TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A diverse group of Tampa Bay Queens are competing in the Miss Florida USA pageant, but they’re doing it together as a sisterhood.
“I just slid in their DMs and said can we have lunch?,” Udeme Ikaiddi said.
It was Ikaiddi’s direct message on the social media site, Instagram, that brought different Queens from the area together.
“They actually surprised me to celebrate my birthday. It was amazing because it was the first time I met them, and yet they were trying to celebrate my birthday,” Ikaiddi said.
Ikaiddi is Miss New Tampa USA. Her pageant days started while attending the University of South Florida and serving on different pageant boards.
“My older sister and I used to watch Miss Universe on the TV all the time, but we never thought that would be something one of us would be able to accomplish or be on that stage,” she said.
She then decided to compete in the cultural Miss Akwaibom USA pageant in 2019 and she won.
“When I won that title, I kind of looked myself in the mirror and said, okay what’s next?” she said.
Well, Miss New Tampa was next.
“My struggle with mental health issues and confidence issues throughout my teenage years really made me who I am today,” she said. “Now that I’m confident in my heritage, my skin and our people and diaspora, if there are young boys and young girls looking up to me I want them to know you can do anything you can put your mind to.”
Ikaiddi is one of 18 young women competing in the Miss Florida/Miss Florida Teen USA pageant.
“It’s not just me I have all of my sister Queen representing every piece of Tampa and one of us will be coming home with that crown and I’m tellingy ou that for free,” Ikaiddi said.
Ikaiddi is Nigerian and more than half of the Tampa Bay Queens are minorities.
“My mom side of the family is from Guiana, so South America, and my dad is from Turkey,” Eliza Smith said.
Smith is Miss Land O Lakes Teen USA. She has competed in pageants for nine years.
“I want to leave a legacy behind,” Smith said. “Not only as Miss Land O’ Lakes Teen USA, not only as Eliza, but I want to leave a legacy behind for people to follow.”
Smith is using her platform to bring awareness to mental health and more.
“I try to do a whole bunch of different things because awareness is super important. My platform is mental health, but I also volunteer with organizations like Best Buddies which works with people with special needs.”
Kristin Tomasello is Miss East Tampa USA.
“We’re representing a title which we hope to leave a legacy behind for generations to come,” Tomasello said.
Tomasello is currently a nursing student who is the organizer of the non-profit, Remarkable Reasons. It’s an organization working to help people and families who are undergoing medical problems.
“I want to serve,” Tomasello said. “I want to help because of my upbringing with my father having Leukemia, and he had it twice, and I have Lupus, so helping people is my passion.”
Although Miss Florida USA is a competition, these young ladies are sisters. For the past three months, they have supported each other in their personal, professional and pageant lives.
“I just love them all so much,” Tomasello said.
“I’ve been in pageants for nine years, and I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” Smith said.
For the Tampa Bay Queens, it’s not about an individual winning the crown, but rather the crown coming home to Tampa Bay.
“Team Champa for the win,” Ikaiddi said.
All Tampa Bay Queen compete Saturday at 3 p.m. in Coral Springs.