By Ruth Ann Ruiz
The Post Newspaper Features Editor
Miss Juneteenth Texas, Madison Swain, almost didn’t make it to the state pageant. She won Miss Juneteenth Galveston County in June and she and her family were head-over-heels with joy and pride at her accomplishment. She had competed in 2022 but did not place.
In true Texas spirit and the spirit of a champion, Madison made up her mind that she would compete again in 2023.
“I was surprised when she came back and wanted to do it again,” said Andrea Brown-Swain, Madison’s mother. She was a lot more confident going into it her second time.”
With Madison securing her title as Miss Juneteenth Galveston County 2023, one might assume there was an easy path to the next level up. But instead, a couple of hitches followed Madison’s win. For starters she wasn’t aware of the state pageant.
She quickly learned that she was invited to participate at the state contest but there wasn’t much time to prepare. The other hitch was far more traumatic.
Just six days before the state pageant, she and her mother went to visit her uncle and found him dead in his home.
It was a rough 6 days for both ladies, and both credit their faith in God for pulling them through.
“We don’t understand all the time, but we push through. It was a dark time. We couldn’t have gone forward without the help of the Lord, Andrea said.
In shock, grieving and confused, Madison questioned whether she should go to the state pageant. But her extended family cheered her on.
“My cousins told me I needed to go win it for their father,” Madison shared.
Even with the support of her family, doubt lingered in Madison’s mind. She didn’t feel prepared, and she was coping with her own grief.
“I was thinking, ’How can I do this pageant?’ I was praying, ’God help me, use my voice to say whatever you need me to say’” she shared. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to win Miss Texas because I was so sad and felt so unprepared.” Madison shared.
The stage at the state pageant was too small for her to do her full dance routine, which incorporates some flips and other gymnastic-type movements. The judges graciously moved their seating back and allowed her to perform on the floor right in front of them.
For each of the pageants, Madison choregraphs her own modern dance routine. She has used instrumental versions of “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” to accompany her dance.
“I chose ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ because it represents the struggles of the African community, and I like It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World because it shows how women are really needed in a man’s world,” explained Madison.
Madison has been dancing since she was in first grade. She performs ballet, tap, and modern dance. Before she was a pageant contestant, she was using her love of dance to brighten up her grandma’s life.
“My grandma, who had a stroke, lives with us. After the physical therapists stopped coming, she wasn’t getting any movement exercises. I said, ‘She’s gotta move,’ so I put on some music, and she taps her feet, and I have her do some simple moves with her arms while she is sitting in her chair,”
While speaking of her shared time with her grandmother, Madison demonstrates how she makes sure her grandma is getting fun movement through dance and music while sitting in a chair. (A photo of her demonstration accompanies the story.)
Thanks to Madison’s experience with her grandma, one of her goals is to work with elderly and help facilitate movement through dance. She also wants to be a dance instructor and a teacher.
It’s early in September, and Madison Swain is caught up in a whirlwind of activities as she prepares to represent the entire state of Texas as Miss Juneteenth in October at the national pageant in Philadelphia.
Madison and her mom were at a loss trying to find an authentic African ensemble to wear for the interview portion in Philadelphia. Their load was lightened by the generous donation of Bernard Johnson, owner of The Bridge Imports.
With several dresses for her to choose from, Madison narrowed her choices down to two contenders: a delightful fit-and-flare dress made of authentic Kente textile or a form-fitting dress featuring African textile patterns. She’ll make the final choice when in Philadelphia.
Because of Johnson’s kindness and his collection of authentic handmade dresses sewn by seamstresses in Ghana, Madison and her mother can check one more task off their list, and they can focus on her evening gown.
Madison’s weekend has also been filled with meeting dignitaries, such as Texas state Rep. Teri Leo-Wilson. The two ladies chatted about teaching and Wilson presented Madison with a personalized certificate she had signed.
“I am just so thrilled that she is going to be a teacher. She is going to be such a motivation for her students,” Wilson said. I’ll be praying for her in Philadelphia. It would be great to see her take the nationals.”
Being Miss Juneteenth is more than talent and beauty; it is about someone who represents the spirit of Juneteenth and is willing to help educate others about the significance of emancipation. This is one of the tasks Madison has embraced with an open heart.
“For me Juneteenth is about freedom, it’s about how far we have come, where we are now and where we will go,” Madison shared.
During Madison’s short time as Miss Juneteenth, she has learned even more than she knew was possible about the significance and the history of Juneteenth.
“I grew up in the area, but there is still so much more that I didn’t know about Juneteenth,” she said.
For Madison, the journey she is on has been a lot of fun and an honor, but what she loves most is meeting new people.
“Really I am most grateful for all the people I have been meeting in this process,” Madison shared.
Madison won Miss Congeniality at the Galveston County pageant in 2022, and after speaking with her for just a few minutes, you experience her friendly caring spirit. She freely shares her joy with others, and she pays close attention to those around her.
Best of luck to Texas City’s very own Madison Swain. We at The Post Newspaper also hope she brings back the national title.