USF Graduate to Compete in Miss America Pageant
Aniska Tonge, who graduated in the spring, holds the title of Miss Virgin Islands 2012.
By Laura Kneski
TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 9, 2012) – Aniska Tonge won the title of Miss Virgin Islands 2012 this past August, only three months after her graduation from the University of South Florida.
In January, Tonge will be competing in the Miss America 2013 pageant.
When asked why she chose to compete in the Miss Virgin Islands pageant, Tonge explained that she saw her potential to win as an opportunity to further her community involvement.
“Miss America requires a platform, and I already knew what my platform was,” she said.
A pageant platform revolves around a contestant’s interest in a specific societal dilemma or a community service organization. Tonge’s is based upon building self-esteem for young women through education. She felt that “it would be pretty selfish of me not to help young girls when I know I can.”
Which is why pageantry is such an important aspect of her life today. No longer is pageantry just about the best body or the largest smile; it is about philanthropy. The majority of the Miss America competition’s preliminary scoring is based on the person and not the picture, with talent comprising 35 percent of the score; presentation and community achievement 25 percent; and the on-stage question covering 5 percent. Tonge said that becoming a contestant is achievable for every young woman because it’s not based just on looks.
However, the pressure is still there. Tonge strives to never have that unyielding focus on her beauty over her value as a person. Gender Studies helped her to understand that about herself, especially the “Women and Media” and “Issues of Feminism” classes that she took with Professor Kim Golombisky at USF. Pageantry is such an outlet for women’s rights, Tonge says, because of the greater connections and larger audiences that are acquired through networking.
Tonge first entered the world of pageantry in 11th grade, simply because her high school needed someone to represent them in a local pageant. But she did more than just step up to the plate—she won.
“It was just something I fell into,” she said.
In her senior year, though, Tonge competed again and lost. She set the pageant scene aside after that, focusing on her college education.
Tonge was actually born and raised in Houston, Tx., until the age of three, at which point she and her parents moved to the Virgin Islands. She was 17 when she went to college in St. Thomas.
Tonge entered USF as a junior, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies. She fell in love with USF’s cultural diversity when she went to orientation, immediately deciding that she was a Bull.
Upon graduation from USF, Tonge worked at an internship with the production company, Cutting Edge. At the same time, she worked with the National Council of Negro Women, which is a mentoring program for young girls. She still keeps in touch with members to this day, and a few may even be able to go see her compete in Las Vegas for the Miss America title.
Even though her schedule is so busy, Tonge currently works with The EDGE, a Catholic middle school youth ministry which is committed to meeting the emotional and spiritual needs of children in grades six, seven and eight.
In order to stay strong within her busy life (especially with the added preparations she is working on for the pageant in January) Tonge focuses on positivity. She meditates, does yoga and writes poetry in those times when she just feels like she needs a break. Her mom even makes her tea.
Tonge is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Miss-Virgin-Islands-2012-Aniska-T-Tonge/358497130891890
She also has a blog, where she invites readers to “follow her journey” and it can be found here: http://missvirginislands2012.blogspot.com/. She is also on twitter, and anyone can follow her at @MissUSVI2012