Reigning Miss Black Alabama USA Charis Wilder, 25, accepted her crown this past November and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Health Administration at UAB. Charis, who was the drum major at Spain Park High School for three years, also plays the flute. The busy queen, University of Alabama graduate, and oldest of four children to Reverend Dr. and Mrs. Thomas L. Wilder, Jr. is not only pursuing a platform to raise the self-esteem of young women and girls, she teaches piano through the Bethel Baptist Fine Arts Academy she founded with her mother, and also holds a day job: Office Manager at Women’s Health Associates. Whew! She recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk with me about her personal style and platform.
What have been some of the highlights of your appearances so far? What means the most to me is when young women or girls see me and their faces light up. That gives me an opportunity to explain what I’ve gone through and to encourage them. There’s nothing different about me from them. That’s been a highlight of all my appearances.
How have you been able to promote your platform? It’s focused on promoting the benefits of taking care of yourself and also building self-esteem. One of the things I’ve been able to do is when I talk to girls, is to let them know they are perfectly and wonderfully made. As far as the medical side, I have an opportunity to talk to patients and encourage them to get [screened and tested]. One of the big focuses is in April is I’ll do the fashion show to promote Heart Health Awareness. We’ll have women of all ages to promote positive living and heart health awareness.
Why is this so important to emphasize to young women and girls today? Because when you look at tv the world will tell you beauty is this or that, [and] what people see on tv becomes their reality. If you aren’t that [unattainable or unrealistic beauty ideal], you begin to doubt yourself and your looks. If you don’t, anyone can come tell you something about yourself and you’ll believe it. It’s important to know you aren’t defined by what others say or feel about you.
What did you learn about style and self-esteem from your mother? I learned a great deal. Before I [entered] this pageant, my mother challenged me to sit down and think about what I like or dislike and to get to know myself. Once I got to know myself – to take time with myself -[I was able to] appreciate and love the things about me that make me me.
How would you describe your personal style? My personal style is professional but chic. I like structure. I think you can put class and sophistication [into dressing]. You can be sexy and attractive but be professional; you don’t have to have your skirt slit up your thigh.
What style tips have you learned from pageants that you carry over into “every-day” dressing? Always dress to impress. You never know who you will run into.
What’s your “go to” outfit? It’s a red dress. I love the color red because it’s vibrant but it’s a bit conservative. It hugs me and it’s flowy at the bottom. It’s fun, cute and professional.
If we peeked in your handbag, what would we see? People tell me my handbag is entirely too heavy! It has my planner, my phone, my glasses, wallet, mints, papers, pens that I should have thrown away -the typical things you would see in any woman’s purse.
What are your “must have” items? My makeup in general is a must have! If I leave the house and I’ve left a piece we have to go back and get it. I love eye shadow specifically.
What’s the best piece of style advice you can offer to readers? Get to know your body type. Just because [an article of clothing] looks good on someone else doesn’t mean it will look good on you. I’d rather have something that complements me rather than the latest trend.
Ms. Wilder will join other women vying for the Miss Black America USA crown in the national competition in Washington, DC for preliminary activities and community service events during the first week of August. Follow her appearance schedule and keep updated regarding Charis’ activities via Facebook and Twitter.
Images courtesy Carla Pennington