A Regal Tradition
The 111th Miss FAMU carries on the university’s legacy of student service
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Cadet Jordan Sealey ran for Mister FAMU on a platform of service to country, community and campus.
Introducing: This year’s Miss and Mister
“Everyone is passionate about what they want at our university,” explained the 2017–2018 reigning Miss FAMU, Michelle “Marva” Johnson, at a cafe near campus. “It’s go big or go home.”
The third-generation Rattler hopes one day to form a production company with her family, including her brother, Fred. Raised near Dallas, Texas, Johnson is a double major, studying business administration and theatre and performing arts, and she belongs to several student organizations on campus.
Unlike many of her predecessors in the office, Johnson didn’t serve on the Royal Court before deciding to run.
“Even when I was younger, when I was in church, people would say, ‘Hey, Miss FAMU!’ — and I hadn’t even come here yet,” she said.
Despite the family history — the reigns of her mother and brother — she wanted to make sure she could do more than fulfill a legacy.
Johnson prayed, and she began to see signs.
“I’m the 111th Miss FAMU. I’d see that number in the price of gas or the score of a basketball game,” she said.
Creating a legacy is important to Jordan Alexander Sealey, the 2017–2018 Mister FAMU, who followed Johnson’s story by telling his own. He said that his mother moved from Guyana to Brooklyn, New York, as a young child, and then he moved from New York to Florida at about the same age.
“She has such a rich heritage — a rich legacy,” he said, speaking of his mother. “I’m trying to make my own legacy.”
Cadet Sealey has served his country since the age of 17 as a United States Army Reservist. He now studies construction, engineering and technology; minors in military science leadership; and is an active leader in FAMU’s ROTC, while finding time for many other campus memberships and activities.
A few years ago, a member of the Royal Court suggested that Sealey apply to be an attendant escort because he dresses and speaks well, he said. He soon found himself in the position to escort the graduate attendant, although he was a sophomore at the time.
“Last year’s Mister and Miss, they sort of handpicked me,” Sealey said. “Once I saw that they saw me in that light, it opened my eyes. When those people who are actually doing the jobs see you possess the right qualities, it holds more weight.”
He decided to run, he said, because, “I thought I could do more for the university in this role.”
Johnson and Sealey lit up when talking about the campaigning they’d done for their jobs.
“The hardest part was campaign week,” Johnson said. After two dead days following the Sunday when students declare their candidacy, campaign week always begins at 7 a.m. on a Wednesday (last year, it was in March).
“There used to be people who would hold your spot overnight,” Sealey said, explaining that there are approved spots on campus to hang posters. “You have someone putting their hand on a spot for you from five to seven in the morning. Those are your people, ride or die.”
“I did that for two different people,” Johnson said.
During the campaign, Johnson and Sealey each promoted to students the platform of individual goals they hoped to achieve during their term. Johnson started a Miss FAMU scholarship on campus with funds donated by former Miss FAMUs, and she wants to raise donations to put together care packages for FAMU athletes.
“The other thing I want to do is a Fallen Rattler Memorial,” she says, “for Rattlers who have passed away too soon or who made a large impact on the university.”
“I ran on service — to your country, your community, your campus,” Sealey said. He said that he is now leading a clothing drive for a homeless shelter and has started a Mister FAMU Enrichment Program. He also spoke with excitement about the royal escort program that he wants to begin in partnership with five Leon County High Schools.
“They’ll walk around the field like we do. It will serve as recruitment,” he said.
On Sunday of campaign week, everyone running for a Royal Court position competes in a pageant in Lee Hall, which features a greeting, a dance routine, a business walk, a model walk, a formal wear competition and a talent competition.
“Even if you don’t care about FAMU politics, you go,” Sealey said.
After the pageant, candidates sometimes travel to FAMU’s law school in Orlando to meet briefly with law students. Then, on Tuesday, the student body votes.
“The president and senators were all running at the same time as us,” Sealey said. “It was mayhem.”
“The running isn’t pretty,” Johnson added. “You have to keep the faith.”
Sealey nodded. “You have to know you can’t please everyone.”
At last, the Coronation
The processional began with Williams and Griffin, the departing Miss and Mister, and continued with the attendants in ascending order. Each time a new member of the Royal Court appeared at the doorway at the back of Lee Auditorium, loud applause and the gleeful shouts of students momentarily blocked the recorded sound of Pachelbel’s Canon.
As the Royal Court members walked, one by one, down the long length of the room, announcers read each student’s achievements — often to a wall of screams. Following a command to “Bring in the Royal Adornments,” Ariston Ackerman and the other children joined the attendants on stage. A color guard and honor guard stood at attention.
The 111th Miss FAMU entered in a white ball gown with a tulle skirt and a long train, taking the hand of the 18th Mr. FAMU as she ascended to the stage. Johnson had bought the dress in Texas when schools were closed for Hurricane Irma, she said.
Later in the program, Sealey would thank his mother, who had come to Tallahassee to watch this moment, echoing what he had said earlier, at the café: “Everything I do is a return of her investment.”
Performers would entertain the new Mister and Miss with a song of dedication and a dance of salutation. The interim president of FAMU, Dr. Larry Robinson, would ascend the stage to address the gathered students and to tell Sealey and Johnson: “I want you to understand the gravity of the roles you now hold. You will always be Mister and Miss FAMU.”
But now, the 110th Miss FAMU was pinning an eight-inch crown to Michelle Johnson’s head. A shout of “Marva, you look good!” erupted from the back of the room. When Johnson began to cry, Sealey handed her a tissue.
She began her speech by saying that it hadn’t been easy to attain the role of Miss FAMU, but that it was love that brought her through — love from friends, from mentees, from sisters and a love for the university.
“It’s our flaws that make us real,” she said.
She also thanked her classmates for “seeing the difference” in her. “What you saw is in my walk, it’s in my talk. It’s FAMU. She’s all of me, and baby, I am ALL of her. Every student, every personality, every up and every down. That is what makes a Miss FAMU. She isn’t the best of what the university has to offer; she is all of what the school has to offer. When she cries, I cry; when she smiles, I smile. When she wins … I win.”