Sunday, June 11, 2000

Pageant winner on a mission

Miss Black Cincinnati spreads the word about teen-age celibacy

        It's not about the title. It's not about the tiara or even the blue satin sash reading Miss Black Cincinnati 2000.

        For Lisa Marie Miree, it's about opening doors leading to platforms from which she can talk to kids about celibacy.

        “It's why I entered the pageant in the first place, and why I'd consider going on to another pageant. For a larger stage.”

        Celibacy until marriage is what the pageant industry calls her platform issue, the cause a contestant adopts and pushes during her reign, much like current Miss America Heater French speaks on behalf of homeless veterans.

        There are other, much easier things she could do than declare war on teen-age hormones.

A true challenge t:
        The 24-year-old Forest Park resident is a vocalist specializing in opera; a pianist who played “Over the Rainbow” for half the pageant's talent portion and a poet who read original works for the other half; a dancer; and a writer, working on three books.

        Armed with a bachelor's in journalism and a master's in international affairs, she's working in the licensing department at Scripps Howard and getting ready to go after a doctorate in intercultural communication.

        Tough stuff to master, but probably not as tough as changing a teen-ager's mind. “I truly feel I've been called to speak on this,” she says. “It's how I've lived my life for 24 years.

        “I believe the body is a sacred temple and you will be rewarded if you cherish it. Plus, you don't worry about pregnancy and STDs.”

        She's serious about this: Since she was crowned April 9, she has been to schools, community and church groups, a boat ride sponsored by Postponing Sexual Involvement (PSI).

        “Not everyone wants to hear it. I've broken up with many boyfriends — and many have broken up with me — because of the way I live my life. I've heard all the lines — "You gotta test drive the Mercedes before you buy was the worst' — and they didn't even come close to changing my mind.”

        Her current boyfriend doesn't even try: “He's a wonderful, very patient man.”

        “Patient” is a word Ms. Miree uses a lot. In celibacy talks. In her education as she marches closer to that Ph.D. In her ultimate career goals.

Writing three books
        Once, her dream was to replace Dan Rather on CBS. “I buried that dream as entertainment passions started to take over,” she says. “I have a lot of passions, and I've been blessed with talent. I could write successfully, and I could act.

        “Broadway would allow me to merge singing, dancing and acting. I know I want it, I'm just not sure exactly what yet.”

        Right now, writing is keeping her busy. Her book of poetry is half finished and “nothing I want the public to see yet, but I did read one, about dreams, in the pageant.”

        Then there's a non-fiction book on the three months she spent in Costa Rica on a United Nations team working on the legal empowerment of indigenous people. “A lot of the focus was higher education and how the leaders wanted their own colleges. I told them what to expect and what they'd have to overcome, based on the experiences of African-American colleges here.”

        Then there's a third book, one close to her heart: “It's non-fiction on the misunderstandings that arise in families that have members involved with interracial relationships,” she says.

        Ms. Miree knows a bit about family. The youngest of four, she had three brothers “who made my life hell when they were at home and I was dating ... over-protective doesn't begin to cover it.

        “We're all still very close. Their experiences and candor about their interracial relationships are what inspired me to start on the book.” Ditto the PhD in intercultural communications, a course of studies on knocking down barriers between cultures.

        She'll get her own taste of a different culture later this month when she jets off to the Virgin Islands for the British World Virgin Islands. She'll sing, dance and play piano. “The committee invited me to do a showcase but not to compete,” she explains. “They're calling me an honored guest.”

        But first, she has a celebrity volleyball game on Fountain Square (Citizen's Committee on Youth deal) at noon Tuesday.

        Plus a few smaller appearances. Plus a job. Plus piano practice. Plus voice exercises. Plus workouts. Plus trying to talk kids out of jumping in too soon too fast.

        Why so much? “I intend to maximize all that this year has to offer.”


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