The Harlem Renaissance Reimagined;  A New Mr. Freshman is Crowned

Debrandin Brown/DIGEST

Representing the newest class of male Jaguars who have made their way onto the Bluff, the Mr. Freshman pageant is a traditional way for participating students to put their skills, fashion sense, and talent on display for not only campus alumni, the judges, and their peers, but the student body as a whole as they get some of their first pageant experiences at Southern University. Like most things in a post-COVID world however, changes had to be made in this year’s proceedings in order to make the annual affair as safe as possible .

Featuring some of the Class of 2025’s biggest names, this year’s Mr. Freshman pageant proved to be distinctly different from years past, with normal crowds being taken out of the equation due to COVID-19 safety measures. These measures included the event itself being closed off, to the student body in favor of a pre-recorded film event that was presented on YouTube.

Featuring Jefferson Blackmon II from Austin, Texas, Corian Boyd from Dallas, Texas, Jarriel Jackson from Houma, Louisiana, and this year’s winner Beloveson Philippe from Orlando, Florida. This year’s pageant has a familiar list of names among the newest class of Southern Jags.

Consisting of four contestants, this year’s pageant was mainly composed of fashion show elements that allowed the contestants to express themselves through different outfit combinations and styles, all of which were expressive of the Harlem Renaissance theme that the event carried throughout its entirety. The Harlem Renaissance theme was present in not only the outfits worn by the participating contestants, but also in the music and decorations that adorned the venue.

During the weeks leading up into the event, the contestants practiced together and had the opportunity to socialize with one another as they perfected their own outfits and performances. According to this year’s winner, Beloveson Philippe, this social aspect of working with the other contestants were his favorite part of the pageantry process.

“The pageant is something I would consider doing in the future because of the connection I made with the other contestants and how much fun we had practicing and performing,” said Philippe, a freshman therapeutic recreation major from Orlando, Florida, when asked on the impact that his pageantry experience may have for him going forward. According to Philippe, he is no stranger to pageants and has had the opportunity to participate in and spectate numerous fashion shows prior to his arrival on the Bluff.

“Coming out on top and winning the Mr. Freshman pageant made me feel like I just went over a big stepping stone in the beginning of my life as a college student,” said Philippe in response to the impact that winning his first collegiate pageant has had on him.

While the pageant formatting itself may be different than long-time Jags may be used to, the uniqueness of the experience has done nothing to take away from the experience from the contestants, according to Philippe. Depending on the pageants set to take place in this semester or future ones, we may see more than one of this year’s contestants on the pageant stage again.

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