REIDSVILLE — Miss North Carolina 2019 knew how to dance before she could walk.
Now Alexandra Badgett, the daughter of Reidsville natives Veronica Bradley Perry and Joe Badgett, could very well tap her way to the Miss America title in December.
“She was seven months old and her daddy was holding her in his arms during a dance recital. And a group was doing a dance to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,’’ said Badgett’s grandmother, the Rev. Rosetta Badgett of Reidsville. “Boy, she was just movin’ to the beat, and I knew right then, that baby’s gonna dance.’’
Known for extraordinary artistry as a tap dancer, Badgett, who grew up in Charlotte but considers Reidsville her “second home,” is able to interpret ballet, jazz and even blues through highly original footwork.
But even more than her dance prowess, folks are impressed with the 22-year-old’s uncanny wisdom and generosity of spirit.
Badgett boasts a service platform that tackles the sometimes uncomfortable subjects of campus sexual assault and the importance of consent. She delivers messages of empowerment to young women all over the state, as a relatable, poised and “cool’’ adult.
And Badgett’s message is especially poignant in era when the nation is trying to underscore boundaries through the “Me Too” movement. At the same time, college women are navigating through the tricky terrain of a dating world too often focused on casual “hook-ups.’’
As the second-ever African-American woman to wear the Miss North Carolina crown since the competition began in 1937, Badgett carries another critical message to young women of color in the Tar Heel state.
“I recently spoke with a young girl who had some interest (in competing in a pageant), and she said, ‘I thought about doing it, but I’d never see anyone who looks like me, so I didn’t.’ And moments like that put into perspective just how important this role is,’’ Badgett said. “It pushes the message that minorities can do anything they set their minds to. I think that representation is so very important.’’
Indeed, Badgett is the first African-American Miss North Carolina since Deneen Graham of North Wilkesboro took the honors 36 years ago. The Miss America Pageant has awarded its title to eight African-American women since competition’s beginnings in the early 1920s.
This year, black women took three major crowns: Nia Franklin, a Winston-Salem native who competed as Miss New York, was named Miss America 2019; North Carolina native Cheslie Kryst was crowned Miss USA; and Kaliegh Garris of Connecticut wore the sash as Miss Teen USA.
“I’m proud to be an African America woman in a year that three African American women won national titles… not because of the color of their skin, but because of their amazing accomplishments,’’ Badgett said.
On a recent afternoon Badgett had a rare break and was able to chat about her reign and plans for Miss America 2020 on Dec. 19 in Uncasville, Connecticut, at Mohegan Sun casino’s arena.
Q: What are your average days like as Miss North Carolina?
Badgett: “Every day looks different. On days when I don’t have appearances scheduled, I take a personal day and unpack and repack for the week ahead. And I sit down and write thank you notes to the many sponsors who support me. Appearances are varied. Some are hosting events, Those are probably the most relaxed ones, and I get to go out and vocalize and be a public speaker. I visit local schools and colleges, talking about the importance of education and I talk to students about their goals. I travel far and wide, and I have learned a ton about North Carolina through driving a lot and visiting so many towns and cities. For some of my appearances, I travel with a chaperone, and for some it’s me on my own. Lots of times, my mom comes with me or friends and family. I like to bring them in on my journey.’’
Q: Your program “No Is Not Enough,” or N.I.N.E., aims to build on the message “no means no,’’ the anti-rape directive as well as assistance for sexual assault victims. How are you promoting your ideas?
Badgett: “I actually started this project when I was in college, working on my thesis. I realized finding available resources for victims was quite complicated. There were so many clicks to get through to get help. And these people have already been through so much, it should be easier.
“So the biggest thing is my reaching out to colleges and campuses. I’ve made it my goal to tour 40 colleges and universities, meeting students, policy makers, Title 9 coordinators, and understanding what their needs are.
“I’ve got a team with Microsoft working on a website, and I want to design it so that victims of sexual assault, regardless of zip code, have a centralized resource for information on assault and rape crisis. I want it to be right there to find easily and link them to the care they need. I’m really excited to see this unfold and grow.
