The Miss Oromo Pageant goes back to 2003, the last time the North American Oromo Soccer Tournament was held in Seattle, WA. At that time, a group of young Oromo ladies in Seattle wanted to do something unique to entertain and educate the crowd that was in town for the Oromo week festivities. The event was the first of its kind in the OSFNA tradition and was well attended. OSFNA is the acronym for the Oromo Sport Federation in North America, a premier Oromo organization, established in 1996.
The main focus of the pageant was a cultural celebration in the form of Oromo fashion show, invigorating music selections during the intermissions, poetry slams, and the Miss Oromo beauty contest. In 2003, participants came from all over the United States to take part in the contest. A panel of three judges was selected by the organizer to assess the participants’ ability to model in cultural outfits, demonstrate a thorough knowledge of Oromo history, and most importantly the ability to speak Afaan Oromo. There were a total of ten highly qualified and enthusiastic participants, and Miss Ganame Bati of Minnesota was crowned the 2003 Miss Oromo.
Seven years elapsed before the event took place because OSFNA has since chosen different states to hold its annual event. That, unfortunately, did not allow the coordinator, who is based in Seattle, to facilitate and organize the Miss Oromo beauty pageant in another state. For the second time, the pageant was held this year in Seattle, WA on July 27, 2010.
The 2010 Miss Oromo Pageant
The 2010 Miss Oromo Pageant was widely advertised with effective use of information technology to reach out to young Oromos across the world via FaceBook, Email, Text Messages and other Social networks. These networks constantly updated interested parties with newsfeeds about the event. During the Oromo Convention week, massive amounts of fliers were dispersed among the crowd who attended the soccer matches and at local businesses in the area.
When the time came for the much anticipated event of the year, the evening started with fashion show which included women from different cultures displaying traditional outfits from around the world. The tables where the judges sat were decorated with Oromo arts and crafts. It was an amazing night of magical experience where the stage was full of beautiful ladies from around the world under one roof. The unique structure of this event led to an enormous opportunity for young Oromos to teach their culture to others, while learning to embrace other cultures at the same time.
Soon after the fashion show was over, the main event of the night, the Miss Oromo Contest started. There were a total of five participants from various states in the U.S and a contestant from Canada. Per organizers guidelines, the participants were expected to wear one western outfit of their choice and an Oromo cultural outfit. Once again, a panel of three judges was setup by the organizer. After a couple of rounds, the final three contestants were asked a series of questions pertaining to Oromo history and culture. There was a fairly large turnout, and the crowd cheered the ladies on as they came out with their beautiful outfits working the runaway.
The final three contestants were Ms Minnesota Oromo, Ms Washington Oromo and Ms Idaho Oromo. At the end, Ms Idaho Oromo, Dureti Adama became the winner based on the crowds’ choice as shown by earsplitting cheers; she also earned the most amounts of points by answering the judges’ questions, and her ability to speak Afaan Oromo fluently. Ms Sadia Bedasso of Minnesota was the runner up while third place was given to Ms Biftu Abdullahi of Washington State.
The third and second place winners received monetary awards whereas the first place winner was honored and crowned Miss Oromo 2010. It was also announced that the first place winner will travel to Oromia; all expenses paid, to compete in Ms Oromia next year. Dureti Deksiso was born and raised in Adama, Oromia and lived in Idaho for most of her teenage years. Currently, she is a Radiation Therapy Major at University of Idaho. She likes to model, play soccer and read.
According to Mergitu Argo, the Organizer and Coordinator of the event, the goals of the Oromo pageant are three fold. 1) To embrace the cultural identity and pride of the Oromo people living away from their home country 2) to ensure that the younger generation understands and appreciates their native culture, and 3) to serve as an educational tool for people of all cultures.
In the future, Mergitu hopes to enhance the showing of the event by including other artistic talents of the Oromo people living in the United States and Canada. “Through networking and collaboration with the Oromo Artists Association and other community organizations, I am confident that we can grow this event to be a main attraction for the evening experiences during the OSFNA tournament”, Mergitu said. As of July 30, 2010 Mergitu is an official member of the Oromo Artists Association and she hopes to make the Miss Oromo Pageant an annual traditional at the Oromo convention week. She is looking forward to working with host cities to find ways to add unique elements to the event that would showcase the unique talent and skills of the Oromos living in the Diaspora.
The proud sponsors of the 2010 Miss Oromo Pageant were local business owners such asthe Law Offices of Shakespeare Feyissa, East African Imports, and Miss Washington 2010. Pictures and fliers were made by MNR Productions.
Mergitu Argo, the Main Coordinator of the Miss Oromo Pageant, is an experienced community leader who has been serving the Northwest community as a trilingual, and bicultural trusted advocate for over 14 years. Currently, she serves on Board of multiple community organizations in Seattle and is a strong advocate for Refugee and Immigrant Women’s rights. Mergitu graduated from Barbizon School of Modeling, did modeling in fashion and cultural shows and was a leading actress in an educational Oromo movie in 2004. Currently, she is working on her second movie role.
*Oromsis Adula edited this report with contributions and pictures from Miss Oromo 2010 Dureti Adama and Mergitu Argo.