Deborah Gillis-Harry, commonly known as Deborah Queen, legal studies graduate student, is redefining society’s idea of beauty and encouraging self-love across campus.
Queen, who was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, is representing the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the upcoming Miss Africa USA 2016 beauty pageant.
Queen began participating in pageants after she started her bachelor’s program in criminal justice at Texas State.
Growing up, Queen said she struggled with the idea of beauty, image and self-confidence.
In her platform video Queen discusses the difficulties she faced while growing up in Houston.
“When I first came to America, I became aware that I was a black woman,” Queen said. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that being a black woman in America meant that I was deemed unattractive, unintelligent and unworthy.”
The way society portrayed Queen and her culture encouraged her to start her redefining beauty campaign, which became a major focus of her pageant platform over time.
“Redefining beauty started my freshman year as a mission statement for myself,” Queen said. “When the pageant happened, it pushed me to do more with that.”
Today, Queen works as an academic coach for incoming freshman, and advocates self-worth and self-confidence to all of her students.
Norma Arredondo, academic coaching coordinator for the PACE mentoring program, has seen the impact Queen makes on her students.
“She has grown into a really strong, valued individual,” said Arredondo. “I just see her as a really positive role model for her students.”
Queen attributes much of her success to Texas State and San Marcos as a whole.
“When I came to Texas State University, I decided that I didn’t want to live in the shadows of this world’s definition of beauty,” Queen said. “There’s just something about being here that made me want to be a better person. It made me want to come out of my shell.”
The San Marcos scenery encouraged Queen to explore the outside world and observe the beauty around her.
“Seeing nature as the rawest form of beauty allowed me to want more,” Queen said. “That’s when I started developing redefining beauty—it came from being outside and seeing people.”
As a freshman, Queen was encouraged by her friends to participate in her first competition—the Miss Black Texas State pageant.
After winning the title, Queen went on to speak at various workshops across Texas, focusing on her message of redefining beauty and personal development.
Her passion lies within changing people’s negative perceptions of beauty into positive perceptions of self-love at every stage in life.
Samantha Saenz, has been supporting the redefining beauty message ever since she met Queen during her freshman year.
As close friends and roommates, Saenz encourages Queen throughout the pageant process, and will be traveling with her for the Miss Africa USA 2016 pageant.
“People are drawn to her because of the way she carries herself,” Saenz said. “With the way she talks to people, she makes them feel beautiful.”