Ms. Chocolate Dior!
by Jojo Lorentson | photos courtesy Mac Productions
The Tennessee Diamond Diva is a pageant for femme LGBT+ women who are looking to express their individuality and self-expression. This year’s winner was Ms. Chocolate Dior, Pernisha Ailworth.
Pernisha was heavily influenced by her grandparents, who made she was exposed to the stage and pageantry. In her teen years, Pernisha began appearing in pageants. She’s gone on to compete in several and has also hosted her fair share. In one memorable appearance, she won all five categories in which she was entered.
Pernisha was born in California but moved to Memphis as an infant and her grandparents raised her. After high school, she was accepted into MTSU for nursing and theatre. She relocated to Nashville in January 2018, works as a substitute teacher, and also teaches choreography.
On moving from Memphis to Nashville, Pernisha notes that Nashville is definitely bigger than Memphis, both in population and size. The city is a big change for her, but she’s glad to see a better pay scale and a broader scope of land within the city. With a laugh, she remarks that even the climate and grass are drastically different here than in Memphis. She feels like a different person here and knows her opportunities for personal and career growth are broader, more open, and much more diverse. She feels that through the connections she’s made in the LGBT+ and pageantry communities, she’s found kindred souls.
Pernisha, a former Sweetheart International competitor, learned of the Tennessee Diva Diamond Pageant from others within the pageant community. Says Pernisha, “[Pageants] are an art form, a way to express yourself as you want. It helps you to feel great about yourself. Gives an artistic outlet, and the freedom to present oneself and learn from others. The glitz and glam are just extra!”
When she was young, Pernisha’s mother was incarcerated for drugs, and her father was not in the picture. This left her grandparents to take the initiative to raise her and her big sister, Terrika. Only two years apart, Pernisha will celebrate her twenty-seventh birthday this December. Terrika missed that opportunity. Eight years ago, she was killed by her then-girlfriend. Terrika had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and Pernisha acknowledges that Terrika’s condition possibly escalated the situation, leading to her sister’s death.
Before Terrika’s death, the sisters were very close and did everything together. Pernisha felt supported when Terrika came out and Pernisha soon did the same, although not immediately to her grandparents. She felt it was easier to be out and feel free because her sister was also open about being a part of the LGBT+ community.
Pernisha is inspired by her sister’s story and wants to change the view of how negative trauma is a popular theory on a false cause of the development of sexual identity. Neither of the sisters “became” lesbians because they had a rough childhood. They were raised by loving and supportive grandparents who made sure they had everything they needed. They are lesbians because that is who they are, who life, biology, fate, God, or whomever/whatever you believe controls that aspect of a person meant for them to be.
Since her sister’s death, Pernisha is an avid advocate for mental illnesses as well as the LGBT+ community. She shared a memory about a friend who was feeling suicidal after having her babies at 27 weeks early. Pernisha reached out to the young mother with love and support to let her know that she was not alone and she had others who wanted to help her and listen. This experience has strengthened her want to help others and pass on the message that it’s important to reach out to those with mental illness or even those who are isolated. Reach out to ask how they are, give them a hug, hold their hand. Helping even just a little can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
“Learn to ride the waves of life, take every opportunity as it comes along. Peace, love, and light at the end of it all, to everyone.”
More information about the Ms. Tennessee Diamond Diva Pageant can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Ms-TN-Diamond-Diva-1168739799804888/.
This pageant (and more) is held by Mac Productions. They are always in need of talent on-stage, off-stage, and behind the scenes. Visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/macproductionspageant to learn more.