Accounting student Imani Muse’s journey unfolds from her childhood dreams of gracing the Miss America stage to carving out a remarkable path filled with scholarships and impactful community projects, a path which has ultimately led her to the Culverhouse College of Business at The University of Alabama.
At the age of five, Muse embarked on her Miss America adventure, eagerly participating in pageantry competitions. Inspired by her older sister’s involvement, she yearned to join the coveted “big girl” division to showcase her talents, serve her community, and earn scholarships.
After years of competing, Muse earned the title of Miss Chicago’s Outstanding Teen 2019 and eventually became the first African American and plus-size Miss Illinois’ Outstanding Teen. She continues working toward the title of Miss America as a competitor in the Miss Illinois competition, where this year she placed in the top 11. And her journey has also supported her academics: Over her 15 years of involvement with Miss America, Muse has earned over $100k in cash and in-kind scholarships.
“Miss America opened my eyes, and it gave me something that not too many women period, but especially not to women who look like me or come from where I come from can get and that is education. I’m a strong believer that education is the one thing people cannot take away once you have it,” Muse said.
Thanks to Culverhouse’s rigorous accounting degree program and career resources, Muse has gotten a head start on her career. In June, Muse began an internship at PwC through connections she made at the Career Fair. Muse reflected on how her experiences at the Capstone have instilled a deep sense of self-assurance within her:
“I wouldn’t feel as confident to have walked in that room with my big natural hair and my pink blazer if it wasn’t for the confidence that UA has instilled within me. I truly am thankful to Culverhouse for the opportunity to not just be at the Career Fair, but also become who I am and wish to be professionally, while staying true to who I am at the core.”
Muse’s connection to the Miss America Organization stems from its unwavering commitment to education and service, igniting her passion to make a difference and uplift those who, like herself, have experienced adversity. Having grown up in a low-income community on the South Side of Chicago, Muse intimately understands the challenges faced by individuals in similar circumstances. Furthermore, having experienced both being a volunteer and needing the support of volunteers, Muse developed a profound love for service. She recognizes that her journey wouldn’t have been possible without the help of others, and she aims to pay it forward.
“If it wasn’t for those other people and groups of individuals who did that for me, I wouldn’t be here even speaking to you or at the University of Alabama, or on a scholarship there,” she explained.
Inspired by those who contributed to her childhood and to help others understand that even the smallest acts can make a difference in someone’s life, Muse operates according to the philosophy “SAM: Small Acts Matter.” At the heart of SAM is a desire to dispel the notion that impactful change requires grand gestures and hopes to inspire others to show up and be kind. Muse believes that everyone possesses the power to make a meaningful difference in their own lives and the lives of others.
Muse not only desired to prosper academically at Culverhouse but also personally through her love for serving others. She successfully implemented campus-wide projects like the “Bras for a Cause” bra drive. Motivated by her grandmothers’ battles with breast cancer, she aims to raise awareness and provide support for breast cancer patients. The drive has already donated over 700 bras across the nation.
Muse breaks stereotypes and embraces her individuality, becoming a trailblazer for women in business. She firmly believes in the power of education to empower individuals and make a difference in the world, regardless of their background. With her determination, kindness, and a strong sense of self, Muse overcomes obstacles and creates a brighter future as she continues to thrive and make an impact.