Barnes Sets Goals as New Miss UNCP
By Tomeka Sinclair, Around the Town Editor
The new Miss UNCP Bessie Barnes said that God definitely ordered her steps throughout the entire process of becoming Miss UNCP.
Barnes said that she has been in a couple of other pageants. Her first was the Miss Phi Beta Sigma State pageant. She said she didn’t really take it seriously and “froze up on the interview.”
Her second was the Miss Phi Beta Sigma at UNCP, which she won, and is still currently the title holder.
Barnes said that she loves UNCP and felt that God was leading her to do the pageant. She said being Miss UNCP is how she wanted to “leave her mark” and she felt like it was her year.
“Anybody who knows me will tell you that I literally bleed black and gold,” Barnes said.
She said another thing that drew her was the theme of this year’s pageant, which was 21st Century Woman.
“When I think of a 21st Century woman, the first thing that comes to mind is a mother who’s working and balancing school, family and work,” she said.
Barnes has a three-year-old daughter, Londyn Faith Johnson, and she said that it’s a struggle and can be very hectic having to prioritize time. She said having a daughter teaches her responsibility and time management.
Barnes said her daughter was the best thing to happen to her, despite being unplanned. She said that her goal is to be a good example for her daughter.
“When you have another life depending on you, it gives you a whole new perspective on life,” she said.
When initially signing up for the Miss UNCP pageant, Barnes said she realized that one of the stipulations on the contract stated that contestants could not have children. She said she challenged them on that, but they said it couldn’t be changed.
“That really discouraged me and I wasn’t going to do it,” she said.
She said a friend of hers told her that she needed to keep trying, so she spoke with Dr. John R. Jones III, the vice chancellor for Student Affairs and Wendy Lowry, vice chancellor for Advancement. She also spoke to some others. She said eventually the pageant committee decided to let her stay.
She said winning the pageant was very surreal and she felt like a celebrity with everyone congratulating her.
She said that it meant a lot to her because one of her goals is to inspire others and that she did it for all the people who have been told they can’t do something or that they need to look a certain way.
“Making a difference and breaking the mold is really why I ran,” she said.
Barnes, 23, is originally from Durham, N.C. and found out about UNCP from a friend who went to the school.
She said she didn’t think much of it at the time but later she had seen a UNCP billboard and she looked up the school. She said she and a couple of friends from high school decided to go to an open house and they all fell in love with the school.
“We just loved the campus and the community,” she said.
Barnes said what really drew her in was the diversity and the welcoming staff.
She said her high school was predominantly African American and she wanted a more diverse college that was not too close or too far from home.
“I wanted something different,” she said, “a change in environment.”
She said Pembroke was perfect for her.
Barnes got her bachelor’s degree in Exercise Sports Science with a concentration in Health Promotion and a minor in Marketing.
She is currently working on her master’s degree in Public Administration.
She said she’s active in dance and yoga and “loves” the yoga classes offered on campus, although she can’t go to many of the classes this semester due to her work schedule.
“I’m very interested in healthy living and healthy eating,” she said.
In the future she hopes to get a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration and use that towards community development and fundraising.
Currently Barnes is involved in GSO and is the Vice President for Black Alumni. She also does some volunteering when she has the time.
Barnes said that the main thing she wants to accomplish during her reign is to increase scholarships, community outreach and support student involvement.
She said she also wants to challenge students to leave their mark on the university and the world.
“I really want to encourage people to be a bridge for someone,” she said, “everyone is here because of someone else.”
Photo by Sara Owen. Londyn Faith Johnson hugs her mother after Barnes is crowned Miss UNCP.