TeKema Balentine

Madison native TeKema Balentine is crowned Miss Black USA 2019 Sunday afternoon. 

Now that TeKema Balentine has been crowned Miss Black USA 2019, she wants to come back to her hometown of Madison to inspire little girls in the community.

A 25-year-old nursing student at Madison College, Balentine won the pageant in Washington D.C. on Sunday. She’s a certified nursing assistant, a coach for Madison East Track and Field, a singer, a volunteer and now a beauty queen.

“I’m gay. I’m a woman. I’m a woman of color,” Balentine said. “I just think it’s really important to represent for other brown girls who feel like they just don’t have anyone to relate to.”

Balentine said once she gets back home to Madison’s East Side, she wants to focus on being an “accessible” role model, especially for girls of color.

“I will be right there in Madison,” Balentine said. “I just want to be there to show them how to navigate.”

While she doesn’t know exactly what form giving back to her community will take, Balentine’s first plan is to donate all of her dresses from the pageant to teenagers at Madison East High School, her alma mater.

The students will write an essay on why they feel unity is important in their community, Balentine said. Students who write winning essays will get to wear one of Balentine’s pageant dresses to homecoming.

Balentine won the title of Miss Black Wisconsin earlier this year. For Sunday’s competition she drove 15 hours to D.C., and was prepared to stop halfway and sleep in her car because she couldn’t afford a hotel.

And Balentine said she wasn’t expecting to win because she was surrounded by so many beautiful, talented and powerful women. But when she found out she won, she was “overjoyed.”

“I started crying just because I couldn’t believe it,” Balentine said.

As the winner of Miss Black USA, Balentine will receive a full scholarship for her upcoming fall and spring semesters at Madison College.

Balentine is excited to finish her degree and continue serving the Madison community. She’s heading back to Madison Tuesday night.

Balentine volunteers for the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, serving on a committee for P.A.T.C.H, Providers and Teens Communication for Health, a program that works to improve young people’s health through peer-to-peer communication.

She also works 40 hours a week as a CNA for a child with autism and epilepsy.

Balentine hopes she can show girls — and maybe even some boys — that whether it be nursing, coaching or pageantry, they can accomplish whatever they set out to do.

“I just want girls to know that they can wear as many hats as they want,” Balentine said. “They really can do whatever they put their minds to.”

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Emily Hamer is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She joined the paper in April 2019 and was formerly an investigative reporting intern at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

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