As the confetti floated through the air and mingled with the cheers ringing from the audience, Ebony Mitchell ’19 walked to the front of the Robinson Center stage in Little Rock. A crown glittered atop her head and a satin sash draped over her shoulder.
Mitchell had just been crowned as the 84th Miss Arkansas and was understandably savoring the moment.
“It was the most indescribable feeling,” Mitchell said. “I’ve watched the Miss Arkansas pageant since I was five years old. I’ve dreamed of having my own crowning moment. And when they called my name, it was just a mix of emotions. I was so thankful and grateful but also proud of the work I had put in to make it to that point. Plus, I was just so excited about the year to come.”
Mitchell’s journey to the Miss Arkansas summit began as a young girl in Harrison, Arkansas. She entered a local pageant and delighted in dressing up and performing on stage. But it was later that year after meeting Eudora Mosby ’04, then the reigning Miss Arkansas and just the second African American woman to wear the crown, that Mitchell really began to dream big.
“I enjoyed that first pageant. Then Miss Arkansas came to my school,” Mitchell said. “I had never seen someone who looks like me in a position like that. I knew who she was but I didn’t realize how much of an impact she would have on me until I saw her in person. It was like a light switch went on in my head. I knew I wanted to be Miss Arkansas.”
She continued to participate in pageants throughout her childhood but, as a teenager, her journey changed course. She put her pageant pursuits on hold to focus on cheerleading and sports, in hopes of earning a college scholarship. That focus paid off when she earned a cheerleading scholarship to attend UCA.
But seeing a fellow Arkansan, Savvy Shields, capture the Miss America title in 2017 reminded her just how much she missed the pageant stage and reignited her dream to be named Miss Arkansas.
With her ambition rekindled, Mitchell decided to enter the Miss UCA competition and captured the crown her senior year. In a college career that included being named captain of the UCA cheerleading team and earning a degree in marketing, serving as Miss UCA was unquestionably a highlight.
“I love UCA and I loved my time as Miss UCA,” Mitchell said. “They have the best support system for their queen. They almost treat you like you’re Miss Arkansas. Plus, President Davis and his wife Jenny are both so supportive. I would be Miss UCA every year if I could.”
Success in the 2019 Miss UCA event earned her a spot on the statewide stage for the third consecutive year. She finished in the Top 15 that year, her first time as a semi-finalist. There was no competition in 2020 but she earned first runner-up honors in 2021 before ascending to the top spot in 2022.
A tale of two queens
Mitchell’s year as Miss Arkansas will be a busy one. She’ll represent the state during a variety of events and activities. And there will be school visits and meetings with state officials, where she’ll promote her personal platform, A Responsible Digital You, which aims to teach children about online safety.
“I really want to spread awareness about online and digital safety throughout the state,” Mitchell said. “I first got onto Facebook when I was in seventh grade and I was posting things like my phone number and my address. I was young and just didn’t understand how social media worked. My goal is to talk to kids of all ages and let them know how to be safe when they’re online.”
Not long after being crowned, Mitchell got a congratulatory message from Mosby (now Eudora Evans), herself a 2004 UCA alumna. The two met for lunch, where Miss Arkansas 2005 gifted Miss Arkansas 2022 a pair of designer shoes to wear during the Miss America competition.
“I had not talked to or seen Eudora since 2005, when I was nine, and spending time with her after so many years was incredible,” Mitchell said. “She was just as amazing as I remembered. She was an inspiration to me and I hope that I’m able to have that same type of impact on kids today.”
While earning the title of Miss Arkansas was the culmination of a long-held dream, it’s also another step towards her ultimate aspiration: being chosen Miss America 2023. Looking ahead to the national competition brings back many of the same emotions she felt on that Little Rock stage this past summer.
“Being Miss Arkansas has been a dream. It’s been a long journey to get here but an incredible one,” Mitchell said. “At times, I really can’t believe I’m going to compete in Miss America. I’m excited about the opportunity, though, and I’m going to try my hardest to bring the Miss America crown back to Arkansas.”
Originally published in the Fall 2022 edition of UCA Magazine.