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How Pageant Queen Ocielia Gibson Empowers Girls With More Than A Pretty Face

A Q&A with former Miss Black USA Ocielia Gibson

It’s what’s on the inside that counts, beauty is only skin deep, physical beauty fades—girls hear positive messages like these all the time. But in our selfie-crazed world with Instagram models aplenty, it’s perhaps harder than ever for girls to take these words to heart. Dallas’ Ocielia Gibson is no stranger to glitz and glam. But the former Miss Black USA and founder of More Than A Pretty Face International is reinforcing the notion that there is much more to beauty than what meets the eye. Through life coaching, seminars, workshops and mentor programs, she’s helping girls build confidence and see that true beauty is defined on their own terms.

Where did you get the idea for More Than A Pretty Face?

More Than A Pretty Face started when I was in college. I had this desire to mentor teen girls. I called a local school down the street from my college and asked if they needed any assistance. I started an after-school mentoring program for what they deemed their high-risk girls on campus, and that’s where More Than A Pretty Face was born. I ended up discovering the amount of societal pressure these girls were facing, self-esteem issues [and a] lack of understanding their identities. Through my work, I aim to teach and empower girls to know that beauty is from the inside out.

How do you define beauty to the girls you mentor?

We go deeper into what it means to be filled with beauty in the five senses. I start with the flavor of beauty, which is the essence of someone. Then we talk about the aroma of beauty, and I ask them sometimes, “Do you know someone who had a funky attitude?” We talk about having a beautiful attitude and that being a facet of beauty. I go into the sound of beauty, which is the words you speak. I take them through the THINK acronym: Is it true, honest, inspiring, necessary or kind? THINK before you speak. Then we go into the touch of beauty, which is how you touch the lives of other people. The icing on the cake is the visual. I explain to them that outer appearance should only be a reflection of the inner radiance you possess.

How have the girls been impacted by your message? Is there a particular story that stands out to you?

I do modeling and confidence camps during the summer. I remember a couple of years ago, I had a young lady who entered into camp. She was so insecure and timid. She wouldn’t really interact too much with the other girls—I had to really encourage her and bring her in. She was afraid to model in the show at the end of the summer. What I talked to her about is that although you’re afraid, prepare yourself for the opportunity as best as you can and face it. We explored why she was afraid and helped her prepare herself. By the end of the summer when we had the show, she was phenomenal. She went out there and she just lit up the crowd! Her head was held high, her face was beaming, she had this gorgeous smile on her face, and you could tell she had such a great sense of pride about doing it. I was so proud of [her] because she made a complete transformation, and her parents noticed it as well.

How has your background in beauty pageants impacted your perception of beauty, and how do you portray that to the girls?

One of the things that pageants did is help illuminate the gifts I had inside. For me, pageantry was another realm of self-discovery. There were talents within me I had not tapped into until I was thrust into an opportunity in which I had to be a role model. It really showed me the importance of using your influence for good. Because I have a beauty queen background, I feel that it opens doors for me and allows me to influence girls with this message even more. And also telling them what won me the pageant titles wasn’t physical beauty—a lot of the times, the biggest part of my score was my talent. It’s the things on the inside that truly make the crown sparkle.

What’s next for More Than A Pretty Face?

I’m looking to work on my next book project, which I’m really excited about. We’re going to be delving into helping young women discover their identities. I’ve found that self-esteem is a big issue, but it’s hard for a girl to build her self-esteem if she doesn’t have a clear understanding of who she is. It will be a resource that young ladies can use and parents as well. I’m [also] really excited about launching the More Than A Pretty Face Institute for girls. Since my reach has expanded, I wanted to put a program together that wasn’t only accessible to girls in [Dallas-Fort Worth], but also make it accessible to girls everywhere. I’m developing it as an online program, and it will be supplemented with in-person workshops for girls here in the Metroplex.