HAMPTON, Va. — The first non-black winner of the annual beauty pageant at historically black Hampton University says she's sorry for writing a letter to President Barack Obama contending her crowning was not “widely accepted” on campus because she is not black.
Nikole Churchill, 22, a senior nursing major from Hawaii who attends the Virginia Beach campus, won the 15th annual Miss Hampton U scholarship pageant on Friday. She beat out nine black students.
Two days after her crowning, she wrote a letter to Obama, describing the crowning as “the best night of my life.”
But she added: “With that being said, I am sad to say that my crowning was not widely accepted and many negative comments regarding my win have been shared throughout my campus.
"It would be much easier to say that possibly some were not accepting of the news because I wasn't the most qualified contestant; however, the true reason for the disapproval was because of the color of my skin. I am not African American. “
She appealed to the president, who is black and was born in Hawaii, to come to Hampton University “so that my fellow Hamptonians can stop focusing so much on the color of my skin and doubting my abilities to represent, but rather be proud of the changes our nation is making towards accepting diversity.”
Her letter was posted on Congress.org, a news and information Web site devoted to encouraging civic participation, and triggered a debate on campus.
Journalism sophomore Juan Diasgranados told the Daily Press that students were split on Churchill's crowning, with some saying her win embodies HU's spirit of diversity and others complaining that she's not black and doesn't attend the main campus.
"They're saying that people don't know who she is, people don't even see her, so how can she represent us if she's not even from the main campus?" Diasgranados told the newspaper.
On Tuesday, Churchill, who said her father is from Guam and her mother is Italian, issued a statement through the university apologizing for the wording of her letter to Obama.
“I have now come to regret writing this letter and disappointing the very students that I now represent. I took the comments of a few and blew it out of proportion,” she said.
“I truly apologize to all students, faculty, staff and alumni. It was absolutely not my intention to bring negative attention to the University. I deeply apologize for any misunderstandings that this may have caused and I look forward to working with my fellow students to promote the Hampton University legacy.”
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