NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – It is always special when former TSU students return to campus, but for Juanita Brown Ingram, that moment on Wednesday was extra special. The red carpet was laid out, as TSU officials, student leaders and community officials were on hand, to welcome the reigning Mrs. Universe, a 1999 graduate and former member of the Grammy award-winning Aristocrat of Bands. Ingram, the first African American woman to wear the coveted crown, was on campus for Tea Time, “A Conversation with Mrs. Universe,” organized by the Offices of Student Affairs, and Alumni Relations.
“It is exciting and an honor to be back to where it all began,” Ingram said at the event in Elliott Hall. The former TSU honor student has gone on to world-wide fame as an attorney, author, actress, and award-winning TV producer. In addition to the Mrs. Universe crown, Ingram is the first African American woman to compete and win the titles of Mrs. Indiana United States in 2007, Ms. World International 2012, Mrs. UK Universe 2013, Mrs. Great Britain World 2011, and Mrs. UK International 2014.
The Tea Time, a “A Conversation with Mrs. Universe,” moderated by Miss TSU, Sa’Mariah Harding, gave Ingram the opportunity to share with TSU students what being a Mrs. Universe has meant to her, and how TSU helped to shape her future. In the audience were three former Miss TSUs, organizations and class queens, as well as Jordan Smith, the current Miss Fisk University.
“I love the time that I was here. I always said my experience at TSU is the reason why I am who I am today,” Ingram said, adding that being a member of AOB gave her an extra motivation for success. “I marched all four years in the band here. It thought me discipline, gave me tenacity, and the ability to overcome obstacles and to not shrink to a challenge. So, I think whether it was passing the bar or being Mrs. Universe, it really gave me the foundation to be who I am today.”
Cristal Powell Roach, assistant dean of Student Activities and Leadership, said bringing Mrs. Universe to TSU was an effort to inspire “our students” about the endless possibilities as they go after their own dreams, careers, and future goals.
“She is an attorney, she is an executive producer, so she’s done a plethora of things. That’s remarkable,” Roach said. “So, we just wanted the young girls to know what she does and who she is. She is the first African American Mrs. Universe, so that’s huge. So, we just wanted to create the opportunity.”
Debbi Howard, director of Alumni Relations, said “A conversation with Mrs. Universe,” was part of “Alumni Talks: ‘Queen & Co,’” a quarterly speaker series, where they bring in alumni to share success stories with students.
“We acknowledge all of our former queens, and the visiting Miss Fisk University for accepting our invitation to be here today,” Howard said.
Barbara Murrell, Miss TSU ‘59/’60; Chandra Norman Lipscomb, Miss TSU ‘79/’80; and Mallory Moore, Miss TSU ‘21/’22 were among former TSU queens who welcomed Mrs. Universe. Joining them was Aliyah Holmes, executive vice president of the Student Government Association, who made a special presentation to Ingram.
Ingram earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from TSU. She and her family currently live in Singapore.