University Beat
1:29 pm
Fri January 11, 2013

Will a USF Grad Be Miss America?

Aniska Tonge, Miss Virgin Islands 2012 and USF graduate, will compete in this weekend's Miss America pageant.
Credit USF Arts & Sciences

When the 53 contestants take the stage for the finals of the Miss America 2013 competition Saturday night in Las Vegas, a USF Bull will be among them.

Aniska Tonge graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in psychology only three months before winning the title of Miss Virgin Islands 2012. She also minored in women's studies.

In an interview with USF's College of Arts and Sciences, Tonge sayid her pageant platform focuses on "building self-esteem for young women through education," a subject she learned quite a bit about through her college courses.

Tonge strives to never have that unyielding focus on her beauty over her value as a person. Gender studies helped her to understand that about herself, especially the “Women and Media” and “Issues of Feminism” classes that she took with Professor Kim Golombisky  at USF.

Pageantry is such an outlet for women’s rights, Tonge said, because of the greater connections and larger audiences that are acquired through networking.

Tonge, a native of St. Thomas, isn't the first USF graduate to take part in the Miss America competition. Nicole Johnson (class of 1996) won the crown in 1999. Johnson has since returned to USF, where she's the executive director of Bringing Science Home, while also pursuing her doctorate in the College of Public Health.

Tonge also isn't the only competitor with ties to the Tampa Bay area. Miss Florida 2012, Laura McKeeman, is from St. Petersburg and won Miss Pinellas County before taking the state title.