Robert L. Humphries, Miss Black Cincinnati Olivia Riggs (left) and Miss Black Teen Cincinnati Joi Burton (right). Photos by Pete Coleman

By Sharen Sierra King

The votes tallied, the court chosen, and the winners of the 32nd Anniversary of Miss Black Teen Cincinnati and the 42nd Anniversary of Miss Black Cincinnati names are now and forever recorded in the 2022 RLH Pageants Unlimited historical journals. Both Pageants were held simultaneously, with sixteen beautiful, poised young African American women of different hues from Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati, and Dayton.

Yvonne Smith, the official Pageant Accountant, handed the envelopes to Host Courtis Fuller; he announced the runners-ups. There was applause and screams. But in the seconds before the MBTC and MBC winner’s names were announced, the beautiful sanctuary of Corinthian Baptist Church was eerily silent.

Just as Courtis spoke the name, “and  the winner of Miss Black Teen Cincinnati is Joi Burton” cheers erupted throughout the sanctuary.

Miss Black Teen Cincinnati Joi Burton Final Walk and Wave

Joi is the 14-year-old daughter of Lagina and Randy Burton and attends Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy. She performed a Spoken Word piece titled ‘Give Me Jesus.’ She plans to earn a full scholarship to the college of her choice, pursue a career as a public speaker and put her love of everything style to good use by designing a well-known fashion brand. Joi’s hobbies include gymnastics, track, writing, shopping, styling, dancing, public speaking, and reading. Her court is Kennedy Caldwell, 1st Runner-Up; Kelsey Wheeler, 2nd Runner-Up; Nadia Ndubusis, 3rd Runner-Up; Brielle Allen, 4th Runner-Up; and Destiny Owen, 5th Runner-Up. 

Miss Black Teen Cincinnati Joi Burton (center with sash) with MBTC Contestants

The same unselfish overflow of excitement erupted when the name of Olivia Riggs was read and announced as the 2022 winner of Miss Black Cincinnati. Olivia, age 22, is a student at the University of Cincinnati. Her goals are to become a Judge and mentor young girls throughout the local community. Her talent was Spoken Word, infused with Black Girl Magic. Olivia’s hobbies include poetry, baking, and participating with Operation Wakanda, a youth ministry. Her court consists of Samaya Rogers, 1st Runner-Up; Cleӧrt Daniels, 2nd Runner Up; Shazia Thompson, 3rd Runner Up and 4th Runner Up, Alexis Stokes.

Miss Black Cincinnati Olivia Riggs Walk and Wave

The newly crowned RLH Pageant and Cincinnati Black Theatre Company winners are family, community, and faith-centered. Joi attends Zion Global Ministries, Lead- Pastor Freddie Piphus, and Olivia is a New Prospect Baptist Church member, where Damon Lynch III is Pastor.

After the Pageant, the winners and each contestant have opportunities to utilize their training and represent RLH Pageants, Cincinnati Black Theatre Company, their families, and most of all, themselves through community, corporate, faith-based, and educational appearances. They are often called on to speak, mentor, or showcase their talents at many of the most prestigious events on the city’s yearly calendar. 

Miss Black Cincinnati Olivia Riggs (center) with MBC Contestants.

Of course, riding in the parades (Black Family Reunion, Lincoln Heights, Reds Opening Day) is also fun. Performing their talent on stage at various events, such as Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Day, is an excellent opportunity to showcase their performing talents. 

Why a pageant, specifically for black females? The morning after the Pageant, I received a message on Facebook which included a picture of an adorable two-year-old girl who attended the Pageant. The caption read ‘Future Contestant.’ 

I contacted the mother, Shawna Hedges, to ask about her daughter Emberly’s Pageant experience.

I ask,” Is this your first time attending the Pageant?” Hedges, “Yes, I am a recruiter for Eastern Personnel, and Angelita Moreno-Jones gave me two tickets.”

“Did you and Emberly enjoy the pageant?” 

Hedges, “We both enjoyed the Pageant. When the contestants came out in their evening gowns, Emberly said, “Wow, look at all the princesses!” It was a blessing for my girl to witness black girls’ poise, grace, and excellence.”

“Future Contestant” Emberly. Photo provided by mother

The Pageant honors our heritage, legacy, uniqueness, and because we can.

