Donations, food and staging made the 2012 Mr. and Miss USF Pageant, held Tuesday in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Ballroom, one of the most elaborate ever.
Bionqua Lynch and Chad Masters outlasted their seven male and six female contestants to win the titles of Miss and Mr. USF, respectively, as well as $500 each from Fifth Third Bank, USF Alumni Association and USF Bookstore to use for school.
The two also won 10-karat Dynasty class rings, provided by the Bookstore and Herff Jones, a professional business suit from Mens Warehouse for Masters and a $350 Regalia gown gift certificate for Lynch.
Attendees raised $633 for the Dont Stop Dont Drop campaign, which helps students who are struggling to pay for college.
For Lynch, a junior majoring in biology, it also means she has automatically qualified to compete in the Miss Florida Pageant, July 10 to July 14 at the Bailey Concert Hall in Fort Lauderdale for the first time. The winner of Miss Florida will qualify to compete for the Miss America title.
I was sort of in a daze, Lynch said of her victory. I was just so happy that everything turned out well, because behind the scenes everything is so rush-rush here, there.
Miss Florida 2011 Kristina Janolo performed a vocal rendition of Rascal Flatts The Broken Road at the event, providing a preview of the type of competition Lynch may face at Miss Florida. Janolo said Miss Florida has been pushing for USF to contribute a contestant.
We have been dying to have Miss University of South Florida be a part of the Miss Florida organization for years, she said. The most beautiful thing about the Miss America organization, which Miss USF and Miss Florida are a part of, is the scholarship money. So over the past five years Ive competed Ive made over $40,000 in scholarship dollars, which is very important to us college students so it will help further their education as well.
This years pageant was far more elaborate than previous years, as a minimum of $18,000 was spent compared to only $6,000 in 2011, said Sarah Rasheid, pageant executive director and Student Government (SG) director of Student Life and Traditions.
Senate President Khalid Hassouneh said $6,000 of the money spent on this years pageant was funded by the student-paid Activity and Service (A&S) fees special projects fund, with the remainder coming out of A&Ss auxiliary fund.
Contestants were judged in five categories, including in-person interviews, on-stage performances, swim wear and evening wear.
During stage performances, Ashley Haight, a junior majoring in biomedical sciences, may have let nerves get the best of her as she stuttered through a reading of a quote by Calvin Coolidge. She said the performance was a last minute change to replace her originally planned piano performance due to her waking up with a hand that didnt want to work.
Some members of the audience clapped along to Katherine Kopstads vocal rendition of LeAnn Rimes Cowboy Sweetheart, but Lynchs rendition of Whitney Houstons I Will Always Love You received a standing ovation.
During his performance, Mr. USF contestant Jarryd Dollard, a senior majoring in English who finished as the second runner-up, overcame sound difficulties as he accompanied Michael Jacksons Man in the Mirror on his saxophone, which Dollard said he has been practicing for nine years.
Masters, who is an active participant in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters organization, had his 11-year-old little brother Jeff pop out of an over-sized, green wrapping-papered gift box, to assist him in a motivational speech.
Masters said the scholarship will allow him to pay for his summer classes.
Hassouneh said this is the first year the pageant has drawn a full audience and said SG hopes to make future incarnations self-sustaining through the use of sponsorships in return for commercial advertising.
This was the first year we did that to sort of attract private donors, he said. We figured wed need to put in the additional $14,000 of seed money this year but we needed to show we had a product to market, so next year I expect they will have that luxury to market the product.