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Nijeria's Pageant Journey

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Hi! My name is Nijeria Jones. I am excited to announce that I will be a contestant in the 2023 Ms. Full-Figured Virginia Pageant!

The Ms. Full-Figured VA Pageant was created to focus on building self-confidence in plus-sized women through competition rooted in love and sisterhood. The MFFVA Pageant’s mission is to empower women through pageantry and inspire others while serving the community. They believe beauty is essential; however, giving back is priceless!

My Platform: Bridging the Gap between Mental Health and Body Positivity

As a Licensed Professional Counselor, one of the biggest obstacles I help clients overcome is body image. My counseling population consists mainly of women who have grown up hearing, seeing, and internalizing messages of what it means to be an attractive, valued woman in our society. These internalized messages almost always stem from European beauty ideals that are unrealistic and harmful. Women are often left basing their worth on extrinsic values such as their looks rather than intrinsic values such as who they are as a person. As a result, I’ve seen a significant increase in low self-esteem, which directly influences a woman’s mental health, impacting her overall well-being. As a plus-sized woman of color, I can most certainly attest to the severity of this issue as I have struggled and continue to struggle with my body image, self-esteem, and mental health issues since I was a small child.

While the solution to this issue is simple, it is still easier said than done. Why? Reversing the effects of societal programming on millions of women will not only take time and money but also complete dedication from those wanting a change. Each person, including you and I, will constantly need to keep our biases in check, self-reflect and do our work to combat these negative internalizations we’ve had our entire lives.

You may wonder what I am already doing to bridge the gap between mental health and body positivity. Along with doing my work with a team of mental health professionals to overcome my own internalized messaging, I also run a group called Amour De Soi, which focuses on improving self-esteem. The goal of this group is to exhibit improved self-esteem by developing an inward sense of self-worth, confidence and competence, thus resulting in a consistent, positive self-image. Within a 10-week time frame, group participants can learn how low self-esteem develops due to negative core beliefs, discover how low self-esteem is maintained in one’s life, and develop and implement appropriate coping techniques to address the issue. As you can imagine, body image comes up quite frequently in our discussion.

I am excited to say that my coworker and I have run this group 3 times now, and as a result, we have seen such a boost in our client’s overall mental health. These women have shown elevated self-esteem, body positivity, assertiveness in their work/personal relationships, and decreased mental health issues like anxiety or depression. Moving forward, I would love to make this program more accessible to all individuals, no matter their socio-economic background. I would also love to run another program focusing on female sexuality and self-esteem. In graduate school, I was blessed to be able to make a proposal and run the female sexuality group as a part of my education requirements. I saw positive results from that experience as well.

If you’d like to follow me along my journey or even help accomplish this grander vision, please consider donating to my GoFundMe so I can participate in the 2023 Ms. Full-Figured Virginia Pageant!


Nijeria Jones
Martinsville, VA

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