Indiana State University Newsroom

Nussar wins Miss Ebony competition

October 17, 2014

In just one night, Indiana State University freshman Youstina Nussar won a $1,500 scholarship, raised awareness for a cause and earned a blue sash and a sparkling crown.

Before an enthusiastic crowd and five judges, Nussar confidently displayed her professionalism, talent, intelligence and beauty to earn first place in the 2014 Miss Ebony Scholarship Pageant Oct. 11 in Tilson Auditorium.

The native of Cairo, Egypt, fell to her knees in shock as she heard her name announced as the 2014 Miss Ebony.

"It was unexpected," said Nussar, a civil engineering major. "How I feel - the reaction cannot be expressed. I'm so happy. Finally, I made my dream come true ... Winning Miss Ebony will give power to my voice and especially to my platform for empowering women."

But winning wasn't easy. Nussar faced tough competition from eight other Indiana State students.

Only a one-point difference decided the top two awards. The first runner-up title and a $750 scholarship went to Jaylon Hines, a marketing and public relations student from Gary. The junior also earned the title of Miss Congeniality, an award voted by the contestants for the most friendly, charismatic and inspirational participant.

Vivian Chukwuka, a senior public relations major from Nigeria, won second runner-up and a $500 scholarship. Kieara Mosley, a nursing major from Chicago, won the Audience Choice Award by collecting the most in ticket sales when she and other contestants promoted the pageant on campus. The $280 she collected will go to a charity associated with her cause (also called a platform) of autism awareness.

Contestants were evaluated by a private interview with judges, business attire, talent, evening wear and their answer to an onstage question.

The business wear competition gave contestants a chance to display their professional style and personality. Each woman had to incorporate a white cardigan in her outfit in a unique way. Nussar sported the buttoned-up cardigan under a black blazer and completed the outfit with a black pencil skirt and heels.

Nussar later impressed the crowd with an Egyptian belly dance during the talent competition. Judges paid close attention to details, such as the contestant's interpretive ability, performance technique, stage presence and costume. Other talents of the show included vocal performances, a piano recital and poetry reading.

Audience members and the judges then viewed the physical beauty of the contestants during the evening gown competition. Contestants were judged by their display of self-confidence, stage presence, walk, grace, style and personality. Nussar strode across the stage in a pink, sparkling ball gown.

The final challenge for the contestants was the onstage interview that allowed the judges to learn more about the women's intelligence and poise. Selecting a question on a slip of paper in a glass bowl, Nussar was asked about her most significant accomplishment in life. Coming to the United States to major in civil engineering, a very difficult task for a woman to do in Egypt, is her most important success, she said.

The pageant also featured Indiana State student organizations Divine Praise and the African Student Union, which entertained the audience with choreographed dance numbers. Students Domonique Wickware-Kelly and Corey Smith gave the last performance, a rendition of John Legend's "All of Me," while the audience waited for the judges to decide the winners.

With the judges' decision, the award winners also earned the distinction of being the first since 2009, the year of the last Miss Ebony Pageant. The pageant returned at the request of Indiana State students. And that request that was heard by Julia Bruce and Elonda Ervin.

Bruce, an administrative assistant in the Charles E. Brown African American Cultural Center, and Ervin, the university's diversity officer, brought the pageant back - but with a twist.

The pageant, established in 1973, maintains its five competitive components and is still a pathway to other pageants if contestants want to pursue those opportunities. But Bruce and Ervin changed the focus of Miss Ebony to academic and professional success by offering scholarships as the top three awards.

"We really are talking about having the ability for these students to stay on campus and be involved in their education," Ervin said. "All we want students to do is finish their education. Whatever money we can find to supplement what students already have is the beauty of this pageant."

Ervin said almost all of the women chose to participate in part because of finances. But they also participated, because they believed the pageant would give them more confidence, self-identity, exposure to the pageant experience and a chance to make new friends.

"I think all of them got that," she said.Photo: - Youstina Nussar waves to the audience after she was crowned Miss Ebony 2014. (ISU/Angelique Bokamba)

Contact: Elonda Ervin, university diversity officer, Indiana State University, 812-237-8513 or

Writer: Elise Lima, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3773 or