A Regal Tradition
The 111th Miss FAMU carries on the university’s legacy of student service
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Be an example
“At the end of the day, you’re a representative of the students, but you also want to feel as if you are one of the students,” said Fred Johnson, the 12th Mister FAMU, serving from 2011–2012.
courtesy of Trenice Dessaray Seniors
Trenice Dessaray Seniors reigned as Miss FAMU in 1989-1990, winning first runner-up at the 1989 Competition of Black College Queens. In recent years, Seniors has advised the Royal Court.
Johnson has lived in Los Angeles for the past two years. He now works for Studio71, a digital media company, managing YouTube and Instagram stars; but he is better known for starring on the 13th season of The Bachelorette, among other reality television work.
He’s famous at FAMU for another reason: Johnson is the brother of the 111th Miss FAMU, Michelle Johnson, and the son of the 75th Miss FAMU, Vivian Bradley Johnson. Because of his mother, he said, “being Mister FAMU was always in the back of my mind. I knew what the position did — it’s been in my family.”
The group dynamic of being part of a larger unit — the Royal Court — can be stressful, Johnson remembered.
“I think we did our best to be seen as a cohesive unit. But behind the closed doors, you’ve got to wake up at a certain time … maybe people are in the bathroom for too long — that, people don’t see. Someone may be mad at somebody, but try to straighten up.”
He added that that he told his sister, “Be an example, so that people can see you’re not just turning a switch on or off — that you’re someone who is that person all of the time.”
“I think that the position (of Miss FAMU) is very profound,” said Trenice Desseray Seniors, the 83rd Miss FAMU. For the last 20 years, Seniors has owned Celebrity Hair Design in Tallahassee. For her, Miss FAMU was a turning point.
Seniors described transforming herself as a young woman to fit the role: “The standards you hold for yourself may not be what they need to be, but when you see Miss FAMU, how she carries herself, how she speaks, you say, ‘OK, the bar I’m using to measure myself — maybe I need to reevaluate that.’”
Courtesy of Vivian Johnson
Family ties: Vivian Johnson (pictured) reigned as Miss FAMU in 1981-1982. A daughter and son have each served as FAMU royalty: Michelle Johnson, the current Miss FAMU; and Fred Johnson, Mister FAMU, 2011-2012. Another daughter, Erika Johnson, is a freshman at FAMU.
Seniors, who served as an advisor to the Royal Court during the time when Fred Johnson was Mister FAMU, remembered a stricter standard being in place during her reign.
“The administrators had a heavy hand, then, in what I did as Miss FAMU. I literally couldn’t go anywhere without people recognizing me, and a lot of people were old fashioned. I couldn’t have a boyfriend that they knew of.”
Seniors recalled an important shift in her conception of the role: “The man who was my boyfriend — he’s now my husband — we were at a basketball game, one of the big games they have at the end of the football season. We were walking up the stairs, holding hands, and someone said, ‘No, Miss FAMU, no!’”
She paused. “I said (to my boyfriend), ‘Let my hand go.’ From that point on, I realized I had a charge. The administration looks at you, the city, the student body.”
Today’s Miss and Mister FAMU develop platforms — charitable causes they plan to work on over the course of their reign. That’s all new, Seniors said.
“They’re mixing it up now because Miss FAMU has to be more progressive in her thinking. Back then, the university pretty much managed that position. They (the students) have their own minds now.”