Carole Gist sashayed into the homes of America for the first time in 1990. She won the title of Miss USA shortly after winning the title Miss Michigan. She captured the audience with her grace and poise as she became the first black woman to hold the title. She spent the next 31 years reinventing herself time and time again. We took some time to sit down with her and chat about what she has been up to and what’s next. Take a peek into our conversation below.
When did you fall in love with the performing arts?
I was seeking attention. I wouldn’t stop singing and dancing around the house and I became my mom’s friend’s entertainment. I remember getting up on the table and singing the song You Are My Starship. My mom saw that in me and got me involved with dance. I danced competitively. When I started to develop muscles not suitable for dance, I had to make the choice to continue dancing or play sports.
How did you prepare yourself for the Miss USA Pageant?
I took the most unconventional way to get there. I competed in Miss Michigan, so former Miss Michigan wouldn’t ask me to do it anymore. Michigan is not a big pageant state. In other states like Texas and Florida the prize package is significantly larger, almost the same as winning Miss USA. That prize money helps you pay for the car, the trainer, the coach. With the money I got, I could only get coaching for one weekend.
I had a moment of doubt when I was in the registration area of Miss USA. I knew there were two other black girls but they weren’t there yet and I felt so out of place. At that moment, someone came around like only your mom can do, so I know it was God sent. They grabbed me and said, “aht aht stand up tall, you have a right to be here just like anyone else, you are just as beautiful and talented, you just go out there and let your light shine.”
Negativity and doubt can creep in no matter what you are doing. Don’t let it stay, whatever it is, shut it down and remember who you are.
Tell us about your time competing for Miss Universe?
The Miss Universe competition opened up my eyes. Meeting all the women from different countries, we shared things and worked out language barriers with pictures. We learned that we think the same, we have the same hopes and dreams. It wasn’t a race thing or a nationality thing, it was just a woman thing.
You went to the Historical Detroit Cass Tech for High School. What did you study?
I was a business administration Major with a performing arts minor. My mother had her own business; she was always working and hustling. I knew I would do something with business but I wanted my creative outlet as well so I was in choir.
You have spent your time wisely in school. How many Degrees did you achieve?
I have two associates degrees and a dual Bachelor’s degree Management and Marketing/International Business from Northwood University. I received my first Masters Degree in 2014, in Kinesiology in Sports Science. In 2020 I finished my second Masters Degree in Sports Administration. Both Master degrees were received at Wayne State University. My last one will be a PHD and I am seeing what it would take to be a Physical Therapist.
I can’t stay in one spot for too long or doing one thing for too long. I look forward to the next chapters.
You have held many titles over the last 31 years, can you list them for us?
Of course, I was in:
Hotel Restaurant Management,
Video DJ Host on BET Network
Stay at home Wife and Mother
Track and Volleyball coach
Group Fitness Trainer
Managing a staff of trainers
Pageant Coaching and Judging
What’s next for Carole Gist?
I am still very competitive. My next thing is archery, I am on an all woman team called the Elite Angels. I am writing a few books. A majority of the content is based on a healing journey. That book will lead me into the next thing I want to do, conference speaking. I also want to travel. I want to unapologetically get up and go. I am focused on doing things because I want to not because I have to. I am pursuing my happiness everyday.