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Nashville native, Brianna Mason is a 2013 graduate of Ravenwood High School in Brentwood, Tennessee and graduated with a B.A. degree in Psychology when she graduated from the University of Tennessee- Knoxville and a Master of Science in Elementary Education! Just when you thought she couldn’t get any more successful, she became a first-grade teacher in Murfreesboro, Tennessee the past year and made history when she became the first African American woman to be crowned Miss Tennessee just a few weeks ago! Tune in to our exclusive interview with Brianna as she discusses all she has planned during her reign and why she was so determined to win the pageant for all young black women.

Tell us about yourself. What made you want to get into the pageant world?

I’m Brianna; I just turned 24-years-old this past Sunday, and I’m from Nashville, Tennessee. I attended the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and got my Bachelors and Masters degree! I actually started pageants when I was a freshman in college and it was a way for me to make friends, earn scholarship money, and perform my talent. I learned more about the job of being Miss Tennessee and that’s what kept me going back each year.

Congratulations on making history as the first African American woman to be crowned Miss Tennessee! What does this honor mean to you?

It means a lot to me! It’s a great responsibility that I’m honored to have. Looking through the portraits of Miss Tennessee that have come before me, none of them looked like me. Representation is so important, especially with young women. It’s important for us to see ourselves in figures such as Miss Tennessee, athletics, politics, and media. It’s important that it’s a positive representation of ourselves so that was also a driving force in motivating me to pursue this title, not just for me but for young girls of color.

Can you tell us why you were so passionate and determined to win this pageant for all young black women?

You know, there are areas in Tennessee where they never had a Miss Tennessee come to them to speak and I wanted to not only spread the message of Miss Tennessee but to give students of all ages a good representation of a black woman, something they may not see in the media. That can open a lot of doors and start conversations on race relations and how we view people that may be different from us. I simply wanted to start that conversation.

What is on the agenda this year Miss Tennessee?

I am really excited to be working with the Tennessee Department of Education. I was named the official spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Education for reading literacy and whole child. With that, I will be able to go into schools who need to increase their reading literacies but also go to schools to talk to them about inclusion and making sure that the teachers are catering to the whole child. That is something I am very passionate about being an educator, those are all issues that I live my everyday life thinking about. Being able to go into schools, as Miss Tennessee is a big honor for me.

For more on Miss Tennessee, click here!

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All images by Robert Metzger