Roneshia Ray SAYS SHE wasn't born into a hierarchy, she created it. After vying for the title of Miss Black America Coed three times, Ray holds not only the crown but a perseverance that is hard to ignore. Houstonia chatted up the current queen about pageants, her over-the-top shoe collection and her charm school that has impacted the lives of over 1,500 girls.
How would you describe your style?
I would say my style is a mix of Diana Ross and Olivia Pope. I love anything that is sparkle, anything that has fringe, but I also love a sleek classic look. So when I think about designers: Zac Posen, I’m absolutely in love with Chanel, I love the new Gucci selection for next spring. So anything that is kind of over the top but still very modern and sleek, I love it.
What experiences have shaped your style?
I really honestly feel like pageantry has helped me come into my own style. Before I started getting into pageants, I never really owned more than one gown, but now I get absolutely excited about all these gowns. All things beaded, all things sequined, anything that has a little pop. The Miss Black America Coed pageant has shaped me and kind of reformed me into a grown-up style.
I read that you own over 300 pairs of shoes, is that true?
Yes, unfortunately. I have two closets, my closet now is a full walk-in closet and it has three racks that can fit about 30 pairs of shoes along the three walls of the closet. I shoe shop on the daily—even just now before we got on the phone I was looking at TopShop because they have shoes on sale, like, those would be cute for next fall.
What's your favorite pair?
One of my absolute favorite pairs right now are the 'So Kate' Louboutins in nude, they are super classic and go with pretty much everything.
Tell me about why you wanted to start your charm school.
I started it as state contestant, at that point in my life I realized I didn’t know anything about etiquette until I started pageantry. I realized not many other girls have the means to get exposed to poise and grace so I wanted to create a concept where we could expose girls to not only how to properly pick up the right fork but push to believe in themselves, whether they want to be an astronaut, a teacher, a doctor or even a lawyer. I really wanted a place where they could come and be themselves.
What is something you teach your girls at charm school about appearance and fashion?
We have a really fun exercise that they girls absolutely love. I bring my old pageant dresses and cocktail dresses and teach them about what attire to wear for black ties, formals, interviews. I let the little girls try on the clothes and let the older girls be their fashion designers. So I’ll be like “Ok, what dress do you wear to a gala?” and I’ll have them choose and play dress up.
What is your best advice about style?
To follow whatever creative imaginary thing you can. Whatever you feel like in the morning get dressed and be that person and don’t be afraid to take risks and chances. Don’t be afraid to sparkle a little bit.