different and we want to showcase it.”
Last year, during intermission, Alpha Phi Alpha donated gift cards in a raffle to audience members.
Lindsey designed this pageant and people such as Melbille and Nolen continue to carry forward the ideals.
“I think, being a person of good deeds, scholarship, as well as love for all mankind, being able to be the person that understands others and just pretty much is a genuine person in every aspect, not someone who maliciously tries to disrupt someone’s progress,” Lindsey said.
This year the doors of the Cohen Center Ballroom will open at 7 p.m., and it will begin at 7:30 p.m. There will be a DJ playing music for entertainment, including the talent show that is showcased for all I Am Divine contestants to perform at the pageant.
“We want to be able to bridge that gap between the cultures that don’t mix.”