(Hosea Johnson photo)
|McClinton, a Boston Latin graduate, was first runner-up at this year’s Miss Black USA Pageant. (Lydia Hicks photo)|
When the winners of this year’s Miss Black USA Pageant were announced in Las Vegas last Tuesday, Melissa McClinton fell just shy of her goal. But Miss Black Massachusetts 2008 still did the Commonwealth proud, earning first runner-up honors in the annual competition.
McClinton is more than just a pretty face. This Boston Latin School graduate has a bachelor’s degree, and has nearly completed a master’s. She worked until recently as a broadcast journalist covering the crime and justice beat at WRNN-TV in Westchester, N.Y., and is an independent filmmaker with five director’s credits on her résumé.
A veteran of the Miss USA and Miss America systems, McClinton has been competing in beauty contests since 2000, when she was the second runner-up in the Miss District of Columbia Pageant. She entered the Washington-based contest again in 2002, improving to first runner-up and earning top interview honors. Two years later, she was named Miss Five Boroughs 2004.
This year was the first time McClinton had ever competed in an all-black pageant. In 2007, McClinton hosted the preliminary portion of the Miss Black USA contest in the West African nation of Gambia in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the pageant’s parent foundation.
“It changed my life,” said the 5-foot-6-inch, 115-pound McClinton during a recent interview, “because for most of us, no one in our entire families had ever returned to Africa … since the last time that we left in slavery.”
Born in Philadelphia, McClinton moved with her family to Roxbury when she was 7. Even as a youngster, according to one of McClinton’s former teachers at Boston Latin, there was something special about her.
“When she wanted something, she went out and got it. She didn’t wait for other people to hand her anything,” said Viola Tolbert Johnson, who was McClinton’s English, creative writing and homeroom teacher during her high school years at Boston Latin. “And that’s what I love about her. She has the ability to go and get things done.”
After graduating from Boston Latin, she enrolled in Dartmouth College, majoring in film and creative writing. In 2000, she transferred to Howard University, becoming the third generation in her family to attend Howard. She majored in film and history, graduating summa cum laude before moving on to pursue a master of fine arts degree in film at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She has completed her coursework; all that remains is finishing her thesis film.
Before the competition, McClinton said she saw Miss Black USA as an opportunity to raise the public profile of issues she cares about.(p2)
The contest's official site includes more information about the competition's past and present participants and winners. More »
On Sept. 17, 1983, Williams made history and proved her parents to be clairvoyant when she won the Miss America Pageant, becoming the first black woman to hold the title. More »