‘When will we ever get our moment?’ | Pariss Smoot crowned first Black homecoming queen at Jackson Academy
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It can be easy to write off the conversations that teenage girls hold between their tight-knit friend groups as nothing more than frivolous teenage lore.
However, to those who are lucky enough to be privy to these conversations, you’ll find that they house sacred secrets, inside jokes, and musings about their wildest dreams.
“When will we ever get our moment?”
This was a common question asked among Pariss Smoot and her friends.
This “moment” refers to when one of them would procure a spot on the Jackson Academy homecoming court.
“There has never been a Black girl from our year to make the court, and we always noticed it,” Smoot explained.
“Oh my gosh, it’s never going to happen.”
Smoot and her friends were ready to write this dream off, but then a shift happened, and history was made.
Not only did three best friends make it to the homecoming court, but one of them would reign supreme.
Smoot was crowned Jackson Academy’s first Black homecoming queen in front of a crowd that was filled with community supporters, proud classmates, and little girls who hoped to one day fill her high-heeled shoes.
“Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good becomes better and your better becomes best.”
While this quote appealed to Smoot because of the challenge of conquering a tongue twister, it has now become a daily mantra that was first instilled in her by her mother, Yolanda Howard.
“It just makes you want to strive to better. Even if you’re in a good spot, you can always keep on going,” Smoot explained.
Howard is shocked to hear that such an integral part of her daughter’s life is attributed to her teachings and influence.
“It is the best feeling ever. I’m always pushing Pariss to do her best; I’m always pushing her, even when she thinks that she can’t,” says Howard.
Howard looks at her daughter with pride and amazement. She always knew her daughter was destined for greatness and refers to her as a “spotlight.” Howard knew the potential that her daughter possessed, and she knew it was her responsibility to pull it out of her.
The journey to becoming the Pariss that captivated a packed stadium in a breathtaking white gown was no easy feat. It would take several experiences, from being personally escorted to class every morning by her mother to exchanging the word “scrunchie” with the term “ponytail” for the accessory sported on many high school girls’ wrists.
Smoot is candid and describes her transition from an all-Black private school to Jackson Academy as “rocky.”
While she experienced new freedoms in the sense of not having to consistently walk in a straight line in silence, there was a new culture surrounding her school that she would have to adjust to.
In finding her place at Jackson Academy, she initially found herself shying away from the spotlight, hoping not to draw any attention to herself as the new girl.
“One day, I said, ‘Nope, I’m not holding your hand anymore. Get up and get out!” her mother says.
The moment that a mother allows her child to spread their wings and fly can be described with feelings of nervousness and anxiety, but Howard explains that the moment that she stopped walking her daughter to class was when she was able to break out of her shell.
The same shy girl is now dazzling crowds as a dance team officer, singing show-stopping tunes as a show choir member, and now adorns a glistening crown and a sash.
“I went from little, shy Pariss who walked in and didn’t say anything to being voted homecoming queen. It’s just crazy to me,” Smoot explained.
The magnitude of being a homecoming queen was first displayed when Smoot’s name was announced, and little girls from different walks of life rushed to the field to be in the presence of Queen Pariss. However, the prestige of not only being a homecoming queen but the first black homecoming queen at her school gives new meaning to the title.
That’s a lot to carry on the back of a 17-year-old, but her mother says she carries it effortlessly, inspiring those around her.
“She has a little sister, and this gives her the opportunity to believe ‘my sister is the queen, so I can be a queen too,’” Howard explains.
The idea that Smoot may be an archetype for the idea that dreams come true is not solely embodied in her household, though.
The moment that Smoot was announced as homecoming queen can be defined by a number of things ranging from her escort hinting that she would win to her best friend Morgan rushing to hug her. However, there is one moment that stands out to her mother the most.
“When they called her name, there were all of these little girls running up to her. They were Black, white, Hispanic; I mean all of them running up to her wanting to take pictures and hugging her. It’s like she set an example for them. A positive example.”
Smoot understands that she represents something bigger than herself and that others seeing her as an inspiration was inevitable. However, she is humble and admits that she would not be where she is today without garnering inspiration from those around her.
“First of all, I look up to my mother. Oh Lord, look at her; she’s about to start crying,” said Smoot.
It’s no secret that the mother-daughter dynamic between the pair has proven to be beneficial. From holding her hand to even helping her conquer the beast of homecoming dress shopping (Smoot called herself the “Hoco-zilla”,), her mother has been with her through every step of the journey.
When she cries, they are tears of happiness, joy, and motherly pride.
Smoot is also heavily inspired by her aunt, who died from breast cancer a few years back, who she recalls as “one of the most amazing women that she ever met.”
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