Trying for the crown: Contestants share dream of becoming Miss Navajo
Four young ladies will compete for Miss Navajo Nation and they are Gypsy Pete, Shandiin Hiosik Yazzie, Niagara Rockbridge and Oshkaillah Ironshell.
Each young lady has years under their belt of running in pageants and, like many before them, competing for Miss Navajo has been a dream they’ve had since they were young girls.
“I’ve always wanted to run for Miss Navajo since I was 10 years old,” said Pete, 24, from Rock Point. “So this is a 14-year journey for me competing in previous competition and pageants, and holding several titles.
“It has built my way up to running for Miss Navajo,” she said. “For me running for Miss Navajo is being a leadership role model and ambassador for the Navajo people.”
The Navajo Nation Fair was recently announced as canceled by the Navajo Nation Fair Office, Department of Agriculture and Division of Natural Resources due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 and its variants.
But the Miss Navajo competition will continue.
Last year, all Navajo Nation fairs were canceled due to the pandemic along with the pageant. Because of this, Shaandiin Parrish served two years as Miss Navajo.
She has helped in different ways such as distributing food, supplies and personal protective equipment.
For this year’s pageant, she had figured out how it could take place safely. Holding the pageant virtually was the route to go.
“The part of always wearing your masks and the virtual pageant was always part of the discussion,” said Parrish. “My experience with the pandemic this year, I knew our people’s safety was first and foremost. I knew how contagious these variants have been. Our people’s health and safety was the first consideration for this pageant.”
For 25-year-old Yazzie, who is from St. Michaels, former Miss Navajo Radmilla Cody was her inspiration.
Since Yazzie is half Navajo, she said she was bullied for this.
But this struggle has given her insights to her Navajo, Akimel O’oodam and Yaqui bloodline and how she can help all her people.
“I’ve been working with my community and organizing and just understanding what the concerns were,” said Yazzie. “Right now, I’m studying to become a tribal advocate so I can support my communities here. Through being Miss Navajo…I want to remind our people about restorative and transformative justice and other routes we can do instead of always the punishment.”
Also competing in other pageants when she was young, Rockbridge, 22, from Pinon, always set her sights on one day competing for Miss Navajo.
During the pandemic she said she reflected on the importance of kinship, loving one another and mental health.
“Talking about K’e and how that can help us move forward our language, culture and our ways of lives,” said Rockbridge. “To help us become better people and to harmonize our ways of life again.”
With friends and other youth who have struggled in life, Ironshell, 19, from St. Michaels, said this is a reason she is running for Miss Navajo. Strengthening and empowering the youth is her platform, she said.
“Miss Navajo, she’s a mother grandmother, aunt and my number one platform here is to re-strengthen and empower our youth,” said Ironshell. “We are role models.”
The pageant will only allow 25 people to attend and will be limited to contestants, judges, the event coordinator and safety personnel.
The 69th Annual Miss Navajo Nation Pageant will take place from Sept. 6 through Sept. 10, with the coronation on Sept. 11.
The pageant will be available for the public to view virtually through Facebook and YouTube streaming platforms.
“I’m very excited we have four contestants this year,” said Parrish. “This is a true sign of resilience. I think in the past the contestant number has been the topic of conversation, so this year I’m honored have young ladies who want to continue the position.”
First Lady Phefelia Nez agreed that seeing these four ladies run for the title is a positive thing, especially after the turbulent year of the pandemic.
“I’m excited it’s on a virtual platform,” said Nez. “There’s a lot more publicity attached to it and I hope that will inspire the younger people to see what all happens and what it entails.
“The requirements for this competition are at a very high standard,” she said. “I told them the other day, ‘Your requirements to run for this pageant is even higher than running for the president of the Navajo Nation.’”