Two members of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Elisa Briones and Marissa Johnson, will be competing in the 2013-14 Miss Indian Arizona Scholarship Program on Saturday, October 12 at Chandler Center for the Arts.
The program is sponsored by the Miss Indian Arizona Association and the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona to help young American Indian women pursue their educational goals. Because of a rule change, this year two representatives from each of Arizona’s tribes may enter, instead of only one.
“I have wanted to run in this pageant for a very long time,” said Johnson, “but I wasn’t able to participate because I never held the title of Miss Salt River, I only held the runner-up title. But I was finally able to get in this year.”
Briones is eligible because she was Miss Salt River 2011-12, and Miss Salt River automatically is entered into the Miss Indian Arizona program.
Contestants must be enrolled members of an Arizona tribe and between the ages of 17 and 24. They may be either tribal royalty or “at large” participants, sponsored by a tribe, family, organization or business, as long as they meet the other eligibility criteria based on good character and conduct.
Johnson said that the Miss Indian Arizona pageant was the first pageant she ever saw, and it inspired her to enter pageants. She has competed in the Jr. and Miss Salt River pageants, and last year she ran for Miss Indian World.
“I really believe in the association and the girls who participate in the pageant,” said Johnson.
When asked what she will be looking forward to most, Johnson said the whole pageant week leading up to the October 12 pageant.
“I will be attending workshops, meeting with the girls and judges; it’s going to be a busy week,” said Johnson. “My platform is Empowerment Through Inspiration.
Every person has the opportunity to be successful in what they choose to do by helping others see the beauty, excellence and evolvement in all domains of life. I’ve learned that in order to be happy, you have to love what you do; and in order to learn, you must surround yourself with people who inspire you.”
As someone who loves playing music, Johnson said her talent will be playing harp to background music that she also played.
“If I win or place in the pageant, my goal is to be a team member for all the tribes, whatever their goals and causes may be, and build a relationship with all the communities,” said Johnson.
Johnson encourages interested young ladies to “go for it, practice and prepare,” and have their families and friends there for support.
When she was younger, Briones never imagined that she would be competing in pageants. But after giving it a try, she became comfortable representing the Community as Miss Salt River.
“I thought I wasn’t really a pageant girl, but then I cannot say that because I was Miss Salt River and I did enjoy it,” said Briones. Although she was a bit hesitant about Miss Indian Arizona at first, encouragement from others has inspired her, and now she is looking forward to the Miss Indian Arizona program.
“I look forward to seeing everyone in the NARD Parade and being a participant in the Miss Indian Arizona pageant,” said Briones. Her platform for the pageant will be Cultural Preservation.
“A lot of my friends were past royalty, and being in the Salt River Youth Council and working in the Community’s Huhugam Ki Museum, I have learned a lot about my culture.
“My goal is to get a degree in museum studies and bring [her knowledge] back to the Community,” said Briones. “I’m really excited, and it’s definitely going to be interesting.”
Tickets for Miss Indian Arizona may be purchased from the Chandler Center for the Arts Box Office, (480) 782-2680 or online at www.chandlercenter.org. Ticket prices are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under.
For more information about the scholarship program, go to www.missindianarizona.com.