“I’ve seen a huge need for data analysts in the non-profit world. And this project has been a great way for me to combine my passion for service with my love of numbers.’’
Q: Will you tap the same routine to “Suit and Tie” that you performed for the state pageant at Miss America?
Badgett: I’m not positive yet. I do know I will be tap dancing. And I really love that routine. If I can find something that will top it, I’ll change. If not, I’ll be sticking with “Suit and Tie.’’
Q: When did you know you were a performer?
Badgett: “My mom has a dance studio in Charlotte. So I started competing when I was four or five. I knew the stage was my happy place. Practices could be hard, but I was all for it. I loved to entertain, get on the stage and be whoever I wanted to be.’’
Q: What about your wardrobe for all of your appearances?
Badgett: My closet’s full of casual daily wear, cuter dressy casual stuff, interview outfits, dresses, skirts and cocktail attire and jumpsuits. But it’s funny how fast I can get home, put on sweats and a tee-shirt, take off my make-up and do me.’’
Q: Do you have any favorite fashion designers?
Badgett: “If it sparks my eye, then I’ll go for it. I never grew up with fascination with designer wear and fashion names.’’
Q: Have you chosen your gowns for Miss America?
Badgett: “We have dress sponsors around the state. They lend the dresses for me to wear. I’m still trying to decide on the gowns.’’
Q:Tell me about your beauty routine.
Badgett: “I’m a good old-fashioned gal. Cetaphil wipes and Neutragena wipes work perfectly for me. And most of my make-up is from Target. I’m branching out more, sponsors give me samples ... I use a Maybelline foundation stick, Lash Sensational by Maybelline mascara, and for lipstick I like natural colors--light pinks, nude colors. But my mom always wants me to add a pop of color. I also go to The Lash Lounge for my lash extensions.’’
Q: Any details you can share about your diet?
Badgett: “I’m not the healthiest eater. I can eat and it barely shows. I lost a ton of weight my senior year (in college) working out, dancing. My motto now is a milk shake a day! So I’m trying to gain it back. I love salads, and I have a Zaxby’s close by, so I either order a ZALAD or chicken wings. I’m super blessed with a good metabolism.’’
Q: Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Badgett: “I’m a snacker. My road trip favorites are Funyuns, Flaming Hot Cheetohs and Air Heads.
And Netflix. Anything Shonda Rhimes ... “Grey’s,” “Scandal.’’
Q: Tell me about the women in your family — your relatives from Reidsville— who helped bring you up.
Badgett: “I had a huge village of people to raise me, my grandmothers, my aunts. It genuinely has taken them all to get me where I am today. I see different parts of myself in each of the women who have made me who I am.’’
Watching Badgett mature was a joy, her Reidsville grandmothers said.
“I’ve just watched her as she developed — from one performance to the next,’’ said the Rev. Badgett. “And what I am so proud of is her unselfishness.’’
In 2012, while competing for Miss Outstanding Teen of North Carolina, Badgett tied in a talent competition round. Not prepared for a tie, judges had only one trophy and they presented it to Badgett, explaining they would need a day to find an award for the second girl.
“That other little girl came out, and they announced her award, and when she got across the stage to my granddaughter, Alex handed that little girl the award … without hesitation,’’ the Rev. Badgett said.
“That is the way she was raised. When she was about two hours old, I anointed her and prayed for the Lord to make her life a blessing to others, and that very act took me back to that prayer.’’
The love of dance goes back four generations, explained Carolyn Bradford Fleming, Badgett’s maternal grandmother. “My mother (Irene Bradley) wanted Alex’s mother to take dance and started her in it. Then Alex’s mother started her own dance studio. Then Alex goes on to dance and becomes Miss North Carolina. It’s just a dream. It means a lot to us,’’ said Fleming, who will attend Miss America to support Badgett, along with a half-dozen of the contestant’s great aunts and uncles from Reidsville.
“I’m planning on going if they have to roll me up there,’’ the Rev. Badgett said of the upcoming national contest. “I wouldn’t miss it for anything. I am just so very proud of her.’’