Interviewed By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
Sydney Jackson, 18, is the reigning Miss District of Columbia Teen USA 2020. Sydney graduated from the Edmund Burke School in Washington, D.C. where she was the co-president of the student body, played varsity volleyball, was a member of the schools feminist cooperative club, the students of color club, participated in multiple school walkouts and lead social justice/activism seminars. She currently uses her platform Girl Empire 202 to highlight the achievements of girls in the D.C. area and inspire other girls to succeed. Sydney will be studying journalism at University of Maryland.
AFRO: What made you originally want to compete for Miss DC Teen USA and was this your first time competing in the pageant (or any pageant for that matter)?
SJ: I had actually never imagined myself participating in a pageant. The previous director of the Miss DC/Teen USA pageant was friends with my aunt and asked her to convince me to join 2 weeks before the competition in December 2018, for the 2019 Miss DC Teen USA title. My aunt and my mom convinced me to do it with the idea of being able to help other girls if I were to win. I jumped right in and placed 1st runner up (second place) amongst six other girls who had been competing since they were younger. After the pageant, a former Miss USA, Kara McCullough told me that placing 1st runner up in your first pageant is extremely rare and I had to compete again. With that being said, I entered into the pageant again this year and I won!
AFRO: What’s your platform?
SJ: My platform is Girl Empire 202! Girl Empire 202 is a social media platform on Instagram where girls send in their short bios, and/or information about their businesses, skills, talents, accomplishments, etc. and some photos to go along with them. Then I post them and other girls comment and support their ‘sisters’ in the DC area! I wanted to create this positive space for girls in DC to share their work and achievements because in a city so powerful and political the youth are always left out of the equation and our achievements are constantly overlooked – especially us girls.
AFRO: Explain your role and responsibilities as Miss D.C. Teen USA and how you generally are able to meet these requirements.
SJ: My role as Miss D.C. Teen USA is to be a positive influence for girls in the city. I have to participate in community service, make as many appearances at local events as possible to keep a good image and make myself accessible to girls. As a young role model I have a lot of people watching my every move and taking note of the things I do and say and who I surround myself with. It is a very intense responsibility to be a positive figure for so many girls all of the time, but it is one that comes with amazing opportunities and keeps me on a straight and narrow path!
AFRO: Has your life and duties as Miss D.C. Teen USA been impacted since the COVID-19 pandemic?
SJ: Yes! My life has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, being that all of my duties as Miss D.C. Teen USA are to be active in the community and visit as many places and people as possible. I had many events and appearances lined up throughout the spring (I had a plan for almost every day) that were all cancelled/postponed until further notice. I was supposed to be visiting schools, girl programs, and mentoring younger girls, but I have been able to do some of it virtually through Zoom and Facetime.
AFRO: What are some ways you’ve been able to help others despite the pandemic?
SJ: I have been able to help others by holding my weekly Instagram lives where I talk about various topics to keep my followers engaged and answer any questions they may have. I have been having Facetime/ Zoom tea parties with girls from my sponsored program “Princess for a Day,” including some of the girls that I mentor. And I am currently organizing a food drive for the Capital City Food Bank to aid in putting meals into the homes of families who are going without during this pandemic.
AFRO: Any advice for teens during these difficult times?
SJ: I would advise people my age to make time for themselves and their mental health. A lot of people are feeling the stress of having to plan their entire lives or career out during this time but that is not necessary. Right now they should try to focus more on how they can improve their study/work habits to get through their next semesters and how to manage self-care with daily activities to maximize their health and abilities. It’s okay to pause and take each day as it comes, there is no rush to grow up, or to plan your days out in advance.
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