Through Pageant, a Quest to Inspire and Give Back to Community

Posted on August 4th, 2015 by Emily Tomlinson

By Susan Elzey, Special to the Danville Register & Bee

echols_kristen1Kristen Echols chose a goal and reached it, admitting she surprised even herself.

Now she is telling as many young girls as she can that they too can be self-sufficient, are important as individuals and have self-worth.

Her goal was to become Miss Black Virginia America Coed; she found out in April she had done so. Her job now is to finish the requirements to compete in the national competition in Dallas, Texas, next June.

Echols graduated from Galileo Magnet High School in 2007 and Averett University in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. She is currently enrolled in a master’s program for accounting at Liberty University in Lynchburg.

“I had always looked at pageants, but I didn’t want to do a beauty pageant,” said Echols. “Then I came across the Miss Black Virginia America Coed pageant which said it wasn’t a beauty pageant and that I had to pass certain levels, so I decided to do it.”

Giving back

One requirement is that she perform 200 hours of community service.

The main way she is doing this, with the help of two friends, is putting on “Charmed, I Am Sure” charm schools for girls ages 6-18.

She also had to have at least a 3.0 GPA in college, send in pictures and complete an essay on how she wanted to give back to the community if she won.

“Our charm schools last from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays with lunch provided,” she explained. “I give an opening speech and then we divide them up into groups by age. Our first class is on attire and makeup with an emphasis on ‘less is more.’ The second class is on dining and styles. The younger ones learn how to act in a restaurant, and the older ones learn how to use utensils. In the third class, the older girls have mock job interviews and learn about resumes and college essays.”

The girls also learn how to walk, speak and act like a lady, Echols said.

Besides the charm schools, which is a program of the national Miss Black Virginia America Coed pageant, Echols speaks at churches, puts on fashion and talent shows and plans on doing community service during the holidays with non-profit organizations.

She also works full-time as an operations loan administrator for CIT. For a while she put her graduate work on hold to help care for her father who was having some health problems, but with his health now stable, she is back online working on her master’s degree.

Echols is the oldest of triplets. Her sister, Krystal Farmer, and brother, Kristopher Echols, both live in Danville.

“It has always been instilled in each of us to establish our own identity because for so long, and from a lot of people, we have been known as ‘the triplets,’” Echols said. “As a result, I had to take some time to evaluate my life and what Kristen wanted out of it. I have always tried to carry myself as a role model because I have worked with youth for so long, whether at my church or in my community.

“So I know how important it is to have someone making goals and achieving them. It lets them know that the stars are reachable. Representing my state is definitely an honor and truly humbling. Also, my family and community have been a great support system throughout this journey.”

The next step

Next June, Echols and her family will travel to Dallas to compete for the national title.

“There will be three competitions of evening gown, active wear and interview attire and a prize package of a Mary Kay giveaway and a $4,000 scholarship,” Echols said.

“Of course, I would love to win the title of Miss Black Virginia America Coed 2015; however, just making it this far means more than I can explain. I’m from Danville, this small town in Virginia, and I’m representing the entire state. I want younger girls to think it’s a beautiful thing to stand out.”

Echols is accepting engagements to speak and invites girls to participate in her charm schools. Contact her at kristen.p.echols@gmail.com.