Vincent, Marjorie Judith 1965?–
Marjorie Judith Vincent 1965?–
Miss America 1991
“Not your typical queen,” wrote Yanick Rice Lamb in Essence, describing Marjorie Judith Vincent, crowned Miss America 1991. “She’s got full features, and she doesn’t want to sing or act—she’s going to be a lawyer.” Vincent, who was a third year law student at Duke University when she received the title, won the talent contest during the competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey, when she performed Chopin’s Fantasie-Impromptu, Opus 66 on the piano. The 5 foot 6, 110-pound beauty contestant earned a music degree from De Paul University in 1988. The only black woman in the pageant, Vincent was the fourth black female to become Miss America and the only Miss America crowned by another African-American, Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990. “In a riveting pageant where the beauty-queen image has reigned supreme for several years, newly-crowned Miss America Marjorie Judith Vincent recently proved she’s more than just another pretty face by playing down the contest’s antiquated Barbie-doll stereotype and flaunting her intense intellect and transcendent talent,” disclosed Ardis Carthane in Jet.
Vincent was the first of her parents’ six children to be born in the United States. Her mother and father, Lucien and Florence Vincent, immigrated from Cap Haitien during the early 1960s. Her father was employed as a doorman and check cashier at a hotel in Chicago. Her mother worked as a seamstress and caterer. When Vincent was growing up in Oak Park, Illinois, she and her younger sister Carla, who studied to be a doctor, were good students. “Their books were their best friends,” Lucien Vincent revealed to Lamb. Vincent’s mother and father financed education for all six of their children at Catholic schools in Oak Park and gave them ballet and music lessons. Marjorie began piano at eleven. After winning several competitions in the following years, Vincent decided to become a concert pianist. She entered De Paul University in Chicago as a music major, but changed to business in her junior year. “Business was calling me,” Vincent divulged in Essence. In fact, her business instincts became apparent at a very early age. As a child, Vincent sold her old books to neighborhood friends for a profit until she was discovered by her mother, who made her buy the books back.
Vincent showcased her musical ability in beauty pageants, earning money to pay for her education. Her
At a Glance…
Born c. 1965, in U.S.A.; daughter of Haitian immigrants Lucien (a doorman and check cashier) and Florence (a seamstress and caterer) Vincent. Education: Received degree from De Paul University, Chicago, IL, 1988; law student at Duke University.
Competed in eight local and state beauty pageants; two unsuccessful tries at Miss Illinois title; crowned Miss Illinois, third try, 1991; only black woman in 1991 Miss America pageant; first black woman to be crowned by reigning black queen; fourth black woman to win Miss America contest; representative, Crafted With Pride in the U.S.A.
Awards: Miss Illinois, 1991; Miss America, 1991.
parents stressed that “without an education, there’s not much you can accomplish,” she related to Carthane. Vincent told Lamb that the race for Miss America should be called “the scholarship pageant,” since the competition awards the winner $35,000 in scholarship money. Aware that the talent portion of the competition represented 40% of the judges’ tally, Vincent prepared for the contest by concentrating on her piano performance. “My talent had to be good for me to do well in the pageant and I knew that coming in. Therefore, I think I tried to do (practice) a half hour to an hour every day … but I was also competing in the Miss Illinois pageant and working at a New York law firm at the time so I really didn’t have as much time as I would have liked.”
Vincent chose a platform of domestic violence for the interview portion of the Miss America competition. “I was busy reading newspapers and watching news events on television, trying to keep abreast of current events and what was going on in the world,” she recounted in Jet. When questioned by judges, Vincent cited criminal statistics about the abuse of women and offered suggestions to victimized women, including calling hot lines and finding women’s shelters, which offer jobs, temporary housing, and child care. After winning the pageant, she was so overjoyed that she reportedly wore her rhinestone crown while bathing.
Aside from winning a white Chevrolet Corvette convertible and a new wardrobe, Vincent earned nearly two hundred thousand dollars in public appearances as Miss America—money that will enable her to pay for her degree in corporate and international law. Fluent in French and Creole, she wants to employ her legal skills in Haiti, assisting the Haitian government in economic development. After her reign, Vincent also plans to bring public attention to the issues involved in domestic violence, including the importance of prosecuting abusers under stricter legislation. Her sorority sister, Tamla Roberts, disclosed in Essence that Vincent is “very sincere. She’s not pretentious at all, and she doesn’t like to be around people who are.” Vincent credits her parents and others with similar attributes as her role models. Studying Japanese, she has included work in an international arena in her future. Vincent also hopes to start a family. As she divulged to Carthane, “I love children and I see myself one day married with a few children.”
Essence, January 1991; June 1991.
Jet, September 3, 1990; September 24, 1990; October 1, 1990.
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