Olivia Manning to rep the state in Miss Black USA pageant.

Not long ago Olivia Manning discovered the Miss Black USA Pageant.

“I heard about it on Facebook,” the Dover resident said. “My mom pretty much encouraged me to try it out.”

Manning, 23, took her mom’s advice and earned the title of Miss Black Delaware in September, despite it being her first ever pageant. She’ll vie for Miss Black USA in August 2017 in Washington.

In Washington she will compete for a $5,000 academic scholarship, a trip to Africa, shoe wardrobe by Liliana Shoes, ORS Olive Oil Hair products and serve as a celebrity advocate for the Heart Truth campaign to raise awareness about heart disease.

Manning’s personal platform is promoting mental health awareness.

Miss Black USA’s mission is to “provide educational opportunities to outstanding young women of color and to develop the ‘whole woman mind, body, and spirit,’” according to MissBlackUSA.org.

Why is Miss Black USA important?

The organization acknowledges and celebrates the diversity of women of color. In fact, one of our sponsors, ORS Olive Oil, has a campaign called #Nostereotypes. The movement redefines what it means to be a courageous, compassionate and confident black woman today.

What was your reaction when you won?

I am very new to the pageant world. So when I found out that I was selected to represent our state I was in complete shock.

Why did you select mental health awareness as your platform?

I selected “mental health awareness: healing, encouraging, learning and preventing mental illnesses in children and adolescents” because it is a serious issue that is often overlooked and – yet – affects so many.

I plan on working closely with the Mental Health Association in Delaware and Dover Behavioral Health System in order to get involved in the conferences, training programs and support groups. I find that this is a great [way] to educate myself. In fact, I recently volunteered for the MHA’s charity walk/run: E-Racing the Blues.

Who is your inspiration?

I get inspired by women that look like me and that are powerful and confident. Oprah is someone who inspires me the most, because of everything she has accomplished.

Since you’ve graduated college, how will you use the scholarship money if you win?

I am applying for graduate schools. The scholarship money will definitely help pay for books and other fees. I will be pursuing an MFA.