By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – There was something just so “confirming” about the moment for Joy Watson…one that further seemed to symbolize the importance- beauty of her life-altering journey.
Watson, representing her Virginia State University campus as the 94th elected Miss VSU, was in Atlanta, Georgia at the prestigious 37th Annual Miss NBCA Hall of Fame competition, aimed at crowning the National Champion. Aware from her dance coach that a VSU alumni, one who had also been a member of The Trojan Explosion Dance Team, had gone on to win Queen laurels at another HBCU (Historically Black College University), Virginia Union University, Watson had no idea she would actually bump into her at this year’s National Competition. Holding the Queen title for her school from 2013-14, this former VSU student was indeed on hand, proudly representing as a past winner. The planets aligned, Watson discovered who she was, and there was an immediate, unforgettable forged bond.
“There was just this instant connection when I found out who she was,” recalled Watson about the serendipity encounter. “It was just so confirming that we both met up as Queens.”
As the week unfolded and participants completed; talent, speaking, question and answer and formal wear segments, Watson would achieve the illustrious honor of becoming her school’s first ever National Queen. The lofty distinction further included such gems as; the wearing of a historically symbolic crown and sash, $3500 scholarship as well as a custom gown and suit created by one of the judges. Deeply grateful for these tangible rewards that accompanied the honor, Watson cannot express enough how much the entire ongoing journey of being a Queen and the connections-family it has created mean to her.
“This whole experience has really shown me how all the hard work paid off,” explained Watson, a Presidential STEM Scholar who carries a perfect 4.0 GPA with a dual major in mechanical engineering technology and mathematics as well as a minor in dance. “I built a real sisterhood with the other Queens who I gained very unique experiences with during the National week of competition and still stay in touch with.”
Elected to serve as Queen of the multi-position Court for Virginia State her junior year, Watson, who is addressed as “Ms. Watson” or “Ms. HBCU,” captured the April Pageant laurels, moving on to next receive the national title namesake this past September at the National Black College Alumni Hall of Fame Competition of Black College Queens at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta, Georgia. After participating in the preliminaries, Watson then became a final 10 contestant, followed by a final 5 one, and was ultimately down to just a two candidates remaining status with a Howard University student. The arduous process, along with the special connection and profound significance of her HBCU involvement, made the winning announcement even sweeter.
“HBCU’s are communities that breed and create Black Excellence,” said a proud Watson.
“Being selected to serve as a representative of HBCU’s across the nation is an honor, but more importantly a privilege, I won’t take for granted.”
The daughter of two Newburgh business owners, Desiree and Frederick, Watson is a graduate of John S. Burke High School in Goshen. She danced for about 10 years at the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy. In addition to her collegiate academic and dancing success, she also serves on the Executive Board for the National Society of Black Engineers. She will continue to hold her Ambassador role, whose responsibilities are in many ways that of a full-time job, throughout the fall of 2023, after her May, 2023 graduation. The honor far surpasses a title. Rather, it’s something she wants to employ to empower not only students on her campus, but all HBCUs, keeping them united, strong and meaningful in all ways possible.
“The networking opportunities I have been able to have are amazing, having the opportunity to learn from some truly impressive role models,” said Watson. “This involvement as a Queen, and being able to go to the Nationals for a week of events, priceless workshops, outreach and scholarship opportunities, is an experience you can’t get anywhere else.”