When Imani Muse was crowned Miss Illinois’ Outstanding Teen in June 2019, she was “shocked,” “hopeful “ and “astonished” about what the year ahead of her would bring. Little did she know at the time that her “year” would extend throughout all of 2020 because the world’s Covid-19 pandemic canceled the normal crowning of a new Miss Illinois’ Outstanding Teen in 2020.
Imani was “shocked that all my hard work led me to receive such a prestigious title; hopeful for the great year ahead of me; and astonished that I was the one who made Miss Illinois history by becoming the first African-American to represent Illinois at the national competition.”
The then-16-year-old from Chicago won the Miss Chicago crown to compete for the state title in 2019 in Marion. She is a student at Kenwood Academy High School, and is now leaving her title behind as she prepares for the next phase of her life, including college.
In the national competition, Imani was the non- finalist winner in the interview portion and received the Presidential Scholarship to the University of Alabama, which is in her top two choices for college.
“Miss Illinois opened doors for me that I didn’t even know existed,” Imani says, “and gave me the opportunity to spread my platform #smallactionsmatter.”
“Though Covid changed the way I carried out my year, my experience was nothing short of amazing,” Imani says, “and it was only possible because of my lovely sponsors, who instead of seeing my difference as a burden saw it as an opportunity to further shape the organization into what it is today.”
Though the year-plus was not the perfect ride, Imani says, “the lessons learned help mold you into exactly who you are meant to become. So remember, don’t try to be the next me, try to be the first you.”
The Miss Illinois Organization plans to crown both a new Miss Illinois and a new Miss Illinois’ Outstanding Teen later in 2021. Until then, Miss Illinois 2019, Ariel Beverly, will continue to wear the crown. Victoria Shore of Marion will be crowned Miss Illinois’ Outstanding Teen on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at the Marion Cultural Center at a private, socially distanced event to reign until the new competition is held.