If Abigaille Batu-Tiako isn’t on the track, she’s on the runway.
Batu-Tiako represented Oskaloosa on the big stage at the Miss Iowa USA 2022 Pageant on May 21 in Des Moines. As Miss Oskaloosa, she was named first runner up out of 28 competitors.
“I walked in with the mentality of ‘I am Miss Iowa USA.’ I just already felt it. I was very confident the entire weekend, and when I first got there, I realized I was one of the youngest contestants there,” Batu-Tiako said. “There was another 19-year-old, but we were the two youngest. I competed against lawyers and doctors and people who have high-end jobs, and here I was, a college student.
“I feel like I felt more empowered to be up on stage with those people, because I knew I was surrounded by women that are just bada– women period, and I just thought that was awesome.”
Batu-Tiako will begin her junior year at William Penn University this fall, where she majors in business management and minors in new media and communications. An accomplished athlete, she is a member of the women’s track and field team and competes in jumps (high and long), the 100-meter and the 4×100 meter relay.
“I came here and have been breaking some records with my team, and we’ve been trying really, really hard to get to Nationals, so I’m excited about that,” she said. “Track has always been my passion.”
Batu-Tiako is also a model, which she brought to Iowa with her from New York. She is also a first-generation American after her family migrated to the Big Apple from Central Africa.
Last weekend’s competition was only Batu-Tiako’s second pageant ever. Her first was competing for Miss New York Teen USA when she was 15 years old to “make new friends and have fun.” But this time, Batu-Tiako was in it to win.
“I don’t think Iowa has had a Black woman to represent them in 22 years, so that also gave me that push. I want to be that representation for some young girls in the state and across the country to empower women through diversity,” she said. “That’s what I really wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to help women develop a queen-conscious mentality.”
The first Black woman to be crowned Miss Iowa was Cheryl Browne of Decorah in 1970. Jennifer Caudle of Davenport was the second Black woman to be named Miss Iowa in 2000.
Randi Estabrook of Central Iowa was crowned Miss Iowa 2022. Although it wasn’t the outcome she was hoping for, Batu-Tiako will be back on stage competing in next year’s pageant.
“As first runner up, I will fill in if anything happens [to Miss Iowa], but I’m hoping nothing happens, because I want her to have a successful reign. She’s an awesome woman,” she said. “But I will be back next year to compete again,and hopefully I can take that title and represent Iowa at Miss USA, because I am craving that Miss USA title … I’m telling myself I’m gonna be on that stage, and I know it’s going to happen.”
Emily Hawk is the associate editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.