VCU grad crowned Miss Maryland USA

Mamé Adjei, an advocate for women and youth, will compete in next year's Miss USA pageant.

VCU grad crowned Miss Maryland USA

Mamé Adjei, who graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in May, has been crowned Miss Maryland USA and will compete in the Miss USA pageant in summer 2015.

Adjei, a 23-year-old Ghanaian-American from Silver Spring, Maryland, and a double major in political science and African American studies in VCU's College of Humanities and Sciences, said she decided to enter the Miss Maryland competition as a way to challenge herself.

"I am a shy person and I wanted to do something that would force me to interact with others in various capacities and teach me to become a better public speaker," she said. "I also wanted to do this because I knew that when I won the title, I would have the opportunity to use my title to truly affect change in the ways that I envisioned."

Adjei, who has worked as a model since she was 16 but had never entered a pageant before, is co-founder of the nonprofit organization Empress Foundation, which aims to empower disconnected women and youth around the world.

"We mentor, train and inspire in the areas of entrepreneurship, scholastic achievement and social advocacy," she said. "These activities are the cornerstone of the foundation’s path to personal development. In addition, we advocate for social assistance for disadvantaged individuals and groups within our target demographic."

Adjei said she is passionate about humanitarianism and aspires to earn a law degree in international human rights so she can work to affect change on a global scale through advocacy and public policy, with a focus on helping young girls access education.

She currently works on the "Rule of Law Index" as an intern for the nonprofit World Justice Project in Washington, D.C. "I love it because its mission of strengthening the rule of law is right in line with everything that I want to do, and I am learning so much that is inspiring me to want to do even more," she said.

Adjei has also worked with an organization in Ivory Coast to raise awareness and educate people about Ebola.

Adjei has been living in the United States without her parents — who work in foreign affairs — since age 9. Her best friend's mother is her guardian.

"Having to become my own navigator and motivator at a young age, led me to become very independent and self-sufficient," she said. "I am trilingual, speaking Twi which is a Ghanaian language, French and English, of course. And I am very spiritual; I will everything I want to accomplish into existence by praying and working hard at it and [by] holding myself accountable to achieve them."

The road to the Miss Maryland pageant, she said, was far more difficult than many people might realize. Contestants spent the summer raising money through sponsorships, as well as campaigning for support, while also preparing for the judge's interviews, working out to stay in shape, and gathering wardrobe items.

"It is a lot harder than it looks!" she said. "And everyone that competes walks away having learned so much and feeling well-accomplished."


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