The sounds of wooden dominoes clacking from the Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos (FEC), chants of A-A-A-C-S from the Association of Commuter Students (ACS), cheers from United Black Students and applause from the Caribbean Students Association filled the Shalala Student Center’s Grand Ballroom Monday as students competed to be crowned Homecoming Queen, King, Princess and Prince.
“We are so passionate,” said Hugo Mijares-Bracho, the Intramural Chair of FEC. “We love each other so much and we want to spread that love to everyone on campus.”
The Homecoming Executive Committee (HEC) entertained a packed crowd at the University of Miami’s first Homecoming King and Queen Pageant in two years. 12 students from a variety of organizations, years and majors showed off their talents in dancing, acting, poetry, fashion, music and singing throughout the night.
From the greater audience, the spirit was palpable, with students cheering on their friends and favorite acts as they performed in the various stages of the competition.
“The energy is wild,” said Ari Mubanda, a senior and pageant participant. “It’s an undeniable love for the university. You can really feel the energy amongst everyone.”
As the night came to a close, eight students were selected to move on to the final poise round, where each candidate answered one question about their experience at UM. Questions ranged from life lessons learned to favorite places on campus, with each answer receiving ample applause and even standing ovations.
Participants, some competing on behalf of various student organizations, then waited eagerly as Landon Coles, host of the homecoming pageant and Student Government President, announced the night’s big winners.
Mubanda won Homecoming Queen on her own behalf. Corey Jones, a senior and captain of Co-Ed Organized Cheer, won Homecoming King on behalf of FEC.
Christine Sanchez, a senior and former president of FEC, won Homecoming Princess on behalf of FEC. Paul Douillon, a sophomore and Vice President of the Student Government Senate, won Homecoming Prince on behalf of Student Government.
Before the pageant, Mubanda described why she aspired to win Homecoming Queen.
“With my talent, I want to make people smile through dancing. I want to get the crowd up on their feet and feel some sort of way,” Mubanda said. “I try to find new ways to promote finding your self-love and being able to lead your life by that. I want to make people smile more.”
Winning candidates expressed pride and joy at being able to represent their organizations and university.
“The feeling is so surreal. I can’t believe this is happening right now,” Jones said. “To win king is such an honor. I feel so privileged to be able to say that I can represent our university during Homecoming Week.”
Sanchez described how meaningful winning Homecoming Princess was to her on both a personal and organizational level.
“I’ve always wanted the opportunity to represent FEC in this way,” Sanchez said. “I’ve been looking forward to it since I was a freshman, but now that I’m a senior I can do it.”
While not every candidate won a crown, participants, who were selected after an extensive application process, say they enjoyed the opportunity to compete in the homecoming pageant regardless of the outcome.
“I’ve met a ton of people and have made so many great experiences in ACS,” said Erick Hernandez, a sophomore who represented ACS. “I’ve become a person I’m really proud of and a person I really like.”
Several of the candidates are seniors who say they competed to leave a lasting final impression on the university before graduating.
Excitement amongst the candidates who performed were high but also was accompanied by some nerves.
“My peers really encouraged me to apply because they believed in me and they saw something in me that they wanted me to represent. For me, that’s a huge honor, but that gives quite a bit of pressure to deliver,” Douillon said. “At the same time though, I am so excited. It kicked in for me that this is happening the morning of the pageant.”
Win or lose, attendees and participants alike say they are grateful that one of UM’s most beloved annual traditions has come back after a two year hiatus.
“I was really just happy to be a part of the pageant and it was so much fun to see how much we progressed and we’ve truly grown to make this amazing show,” Mubanda said.