(Eastern Personnel is a longstanding Community Partner and Presenting Sponsor of the Pageant.) 

Then and Now: The mission of Founder Robert L Humphries echoes in the words of Shawna Hedges, a mother whose daughter saw close-up and in-person teen and young adult women who look like her future. 

Mr. H’s role after 42 years will shift to that as Emeritus, and Donald Sherman, with more than twenty years of volunteering as Director and Co-Executive Producer, stepped into his role as

Executive Producer for the 2022 Pageant. Sherman has impeccable credentials as Executive

Director of the Cincinnati Black Theatre Company. When introduced during a recent Appreciation Reception held at The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Community Hub, He publicly accepted the role as Executive Producer “with the help and blessing of my wife, Paula Sherman.” 

The training for the contestants is three months of practice every Saturday up to three hours for the contestants and double the hours for the staff of volunteers and trainers. The contestants are trained, judged, and scored in the following four areas: 

Talent – Personal Interview with Judges – Evening Gown – Impromptu Projection Question. 

The staff of Volunteers: RLH Alumnae, Arah Samuels, Angela Grayson-Alexander, BridgetSchooler Davis, LaKesia Ealy, ShaRhonda Moore, Melanie Green, Sharen Sierra King, 

Talent Trainers: Tara Hammonds, Deborah Stewart, Avery Hammonds. Leadership: Donald Sherman, Robert L Humphries, and Cleaster Mims

Behind the pageantry is a community of engaged, social-minded individuals, businesses, nonprofits, excellent volunteer staff, and parents who trust the process. 

Many thanks to the Sponsors: 2022 Title Sponsor: Marchelle Hall Owen, Media Sponsor – Sesh

Communications, Presenting Sponsors: The Center for Closing the Health Gap, So-Act, Eastern

Personnel, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, African-American Chamber of Commerce Greater

Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy, 

P&G Music Festival, Arts Wave-Romac

In addition to the pageantry on stage, each contestant has the opportunity to win additional awards and monies. 

The following awards for Essays and other categories are sponsored by local philanthropists and patrons of the Pageant. 

Gardenia Roper: ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’, Cheryl and Antonio Lackey: ‘Champions’

Sharon Hemphill: ‘Award of Excellence

Niki Armstrong: ‘Courage Award’

C Smith: ‘Photogenic Award’

Cleaster Mims: Projection Award’

Jackie Humphries: ‘Participation Award’

Angela Grayson Alexander: ‘Legacy Award – Personal Interview’

Lakesia Ealy: ‘Legacy Award-Talent Winner’

Critical roles in the success of the event are professionals such as: 

Judges: Tracey Artis, Steve Love, Jason Dunn, Lelani Turrentine, Antoinette “Toni” Miles, Tim Moore, Casandra Robinson

Judges Host: Kathy Lewis Norman, Malcolm Timmons, Ronald Buchanan 

Accountant: Yvonne Smith, Security: Major Jackie Reed, David Johnson 

Host: Courtis Fuller, Dr. Shelly J Hamler, Vice-Mayor, Jan Michele Lemon Kearny, and P Ann Everson – Price

Acknowledging black everything is relevant and necessary; if we don’t, who will, So much so when a call when out for Swag Bag items.’ Local Black-Owned businesses and individuals answered the call. Danielle Gray, Rhonie McBerry, Soul Palette, Nazlah Hamid – Beautifully Delicate, District78-Erikka Gray, Loreal-Rena Brewster, Healing Aroma-Donnique Sherman,

Rhonnie Says, Danni Grays Realtor-KW Seven Hills, Richara Richardson-E2E

Empower2Elevate, Gene and Laverne Griffith, Kickin It With Kiki, Beautifully Delicate, Angela

Fox Therapist-Mayo Home Reaching Out Changing Lives, Kute Kosmetics – Keeping it Klassy, Senovia Bydon, and Friends, Karen James-Avon

Special Thanks to Robert Killins Jr., Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Director, Special Initiatives Pastor KZ Smith and First Lady Connie Smith, Staff, and Congregation

If you want information on booking a personal appearance of Miss Black Teen Cincinnati or

Miss Black Cincinnati, or information on sign-up for the 2023 Pageant, please call 513-368.8108 • If you are or know an RLH Pageant Alumnae, please get in touch, and call the number above.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *