Royalty isn’t always inherited. One special person on campus proves that to be true.
UCM’s very own senior psychology major, Tori Seals, is Miss Black Missouri US Ambassador 2015.
After finding out her brother’s friend was the 2014 Miss Black Missouri US Ambassador, Seals said she began researching the pageant and quickly realized she wanted to be a part of it.
Miss Black US Ambassador’s headquarters are in Atlanta. Seals completed an application process in September 2014 that landed her a phone interview with Patrice Harrison, CEO and founder of Miss Black US Ambassador.
Broderick Hayes, senior English major, is Seals’ high school friend who is supporting her campaign.
“I’ve been one of the few people lucky enough to see her blossom from an introverted, apprehensive high school student to the ambitious, intelligent woman she is today,” Hayes said. “Tori still has the drive, desire and passion that she walked into UCM with.”
While her parents were celebrating their wedding anniversary in Cancun, Seals had a little something to celebrate on her own. An email in October revealed that Seals was selected to represent the Show Me State at the national pageant in June.
“We’re so degraded in society and in the community – it just feels good to be, ‘I’m Miss Black Missouri and I’m a black woman doing something positive,” she said. “It makes me feel good that more African American women, especially my age group, we’re trying to not fit the stereotype.”
When Seals heads to nationals this summer, she will face 49 other women during her first ever pageant experience.
“You’re really fighting to get Miss Black US Ambassador,” she said. “The beginning step is relatively easy, but now it’s like, ‘OK, you have the credentials, but what are you going to do over this span of time?’”
Taking advantage of opportunities such as interning with Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II in Kansas City a couple years ago is what Seals said has helped prepare her for the position she’s in today.
“I got to see the behind the scenes, like how he prepares himself to give speeches and everything,” she said. “It kind of gave me a great interest to say I really want to make change and promote and do things of good nature in the community.”
While Seals seems to keep a positive outlook on the adventure to Atlanta, she said there have been hardships along the way.
“You really realize success does not bring a lot of friends,” she said. “As you’re starting to venture off and do things that your friends aren’t used to or aren’t the norms – they’re not going to like it – unless they’re genuine(ly) wholeheartedly your friend.”
Friends aren’t the only ones who have disappointed Seals recently. She said a UCM professor didn’t seem to approve the idea of Seals including the pageant on her resume as she began to apply for graduate school.
“The pageant is a pageant – it just means you’re pretty…he said that straight to my face,” Seals said.
Seals said she didn’t let her professor’s remarks faze her.
“I’m an advocate for my community,” she said. “I volunteer and give my time to people.”
Despite the negative remarks, Seals seems to have a strong support system – especially when it comes to her faith and family.
“I’ve always had a religious background,” she said. “It’s now that I’ve been expressing it more and I’ve been getting into the word more because (God) gives me focus.”
Part of Miss Black US Ambassador involves preparing a platform that showcases Seals’ philanthropy within the Kansas City area. Called “Beloved, daughters,” she said she aims to teach young women that they are loved because they’re daughters of God.
“We mess up – we all have our testimonies – but you can still be a woman that you want to be,” she said. If Seals doesn’t win the national pageant, she just may be a contender for being the daughter of the year.
“She’s so much of a blessing that she doesn’t know that you can touch people that don’t know you,” said Wende Seals, Tori’s mother. “She’s always reaching out to challenge herself. In essence that’s what we all do: take those destiny steps.”
With four months to go, Seals is in competition mode. From weekends dedicated to community service to promoting herself through campaigning efforts, Seals has a booked schedule. However, she realizes she’s not the only one.
“I’m not only competing with myself – I have to compete with 49 other girls that have the same mentality as myself,” she said. “But I got to stay on my own pace because I feel like whatever I do, it will work out for the better good despite it all.”
Seals collaborated with her mother to make inspirational booklets that are intended to be daily readings to help people start their mornings off on a positive note.
While Seals may not have a drop of pageant experience, weekly lessons from Claudia Donnell, 1st runner up Miss Black USA in 2012, are helping her prepare for the competition. From walking in her evening gown and sportswear to answering stage questions correctly, Seals said she enjoys the mentorship and guidance Donnell is coaching her through.
“She has a wonderful spirit and I cannot wait to learn more from her,” Seals said.
The Miss Black US Ambassador competition is June 23-28 in Atlanta. Seals said her goal is focused on becoming a well-rounded individual.
“Of course I want to win, but I will still enjoy the experience because it’s my first one,” she said. “That’s going to be an experience for me – just to say I did it.”
Whether she brings home the crown or not, Wende said she will congratulate her daughter.
“You won,” Wende said. “She’s a winner because she stepped out of her box in so many ways. This is a stepping-stone. This is a foundation she is building. I am most proud of how she is as a person because no one can take that away from her.”