Aceia “Ace” Spade began pageantry at the age of 3. While she is originally from Alabama, she moved to Eugene and at 15 was crowned Oregon’s Miss Juneteenth. Now, two years later, she represents Oregon as the national Miss Juneteenth. Spade joins us with details on her latest victory.
The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer.
Dave Miller: This is Think Out Loud on OPB, I’m Dave Miller. Aceia or ‘Ace’ Spade is a senior at Churchill High School in Eugene. She has served as Miss Juneteenth Oregon for the last two years, but Ace did not stop at the state level. Last month she was named National Miss Juneteenth. These programs were created to spread the word about the longstanding celebration that only this year was recognized as an official Oregon and federal holiday. Ace Spade, congratulations, and welcome to Think Out Loud.
Aceia Spade: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
Miller: Thanks for joining us. So you came to Eugene from Alabama a few years ago. What was the celebration of Juneteenth like there?
Spade: Well, it’s probably about the same. Down here, even though Black people are not a minority, we still just don’t celebrate it as much. We have Jubilee, which is in Salem, but it’s just still quiet. I don’t know why it’s still so quiet. It won’t be soon. But as of right now, it’s just the same, everywhere.
Miller: What was the transition for you like overall going from Alabama to Eugene?
Spade: It was a total culture shock. It was so different. The south is just so warm and welcoming and people are just so different out here. I’m not saying they’re not welcoming; everybody’s friendly, they’re definitely friendly, but it’s just a different atmosphere. It’s a whole different world, it feels like.
Miller: Why did you decide to compete in Miss Juneteenth, Oregon, a couple years ago?
Spade: I decided to compete because I was just now moving to Eugene. So I didn’t know anybody, I was new, I didn’t have any friends, but I definitely wanted to know more about the people around me in the community I was moving to, and just overall, wanted to learn more about the state, with me being new there. So Juneteenth was the perfect thing for me to do, to learn more about the people around me and myself as well.
Miller: Did it work? I mean, that’s so interesting. As I noted, part of the big reason for the program is to spread the word, to be more like a teacher than a student, to spread the word about Juneteenth, but it seems like you wanted both. You also wanted to learn more about your new home. Did that work?
Spade: Yes, it definitely did. It was automatically like a family. I didn’t feel left out with anything, and we also have workshops every week, in the community, in Portland, where we invite the younger girls and even the younger boys and anybody in the community, and we just do stuff for fun just to get to know each other just to, you know, become more of a family.
Miller: How did you decide you wanted to compete for the national competition?
Spade: When I was little, this was something I always dreamed of. When I was little, I was actually Miss Little Juneteenth when I was three years old. So it’s always been a lifetime dream. So when it came true it was just amazing. I was so shocked, it was just overwhelming.
Miller: What do you remember about that moment when it was you who had \won?
Spade: I didn’t believe it. I thought it was a joke. I was just shocked because I went through so much just trying to compete and I’m not gonna say I didn’t expect to win but my hopes of winning just really weren’t there. I was just there to learn more by myself. I was there to represent my people and me but I wasn’t there just to win. I was there for the experience overall, and the fact that I did win, it was very overwhelming and amazing.
Miller: I’ve read that you had to answer a question that you pulled out of a hat, What was your question?
Spade: My question was, what is Black girl magic? And when do you know you have it?
Miller: How do you answer it?
Spade: My response was you know you have Black girl magic when you know yourself, when nobody can tell you anything about you; you know you, and that’s when you have Black girl magic, it’s not something you just know, it’s something you feel, like you feel it, and that’s how you know it doesn’t just come out of nowhere. It’s within you and you have to find it. So that’s how you know you have Black girl magic.
Miller: One of the things you’re talking about there is a sense of self and a real sense of confidence. Have you always had that?
Spade: I would like to say I have, but when I first moved to Oregon I kind of lost it because I was used to being around people who look like me and when I wasn’t around people that looked like me, it just made me feel different. So that’s why, that’s another reason why I joined the Juneteenth Program was to see people that look more like me because at school, even though people are nice but it’s just different. It’s just different because you don’t look like them, and it sucks. But that’s how it is.
Miller: What are your responsibilities as the national winner?
Spade: My responsibilities. First and foremost I am now a role model. So I have to carry myself on a whole different level because I am now national, which is amazing. As well, I will actually meet President Biden on December 6 to give him an award to thank him for making Juneteenth a National holiday.
Miller: Did you think that would happen? I mean it’s now both, as of this year, a state holiday and a national holiday -- federal holiday. Did you think you would see that day?
Spade: I hoped I would see that day. I didn’t think it would actually happen. But the fact that it did, that’s just amazing on a whole different level.
Miller: So you’re going to thank the President for that act? I don’t know how much time you’re going to have one on one with him, to ask him questions or to tell him things. But what else do you want to tell him?
Spade: I would actually like to work with him and just to ask him, what does he think we could do to basically spread more awareness about Juneteenth? How can we educate people more and educate communities more about Juneteenth? That would be my number one question.
Miller: One of the things you’ve said before, I think you told this to Eugene Weekly a couple years ago when you first became Miss Juneteenth, Oregon, is that you want there to be a boy’s pageant as well. Why is that? What do you think that would mean?
Spade: I felt like it should be a boy’s pageant because pageants aren’t just for girls and especially the Juneteenth Pageant, it’s more than just a beauty pageant. It’s not your average beauty pageant. We wrote essays, we put in the hard work to be where we are today, and overall it made us, as young Black people and Black women, it made us learn who we really are and what we really want in life, and it’s just a family experience. It was just a sisterhood. So I feel like boys should be able to have that experience too.
Miller: Have you gotten any traction when you talked about this?
Spade: Excuse me?
Miller: When you brought this idea up have any people said ‘yes, let’s work to make this happen,’ because I have to say, there’s a pretty big gender divide in terms of the way beauty pageants have worked for so long, or pageants of all kinds. It’s just men and boys have just really for the most part, not been a part of them. I’m wondering what you’ve heard when you’ve talked about this?
Spade: I definitely know some people who would love to even be able to be in an immense Juneteenth pageant, and yes, actually the Juneteenth Organization, they actually thought it was a great idea because the Juneteenth pageant, it’s not about beauty, it’s about what you know and what you believe in. So if you believe in something and you feel like you should stand up in what you believe in, this is definitely a way to do it.
Miller: Aceia. We have about a minute left, but what’s next for you? You’ve done a lot in the last couple of years, but clearly you’re not done?
Spade: No, my work is not done. My work, my job this year, overall, is to just spread awareness about Juneteenth. That’s my goal.
Miller: Aciea Spade. Thank you so much for joining us and congratulations.
Spade: Thank you so much for having me.
Miller: That’s Aceia Spade who is a senior at Churchill High School in Eugene. She has served as Miss Juneteenth, Oregon for more than two years now, and last month she was named National Miss Juneteenth.
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