By JONATHAN SANDERS
For The Florida/Georgia Star
As Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) prepares the campus for their annual homecoming festivities, the 111th Miss FAMU is rehearsing for the event that starts the entire week off: coronation, which is her swearing-in ceremony.
Michelle Marva Johnson is a senior business administration and theatre student from Dallas, Texas. She says the surreal feeling is beginning to settle in.
“We’re not rehearsing for any Miss FAMU,” she said. “I’m rehearsing for my own coronation. They’re rehearsing my coronation. It’s just crazy how things change in four years. I went from one position to a greater one.”
When Johnson came to the Hill, she immediately got involved on campus. She participated in the pageant for her residence hall, FAMU Village West, and won. She then competed against the winners from the other residence halls to become Miss University Housing.
That year, attending coronation was just something she was required to do as a condition of her title. This year, coronation is personal. It is her time to reign.
“This homecoming will be different than any other homecoming for me,” she said. “I look forward to everything, especially interacting with the alumni and hearing all the stories about how FAMU used to be.”
The title means everything to her, especially because it has family ties.
Her mother, Vivian Bradley Johnson, was Miss FAMU in 1981. At the time, they didn’t use numbers, but she was the 75th woman to represent the university. Her older brother Fred Johnson was the 12th Mr. FAMU in 2011.
According to her mother, there has never been a mother and daughter Miss FAMU before them.
Johnson said that running for Miss FAMU had nothing to do with her mother or brother—in fact, they had never discussed the title while she was growing up.
“It was definitely something that I wanted to do on my own,” she said. “First I had to pray on it, because I mean I don’t like to lose. I had to see if it was really for me.”
“People were saying, ‘you should definitely do it, you could be a great leader.’ I knew that I had great leadership qualities just because of the organizations I’m already a part of.”
Johnson is a Presidential Ambassador for the university, as well as a peer mentor, resident assistant, and a member of FACES Modeling Troupe and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
When she first came to FAMU, she wanted to stand out. That’s when ‘Marva’ was created.
“Michelle Johnson I felt was really plain—it’s a nice name, but nothing stands out,” she said. “When I did the first pageant, I couldn’t say ‘Greetings, I am Michelle Johnson.’ That’s not enough, I’m more than enough. So I said Michelle ‘Marva’ Johnson.”
Marva is her mother’s sister that passed away before Michelle was born.
“Marva already means a lot. When I do my greeting, I always emphasize Marva.”
She said for a long time after the pageant, people called her by her full name when they saw her or spoke to her. Then they started to shorten it, and Marva stuck.
“Michelle and Marva are two different people. Michelle I feel like is the business side, the more conservative side, and Marva is the outgoing theatre person,” she said.
Her mother said she feels like Michelle “embodies all the qualities of a young lady that I would want to represent my university.”
“She’s smart, she’s caring, and she’s articulate. She’s a go-getter. She represents the university really well. I’m just thankful she saw something in me that made her have the desire to go down the same path that I took while I was at FAMU. I’m extremely honored and proud that they recognized the honor it is to actually serve as a leader of such a fine university.”
Her mother said that Michelle and Fred have accomplished things that she never did.
“I was a quiet person. No one expected me to run for Miss FAMU,” she said. Her mother was the youngest of six children that attended FAMU.
Michelle and Fred were both in pageants. Fred was Mr. University Housing his freshman year, a Royal Escort during his sophomore year, and Mr. Nubian King for SISTUHS, Inc. his junior year.
“I started getting more involved on campus and that’s why I went from one pageant to the next pageant, and then it came full circle that Mr. FAMU was the next step.”
Her mother and brother are proud of her win.
“I was happy and proud of her for sticking through it and putting herself out there,” he said. “I gave her words of advice and encouragement from what I did with my campaign and ways she could prepare. She had to do all the work.”
From a very young age, Johnson has always been someone to go after her dreams, her mother said.
“No matter when others say ‘I don’t think you can do it’ or ‘you cant do it,’ she does not allow other people to hinder her from doing what she thinks she can do,” she said. “Her believe in herself is off the charts.”
She said Michelle is outgoing and driven. After FAMU, Michelle aspires to own a production company with her brother and sister.
But in her reign now, Johnson said, “I want to fulfill my platform points. I just want to serve the future Rattler, present Rattler and past Rattlers.”