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The CNY Scholarship Pageant is all about celebrating education and diversity

The CNY Scholarship Pageant is all about celebrating education and diversity

Young girls are always searching for the latest fashion trends. They’ve been taught to idealize the all-American girl. With a diverse population, what does beauty mean for them?

The Miss CNY Scholarship Pageant teaches that beauty isn’t only about outer appearances. In 2009, Mia Adams McSherry founded the contest to empower Syracuse high school seniors from different backgrounds. This local pageant, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, is changing what it means to be beautiful.

“This pageant is not about outer appearance,” Adams McSherry explained. “I was searching for pageants in the area that are not only about beauty. I couldn’t find one so I started the Miss CNY Scholarship Pageant.”

Focus on education

Mia Adams McSherry on the cover of Syracuse Woman Magazine

Adams McSherry realized that there is a growing issue of high school dropouts in Syracuse. Therefore, she decided to focus the Miss CNY Scholarship Pageant on diversity, education, and self-esteem. For any participant, dropping out of high school is not an option. Miss CNY Scholarship Pageant participants aim to continue their careers at university, college or in the military.

Different from regular beauty pageants, the Miss CNY Scholarship Pageant does not have a participation fee. This gives more room for people from different backgrounds to compete.

“Most of the girls in my pageant say, ‘I never even thought I’d be in a pageant…I thought it was for somebody else, somebody who looks different, who comes from a family with a lot of money,’” Adams McSherry said.

Diamara Copeland, the winner of the 2018 competition, Photo by Mia Adams McSherry

Furthermore, she explained that girls from both higher and lower-end schools join her pageant. She said it is important to give less fortunate girls a chance to win such competitions.

“I believe that I saw something that maybe the community may not have seen in these young women,” she said. “I just wanted to shine a light on them and […] let them know that they can make it.”

Welcoming diversity

The pageant welcomed diversity as the city felt the growing immigrant and refugee population. Roughly 50 percent of Syracuse’s population is comprised of Hispanics, blacks, Asians, and multiracial people.

Mia Adams McSherry has been working as a regional manager for Victoria‘s Secret for 22 years.

“This contest really is for girls of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. We believe that we can push our own human boundaries to reach beyond the divides of race, region, and religion,” Mia McSherry said.

Moreover, Adams McSherry said some pageants do not reflect this diversity. In those pageants only girls from certain areas take part. She describes her contest as more contemporary. Hence, it doesn’t include a swimsuit competition and aims to represent diversity. Adams McSherry added she would love to see more diversity in beauty pageants at the national level. Though, Mia emphasized that with the #MeToo movement and with more women running pageants, contests like the Miss USA pageant have become more diverse.

The winner of the contest gets a $1,000 prize. However, each girl walks away with a prize. Categories include interview, special talents and formal.

About The Author


This site celebrates the people places, and culture that make Central New York one of the most vibrant and livable regions in the country. From Auburn to Utica, from Syracuse, to Ithaca, this is LivableCNY.

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