“Your queen,” says the pageant announcer, “is Miss Black Wisconsin.” In that moment, life for TeKema Balentine changed.
Historically, Wisconsin tends not to produce beauty queens so when Balentine heard her name, she looked around at the other contestants and said, “Not me, really? Wisconsin won the pageant?”
As Miss Black USA 2019, she says the pageant empowers Black women to be who they are, to be the best version of themselves and provides her with a platform.
While visiting Huegel Elementary School in Madison, Balentine puts her words into action. She explains she didn’t apply herself in school and thinks she could have done better. She says, “I feel a lot of it had to do with the responsibilities that I had at home. I want other young girls who may be in a similar circumstance to know that those circumstances aren’t permanent.”
Balentine says her teachers encouraged her telling her the only way to change the cycle and whatever was going on in her family was with education.
Balentine believes it means a lot to young girls in Wisconsin to see a brown person in a crown and “for girls to see that I’m in nursing school. I mean that’s a profession that’s all about caring for another person, caring, wellbeing of the community, your society.”
Speaking to members of Madison’s Black Chamber of Commerce during an evening gala, she says while she has no experience in running a business, she knows what it means to be a person of color wanting to make a difference, wanting to leave a footprint, and wanting to be an example for other brown children and other brown people. “I want to be that person to break the mold. I want to be the person to be outside of the box,” says Balentine.
Helping her break the mold and the box is Balentine’s partner Megan. “I wouldn’t be here without her. But I think just for people to see that love comes in all different shapes and forms is really important,” says Balentine.
Balentine reflects on her journey. She says she’s done something she was afraid to do and something that was a big challenge for her to do. “I reached out of my comfort zone. I had to learn to be assertive. I had to learn to be tactful. I had to learn to ask for help. And so, it’s taught me a lot about myself,” says Balentine.
Balentine concludes, ” I try to be the best person that I know how to be.”