Gardening gloves cover their acrylic nails. Blue jeans protect their ankles from bug bites and poison ivy.
On this Wednesday evening in July, the six contestants of the 16th annual Miss Liberia in the U.S. pageant, which is always in Philadelphia, are wielding pruning shears and stuffing paper bags with leaves in the overgrowth of Morris Park in Overbrook. But after their service project, in the days leading up to Friday’s pageant at the Suzanne Roberts Theater, they’ll don evening gowns, traditional Liberian dresses, colorful headwraps, and, yes, bathing suits — white ones, as per Miss Liberia in the U.S. tradition. They’ll practice strutting in heels to an Afropop beat and waving like a pageant queen. They’ll talk about their platform, the cause they’re advocating, be it mental health awareness or young women’s empowerment.
|STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer|
The goal of Miss Liberia in the U.S., according to Agnes Donaldson, a former pageant organizer and now president of the Philly-based nonprofit that runs the pageant, is to cultivate a sense of pride in Liberian American women.