Jair Hilburn, Editor-In-Chief
Late in the April night, I sat waiting with my Managing Editor Isaiah Johnson in the Maroon Tiger Office for an interview with the woman who’d be named our Woman of the Year: Anta Njie. After being congratulated for being nominated for being Woman of the Year, Njie expressed her sentiments about the magazine.
“This may not be a big deal to y’all, but it’s a big deal to me. These,” she said pointing at the past Man of the Year magazines, “mean something.”
Before the interview began, she had to stop to take a phone call – which would be one of many she received during our sit down with her. That one call was the first look we got into her busy life which led us to ask how she’d describe her year.
“I’ll honestly say… eventful and unexpected because I think people see success and they see other people’s success and see it as something that can be garnered easily. I don’t know what it is about this campus and me, but I have a particular kind of luck,” Njie said as she clasped her hands together. “It’s luck on one side.”
After having a conversation with a student after she won Miss Maroon & White, she realized that wasn’t the case; she was stuck in a state of shock after winning something she’s dreamed of since freshman year. Anta recalled being told that another student during the Miss Maroon & White pageant said that “God’s hand is literally on her shoulder and her back.” It was an experience that “shook” her. As she recalls the moment, she reaches for tissues, but she presses on with what she has to say.
“This was a complete stranger,” she said with a shaky voice. “I never considered any of what I did to be that big for somebody to speak those types of words about me and they don’t know anything about me. This is when I realized just being myself is doing a lot for people.”
From that night on, she kept receiving the same message of “favor not being fair” throughout her reign, and it’s something she clung to because she was uncomfortable with how she made others feel whilst being herself.
“Everytime something was happening, I found myself asking if I really deserved it…, but it’s just favor.” Anta said.
One thing that made Anta’s year so eventful was winning Miss HBCU, but not for the reasons you’d think. The day before the pageant she got everything she needed to compete; not because she was procrastinating but because Kevin Booker and Melissa Bailey were trying to get her to focus on graduating and “protect [her] peace…, sanity and happiness” because they knew the responsibilities she had not only as a senior but also as a new member of Delta Sigma Theta Inc., but that changed after she attended get on the bus and remembered why she ran for Miss Maroon & White — the men of Morehouse.
Having the support from the support that she has received in all aspects of her life, she believes it’s “mind boggling.”
“I think God has allowed all these people to show up in my life like this because that’s who I am to people. I would hope I am that to people,” Anta said.
After asking students if they wanted Morehouse to be represented, she let them know that she would do it if they wanted her to do it. When they said yes, she couldn’t turn it down.
“When I won, my eyes just popped open,” Anta said.
But that wasn’t the only moment that stuck out to Anta. Weeks after Miss Maroon & White, she received a phone call. When she answered, there was “a lot of chaos” in the background. She found out that someone close to her had attempted suicide, and Anta was called upon becuase she had done it at that same age which resulted in her going to a psych ward for two weeks for multiple suicide attempts to talk to him about it. Thinking she left that dark phase of her life behind, she realized she saw depression more for what it is at Spelman, but now it’s not a thought in her mind because of the life she has in front of her.
“I have to stay alive for that person,” Anta said. “When they all of this grand stuff unfolding, they just thinks it’s golden. No matter what anybody says, I feel like a part of them seeing what I experienced has contributed to how they feel in some way. [I]t’s a huge, huge, huge responsibility that I carry with me everyday.”
From that moment on, she had made I a priority to look on the bright side of things because she “wants everybody’s light to shine.”
“Before [that moment,] I wasn’t making it my intention to be positive everyday… I was just kind of moving through it. Now I live in it, so I can have something to share for later and in the moment,” Anta said.
In areas where she fell short, she was standing tall in others.
“I embrace this person every single waking minute,” she said with tears in her eyes. “It’s a lot of reasons why I wasn’t a good Miss Maroon & White. From me having to bask in the representation part, I had to be there for [someone I love].”
After that, she had to go one step further to make her year eventful and started her clothing line: An-Tuh. Before she started making her clothing line, she was full of doubt from thinking it wouldn’t succeed, but it ended up being her creative release.
“I have to show everything that life has to offer. I have something to live for now,” Anta said.
Throughout the year, she balanced two crowns, being a new member of Delta Sigma Theta Inc., being a student and more. Ever since winning Miss HBCU, she realized something.
“From that point forward, people thought I was doing things seamlessly, and it got difficult,” she said. “When people think you’re doing things seamlessly, the demand for you in their head is just easy. I found myself trying to become something everyone thought I was.”
After winning Miss HBCU, she was worn out, which is why she wasn’t present during homecoming, but while she was Miss HBCU she established a Break the Bank Fund with the financial aid office in the event of students being in need of financial assistance.
“I’m grateful that the hall of fame has given me the power to leave you all with that,” Anta said proudly.
Through it all she recognizes where she had fallen short and where she had to take the blame, but while being a student she struggled because she knew what her future as a chapter member and a queen but not her future outside of it. It didn’t help that her absences for her events as queen weren’t being counted, and she was determined to make sure she would still graduate on time.
She spoke to us about taking the high road after hearing something offensive backstage at the Miss Maroon & White pageant and being arrested for allegedly speeding 30 mph over the speed limit and being in possession of marijuana. Whilst sitting in the back of a cop car with Nathan Samuel in a state of panic, she sent a text message saying where they were and what was happening as he was trying to calm her down. As the night went on, they were interrogated, being told to get in touch with bail bond companies, staying in a cell, and more.
“It’s sometimes hard to curve your initial reaction — or the reaction that you really want to give,” she said. “I think that entire night when I was having conv[ersation]s with people it was really messing up their head because they thought I was going to be talking about my situation, and it was about way more than my situation.”
When asked what Olympian means to her, she said it’s somebody that can fall and get back up. Having a love for the Olympics, she had an affinity towards synchronized swimming, ice skating, and pole vaulting which speaks to her to most because it’s about running toward a goal and going up and coming down.
“That’s life. You’re gonna go up, and you’re gonna go right back down,” she said.
Because of that, she views herself as an Olympian. The Tuesday before the interview she was evicted. After trying to fight the eviction, she found that all her stuff was found in the fourth floor of the parking deck. The one thing that she couldn’t take her eyes off of was the inventory for her business.
“I mention it because I had… so much to do it didn’t matter that I got evicted,” she said. “I believe it was the wake up call that I needed being as though I am on my way out the door and entering adulthood.”
Instead of staying down, she hit the ground running by using her eviction as motivation, especially after getting encouragement from her line sisters. She struggles with bipolar depression, but throughout this year she realized to be wrapped up in it – especially with the help of her boyfriend, Samuel.
“I say I’m an Olympian because… even my fall-semester-self would have crippled in the situation, but I was able to do it because of everything that occurred during fall semester.” she said. “I will be okay though. After graduation, I’m just going to figure out Anta.”