Homecoming queen candidates shouldn't let campus politics stop them

Homecoming queen candidates shouldn't let campus politics stop them

“How do you know you’re going to lose?”

My shoulders tensed, and I took a few breaths to steady myself. I had just given one of my long-winded speeches about homelessness within the community and state of Alabama, the reason I was running for Homecoming Queen; I had followed it by stating that I was passionate about raising awareness for this issue even though I knew I wouldn’t win.

People continued to stare at me with unshifting eyes, and I mentally ran through the two potential narratives I could illustrate through this single, loaded question. One of the other candidates and her campaign manager looked about as uncomfortable as I did.

I sighed deeply and smiled to myself. “My sorority isn’t backing me.”

I later was asked why I chose to take the high road in that moment instead of discussing The Machine and their unethical practices, and I hope my explanation will one day encourage some young woman to run for Homecoming Queen for the same reasons I did.

I ran for Homecoming Queen not to fight the powers that be on this campus, but to fight the memories from a darker period of my life when I struggled emotionally. I chose to select a platform that allowed me to tell my story about losing my home to a fire when I was 14 years old and how lost I felt afterwards. While I have never technically been homeless, I did lose my place of solace and security.

I invested time in a campaign so that I could heal, so that I could stop dwelling on the negative events of my childhood and recognize how privileged and fortunate I am now. It was time for me to stand up and take action, to be present in combating the issue of homelessness and the horrifying effects it has on children.

I focused my entire message and purpose around the story of losing my home and even talked briefly about my parent’s divorce. My message didn’t revolve around campus politics because this campaign was much bigger than that. It had nothing to do with politics, but everything to do with my passions and the children of this community. 

What many may not know is that Homecoming Queen candidates were not always required to have a designated platform when running for the position. This is a more recent reform that was spearheaded by some incredible women I’m honored to call my best friends. These brave women helped legitimize the title and purpose of Homecoming Queen. The platform requirement has afforded people like me an outlet to advocate, to make connections with students across campus and to collaborate with organizations in the Tuscaloosa community. 

I could not be prouder of the campaign I ran or the people I had pushing me along every step of the way. I would not have done it any differently. It was 100 percent me; it was authentic and real. 

Since homecoming, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting such genuine and thoughtful students that want to help me continue my work and advocacy efforts. Community groups have even reached out offering their means and contacts to help plan events for the future. I wouldn’t be working on the current projects that I am now had I never run for Homecoming Queen. My entire experience was nothing short of a blessing – even if I didn’t win the majority vote. 

I shared my story about losing my home, which is something even my closest friends didn’t know about, and I grew as a person because of it. I didn’t fight the system—I embraced it. 

While I might have experienced brief moments of pain or suffering, these moments were quickly overshadowed with fulfillment and hope. I’m optimistic that my story resonated with another woman on campus, and I can’t wait to see who benefits from this opportunity next fall.

I encourage any woman that is passionate about an issue to sincerely consider participating in the Homecoming Queen process. It’s a shame there is a political stigma surrounding an incredible opportunity for women to promote a cause they care deeply about. No woman should ever feel scared to run for Homecoming Queen, nor should they fear losing. I didn’t need the official Machine backing to bring my story to light or to succeed.

I may not have a crown, but I didn’t fail. I quit letting my past define me and spoke publicly about it to campus – I conquered my fears, and I opened my heart. I won. 

Alex Smith is a senior majoring in journalism and political science. Her column runs biweekly. 

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