Child psychology junior Weade Wallace was crowned the first Miss Africa Minnesota this summer and she already has big plans for her reign.
“I am only Miss Africa Minnesota for one year, but I really want to make a change,” she said.
The pageant was designed to bring together Africans in and around Minnesota to celebrate the rich heritage and cultures of Africa, according to D’Afrique Entertainment, the organization that planned the event.
Wallace, a Liberian-American, joined 15 other women who each represented a different African nation in the competition. Wallace had never entered a pageant before and she said the whole process was nerve-racking. Impressed by the other candidates, Wallace said she was left with no choice but to “step up her game.”
She said she had to combat her nerves with candy.
“I also ate a lot of chocolate in the dressing room,” Wallace said.
Michael Remnie, a founder of D’Afrique Entertainment, said it was obvious from the start of the pageant that Wallace was there to win.
“She just had a winning attitude about her,” Remnie said. “She kept talking about the competition and saying that we shouldn’t make it easy; we should make it hard so that the winner can be really proud of herself at the end.”
The only downside to her new title is the time commitment, Wallace said. She added that she receives numerous invitations to charity events and parties, and she
is also in the midst of working on her own platform – a summer camp for young African girls.
As Miss Africa Minnesota, Wallace said, one of her goals is to become a good role model, especially for immigrant girls.
Wallace said she knows firsthand the difficulties of adjusting to American culture.
“When you come here (America), it’s a whole different world,” she said.
Wallace was born in Liberia to a wealthy family but moved to St. Paul when she was 9. The differences between the two countries were shocking, she said, – especially economically.
“Wealth there is not the same as it is here,” Wallace said. “I found myself working here at age 14 – something I would have never been doing in my home country.”
Wallace said that although having a job was difficult, it
has helped her to see both sides: the ease of privilege
and the importance of hard work.
Someday Wallace said she’d like to be a principal or administrator at a school.
“We saw that she likes to work with kids and that’s what we want our queen to do,” Remnie said.
Wallace currently works as a peer mentor for the College of Liberal Arts and she has an internship as a peer mentor coordinator at the Lighthouse Academy of Nations in Minneapolis, a charter school for immigrants.
She’s also a member of the University’s African Student Association and the political chair of the Black Student Union.
Wallace said she thinks
being active in student groups is especially important as a
black student because it gives her a voice on campus that otherwise may not be heard.
Abdul Omari, vice president of the Black Student Union, said he worked on many previous projects with Weade.
“Weade doesn’t speak a lot, but when she does, she’s very well heard,” he said. “She’s very willing to give and work for others.”
Juliette Greenfield, Wallace’s mother, said that when her daughter commits to something, she puts her whole soul and mind into it.
Greenfield said she was delighted to see her daughter wearing the crown, but it didn’t surprise her.
“She’s a very special child,” Greenfield said.
Wallace said she considers her mother a great inspiration in her life and Greenfield said she and her daughter are best friends.
Greenfield said she loves the little things about her daughter, even simple phone conversations.
“She always calls and says, ‘Hey girl, what’s up?’ ” Greenfield said. “It just cracks me up.”
This fall, Wallace said, she’s concentrating on getting good grades and looking for grants to fund the girls camp, which she hopes will be up and running next summer.
Besides studying and being royalty, Wallace says she likes to shop, play tennis and just be with her friends.
“I’m just a normal college student,” Wallace said.