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Consortium fellow Tenaj Ferguson: The competition for Ms. Corporate America

Tenaj Ferguson: “Ms. Corporate America’s mission represents engaging, empowering, celebrating, equipping and connecting women in business. This is a cause I already supported.”

This blog post was written by Consortium fellow Tenaj Ferguson (Texas ’17), who describes her “Ms. Corporate America” coronation on March 4 as “a shining crown moment.”

Tenaj Ferguson, Consortium fellow (University of Texas at Austin, '17).
Tenaj Ferguson, Consortium fellow (The University of Texas at Austin, ’17).

Prior to Ms. Corporate America, I had never been in a pageant. The closest things would be public speaking and stage time “strutting my stuff” through my side hobby as a competitive National Physique Committee Bikini Body Builder.

Despite this, I had never imagined competing in a pageant. In fact, when the 2015 Ms. Corporate America, Charlene Rinehart, encouraged me to apply in 2016, I was hesitant for a whole year. I would always go back to “but I’m not really a pageant girl…”

Charlene’s work as an ambassador made me truly consider the organization and the impact I could have after realizing that the organization was beyond beauty and much deeper than the stereotypes I had associated with the pageant world (just being honest).

Ms. Corporate America’s mission represents engaging, empowering, celebrating, equipping and connecting women in business. This is a cause I already supported. I wanted to promote the diversity of thought, killer skills and leadership that women bring to the table!

Making it to the finals

Tenaj Ferguson immediately after being crowned Ms. Corporate America.
Tenaj Ferguson immediately after being crowned Ms. Corporate America. (photo courtesy of the Ms. Corporate America organization)

I was thrilled when I got word that I won my regional title, Ms. Austin, Texas. I celebrated, then successively asked myself, “What did you get yourself into?” as the moment of truth sank in. I struck gold by connecting with past queens to learn more about their experiences and get tips for the competition.

I was impressed by the richness of each queen’s reign and all the opportunities the title helped them to create such as participating in leadership workshops; speaking on confidence; attending and hosting women’s networking events; and partnering with other organizations and companies that support the mission.

One past queen started a women’s business incubator. Another used her skills while building her brand as a business writer and career coach. Connecting with these professional women exposed me to the power, privilege and responsibility of the title.

The Ms. and Mrs. Corporate America Pageant are held simultaneously, so it was awesome to meet all the contestants and bond with them. These relationships remain one of my favorite memories from the competition. Contestants attend valuable workshops on a range of topics led by past queens and industry experts.

We also had a closed interview with a panel of judges to dive deeper into our platform, professional experiences, and aspirations. This was worth 40 perfect of the pageant scores, with the on-stage interview question representing 10 percent. Other categories were formalwear and fitness.

A key difference between Ms. Corporate America and other pageants is the focus on business skills and brand building. There isn’t a talent section or a bikini section. I thought it was unique that there wasn’t a bikini competition but, instead, an athletic-wear section to reinforce the organization’s celebration of healthy living and a woman’s confidence in loving her body.

This year commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the Ms. Corporate America organization. I won the Cinderella award for best evening wear, the Fitness Maven award for bringing athletic presence to the stage and, yes—I really mean a resounding YAAASSSS—I won the overall crown title of Ms. Corporate America!

Platforms

Engaging diverse women in business. This platform is especially significant to me from my personal experiences as a diverse woman navigating business.

Creating your edge: The making of the multifaceted women. This platform is about celebrating all that women accomplish on all fronts of their lives, their responsibilities and their aspirations. Developing the whole woman professionally and personally helps her to unlock her potential, reach her dreams and access fulfillment.

This includes diversifying a woman’s skills in and out of the workplace (to include leadership, entrepreneurship opportunities, building a multidimensional life, developing her hobbies) engaging others using a clear personal brand story to best highlight her, and standing out through a confident overall presence (public speaking, leadership, image, and overall polish).

Next up for my reign

I’m looking forward to my reign and I feel honored to represent women in business through my platforms. I’ve since gotten a start on coordinating engagements, speaking opportunities and appearances to grow the brand, partner with companies and other relevant organizations to enhance women in business (happy to connect with any of you about opportunities you may have in mind).

I graduate with my MBA this May from The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, after which I will return to corporate America as an associate brand manager at Campbell Soup Company, where I interned last summer.

This was an opportunity sourced through The Consortium during Orientation Program. Finally, I’m grateful to you, my Consortium family, for the continued support of my goals and I certainly encourage other interested women to consider the Ms. Corporate America pageant and network.

Pictured above: Newly crowned Ms. Corporate America Tenaj Ferguson, foreground right, accepts the Formalwear Cinderella Award and the Sporty Maven Fitness Award from award presenter Kylah Johnson Mrs. Corporate America 2016 (photo courtesy of the Ms. Corporate America organization).

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