Amina Gilyard has never understood the word no, running on sheer determination and a tireless will to serve her community. When she funneled that passion into pageantry, she found the perfect fit for her future. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t apprehensive, though. She had watched her older sister compete in previous years, so Gilyard knew that she had a lot to learn to transform essentially from a bridesmaid to a bride. Two titles later, she sits back and laughs on the initial hesitation. She currently reigns under a national title, and Gilyard’s passion continues to propel her forward. This week, “5 Questions” finds out what fuels the fire of the reigning Miss Exquisite International Amina Gilyard. 

1) What have you been up to since your last competition (Miss Exquisite International), and how did you adjust to a new (post-competition) routine? 

My last competition was on September 2, 2012. Since then I have been extremely busy making appearances and promoting my personal platform. It feels like it has been several months since my pageant because I have been on the go, but I still have about 10 months left in my reign. 

It is also a change from my previous pageant experience because this time I hold an International title, which means I represent the whole USA(and then some). I am hoping during my reign I can expand my horizons and make appearances in several states. I just returned to DC from New York and in November, I will be in Nevada! Also, I LOVE my director. Having a Director is also new to me, but it’s great to have someone there to book awesome events for you and listen to all of your #pageantgirlprobz.

2) What sparked your interest in pageants and how did you break into the industry?

I have always been interested in pageantry. Growing up I was a pageant sister J. My big sister competed in Miss Teen New York USA and several other pageants. I never thought I had what it took to get on stage and do what she did, so it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I became serious about pursuing a title. I decided that I wanted to ease into the pageant industry by choosing a system in which I would feel comfortable. 

I pursued the title of the Miss Black DC USA because I appreciated the fact that Miss Black USA focused in highlighting the accomplishments of young and talented black women. After months of persistence, I finally got a call back from a Miss Black USA recruiter and soon after I was crowned.

3) What was the best piece of advice given to you, and what advice do you have for any girls getting into pageantry?

The best advice that my coach and other queens gave me was not to underestimate the importance of the personal interview. In most cases, it is the contestant’s first contact with the panel of
judges. The first impression is always the most important! If you have an amazing interview, then the judges will remember you when it comes time for on stage phases of competition. 

If the panel of judges is different for each category, as is the case in some systems,  then you still cannot go wrong with a great interview. In most pageant systems, interview is one of the most heavily weighted categories in terms of scoring. During pageant preparation, focus on thinking fast and critically, clearly annunciating words and conveying key points in a short amount of time. Also, a note for all pageant newbies: get as much experience as possible! I went to Miss Black USA as an at-large delegate; therefore my first pageant was a National one. Though I was prepared enough, I do wish I had more on-stage experience beforehand.

4) With the holidays coming up, what are you most looking forward to as a pageant girl?

The holidays are the best time to be a Queen! Also, I have a pageant bucket list J. Before I retire from pageants there are certain things I want to experience. And with the upcoming holidays and my new title as Miss Exquisite International, I will get the opportunity to do so. 

In December, I will participate in the Baltimore City Mayor’s Holiday Parade. I am SO excited that my Director partners with the Baltimore Convertible Club and all the Exquisite Queens will ride in style. And of course I will visit one of my favorite hang out spots, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater DC. In December, I will be appearing at their Winter Wonderland holiday celebration. Also on my pageant bucket list is appearing on a morning or evening news or talk show…can anyone help make this happen??

5) What’s next for you?

I cannot even fathom what my pageant future holds at this point! I am ultra focused on making the most of my reign as Miss Exquisite International. Since I do not pass on my crown until August 2013, I still have a lot to accomplish. Over the next year and beyond, I will remain focused on my platform of Wellness Ambassadors. The need for health education seminars in underserved communities is ever-increasing, so I expect Wellness Ambassadors to flourish. All of this while building my career and hopefully returning to school to begin work on my Doctorate. OH the life of a Queen!

Quick Facts!
Name: Amina Lillie Gilyard
Age: 27
Hometown: New York, New York (Queens)
Education: B.S. BioBehavioral Health and M.Ed. Health Education from Penn State University, Graduate Certificate in Counseling from George Washington University, Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES)
Titles held: Miss Black DC USA 2012, Miss Exquisite International 2012-2013
Organizations you support: Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Wellness Ambassadors, Michelle in Training, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater DC, Sister to Sister the Women’s Heart Health Foundation
Contact info: 
Twitter: @MinaaaSays