BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN
SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD
Since the eighth grade, Abigail Williams has dreamed of one goal: to win a beauty pageant.
Last weekend, the Northwestern High senior realized her dream. In front of a large crowd, Williams, 18, won the Miss Miami Gardens scholarship pageant at Florida Memorial University’s Lou Rawls Center for Performing Arts, 5800 NW 42nd Ave.
While taking her victory walk on stage, a shocked Williams said she couldn’t believe she would leave the night wearing a crown and carrying a bouquet of roses.
“It was so surreal to me,” said Williams, who cried on stage after her name was announced. “I didn’t even know what was going on.”
Family and friends who came out to support Williams on Feb. 27 watched her come out on top after competing against four other contestants. The five beauties competed in talent, evening gown and lifestyle and fitness categories. They also had to answer an on-stage question vital to the five judges’ decision.
Williams won $2,900 in scholarship money. Janey Tate was the first runner up, with $1,000 in scholarships. Angelica Spicer, the second runner up, got $500 in scholarship money.
Not only did Williams win scholarship money but she now can compete for the Miss Florida contest in July.
This is the fourth annual pageant presented by the city of Miami Gardens.
Williams said she plans on promoting the arts during her tenure as Miss Miami Gardens.
“I want to advocate my platform statement which is arts advocacy,” she said. “I really want to work hard to push for more performing arts programs because I think that it is what we need in the community.”
She will soon be scheduled to make several appearances at events and will be visiting schools, hospitals — and even the popular Jazz in the Garden later this month.
Agathine Scotland Williams believed her daughter would win.
“I am proud of her,” she said. “She was made for the stage.”
In order to qualify, the ladies needed to live or go to school in Miami Gardens and be between 17 and 24. Only 17-year-olds who are seniors in high school are eligible, however.
The contestants have to raise $100, which will go to the Children’s Miracle Network, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children in need. Recruitment started in October.
The event was a concept of councilman Melvin L. Bratton, who brought the idea four years ago to the dais.
“The concept is to stress education, education, education,” said Bratton, a certified judge for the Miss Florida pageant.
The city works throughout the year to help produce the show. Miami Gardens also relies on sponsors to help pay for the scholarship awards.
City event and media coordinator, Ula Francoise Zucker, said the production cost $40,000.
Miami Gardens paid $35,000, while the rest of the money came from sponsors, she said.
The pageant teaches valuable lessons, Zucker said.
“This system teaches them how to be a lady,” she said. “To bring back those lady-like characteristics.”
In the show, the crowd was entertained by several performances, including a country song performed by Miss America 2004, Ericka Dunlap. Diva Arts Academy and the Miss Miami Gardens Sunshine Princesses also wowed the fans with dance performances. Contestants showcased their skills.
Williams danced to Michael Jackson’s You Rock My World, while Tate sang Home from the musical The Wiz.
Barry University student Marla Spence came out to root for her best friend, Spicer.
“She was excited and asking me to come out and support,” said Spence, who brought an air horn to the performing arts center. “She was talking about the show for two months.”
Reginald Andre said the event is about more than just beauty. Rosie Justilien, Miss Miami Gardens 2009, is his neighbor.
“It puts Miami Gardens out there when the winner goes to Miss Florida,” he said.
“It brings out Miami gardens.”
The outgoing queen, who plans on continuing her community service, offered some suggestions to Williams before turning in her crown.
“My advice is to take the experience and live it, network, raise awareness about your platform,” Justilien said with a smile.
BY RODOLFO R. ROMAN