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‘We Inspire’ Contest Winner Dreana Johnson Shows How Black Women Rock

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Mizzou chapter.
Dreana Johnson, a senior English major with a minor in Black Studies, won Pepsi’s “We Inspire” Contest.  The Chicago native, who is currently involved in the Target Hope Community Service Organization, found her drive to inspire others when she started her blog, 3snapz.tumblr.com, more than a year ago. She will attend the taping of BET’s “Black Girls Rock” award show Oct. 14 to 16 in New York City. After allowing voters to choose the winner in an online poll from Sept. 22 to 28, BET will officially announce Johnson as the winner on its website Oct. 15. We wish Johnson all the best in NYC!

Her Campus Mizzou: What exactly were you competing for?
Dreana Johnson: To win two tickets to the taping of “Black Girls Rock,” which is happening in New York City. I won a round-trip plane ride from St. Louis to New York, and I will get an editorial spotlight on BET.com.

HCM: How did you apply to compete in this competition?
DJ: Since the first annual “Black Girls Rock,” I’ve always wanted to go. Every day I emailed Beverly Bond, who is the founder of the Black Girls Rock organization, and also looked up Black Girls Rock 2011 to see if there was any information posted about it. I found out it was a competition, and you had to record a video no longer than one minute saying why you inspire people.

HCM: How would you say you inspire people?
DJ: I started a blog in July of 2010, and my aim was to inspire young girls through telling what I’ve been through. I’ve been through a lot, and I’m sure people have been through worse than I have. But I know that if you really put your mind to it, you can do whatever you want to do if you really, really try. I blog about testimonies, about different things I’ve been through or pictures. I do Divas of the Month, which is kind of what the “Black Girls Rock” award show does. I highlight a woman every month because I feel like people will get inspired if they see other people’s accomplishments. I want people to use their blessings to be a blessing to others, no matter who they are. I’m about positive things, so I always am positive. I want people to help other people and just believe in themselves.

HCM: How would you explain Black Girls Rock?
DJ: The organization’s goal is to inspire young black girls to let them know they can be whoever they want to be, and to move them away from becoming statistics. It’s also to empower them.

HCM: Who usually receives the awards?
DJ: Black women who accomplish a lot. Last year Raven-Symoné, Kyla Pratt, Jill Scott and Missy Elliot were presented awards. The award show was basically filled with celebrities and black women who are known for their accomplishments and what they’ve done for the community or to inspire young girls.

HCM: You put on Black Women Rock last semester. Can you explain what it is?
DJ: It’s just like Black Girls Rock, but it’s for the Columbia area. I honored 27 young women in the Columbia area or from Mizzou for how they inspire other people. I did that because it was a good networking opportunity, and a lot of people came to me to tell me they were inspired.

HCM: How did you put on the award show?
DJ: Well “Black Girls Rock” aired last year on Nov. 7,  and right after it ended I knew I wanted to do something like it. I started by emailing all my friends asking how they rocked. I had different blog posts about different women, and their photo captions said why they rocked. By late November I decided I would make an event on campus, so I talked to different people about it. When I talked to one of my old professors about it, she told me I could get sponsors for the event if I wrote proposals.

HCM: Who did you write the proposals to?
DJ:  I wrote one to the Black Studies Committee, and they sponsored me first. Then I wrote one to the Black Culture Center, one to Kiarah Moore (who made shirts for the program), and one to the Legion of Black Collegians. They all sponsored me. It became a big deal when I told them I was trying to bring back Jill Young-Menears, who [in 1971] was the first African-American homecoming queen crowned on this campus. I contacted her in November, and we’ve talked ever since.

HCM: How did you get in contact with her?
DJ: When I found out who she was, I thought it would be great to bring her back. I Googled her name, but I couldn’t find her. I Facebook-searched all of her kids, and I found them. I sent all of them a message to let them know what I wanted to do, and one of her sons emailed her to give her my contact information. She emailed me within a week and was really nice about it. The day of the event, March 5, was her 60th birthday. She was also the first black varsity cheerleader, so her story was really inspiring.

HCM: How are the women honored and recognized selected?
DJ: We put out nomination forms, and people had to name who they nominated and why. We got 27 nominations, so we decided to recognize all of them and only honor 10. We had three judges who went through all the nomination forms and decided which 10 would be honored. There’s not really any difference except the people who were honored received trophies, and the people who were recognized received certificates.

HCM: Do you plan to host another award show this year?
DJ: Yes. It’s going to be March 10, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be bigger than last year since this is the second annual show.

HCM: Do you have any advice for anyone who may be looking to do the same thing you’re doing?
DJ: Just have faith and don’t give up. If you feel like you want to give up, just pray about it or talk to someone positive about it. Stay around positive people and don’t get stirred up in negativity.

Lindsay Roseman is a senior at the University of Missouri, studying magazine journalism and Spanish. In Columbia, she is a member of Kappa Alpha Theta women's fraternity, Mizzou For Malawi Steering Committee, and can be spotted on campus touring potential Journalism School-ers. This Chicago native loves a good Jodi Picoult book, trying new foods, traveling, and hitting the pavement for a run. After reporting for the school newspaper and interning in her hometown, she spent the summer in NYC at Women's Health Magazine and now is so excited for a great year with HC Mizzou!