Hermanie Pierre’s head must feel weighed down from tiara burnout. Consider the pageants she’s won: Miss Saline County USA, Miss Northeast Arkansas, and Miss Haiti International 2012. She certainly is the typification of beauty and brains, because in addition to her beauty pageant honors, Pierre works as an engineer. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the Arkansas resident came to the United States at the age of 14 to reunite with her parents. “It was a bittersweet transition that left me with excruciating feelings of nostalgia,” she recalls. “Nonetheless, I remained convinced that I would eventually adapt and thrive.” Part of that determination was inspired by her late uncle Castille, an examplary man whom she credits with helping her develop a dog-like determination to succeed. Her parents also played a role, inculcating into her that education was an indispensable part of life through endless lectures.
When Pierre sets aside her engineer hard hat and boots, she volunteers with countless organizations and takes part in philanthropic activities. You name it, she’s part of it: the Nashville Habitat for Humanity, Sophomore Mentorship Program, Peer Counsel Mentor, NSBE Arkansas Alumni Extension Chaplin; Advisor and Public Relations Director, A Little Piece of Heaven Foundation, Haitian Organization for Health Services; Advocate for Go Red for Women, Young Adult Mentorship, May Town Scholar, College of Engineering ASCE President, Organization for Developing Leadership, Salsa Toastmasters. If this non-exhaustive list didn’t send you in a state of vertigo, then you must have a strong immune system. Ms. Pierre has stamina, thank you very much.
Despite her accomplishments, her goal is to reach even bigger, while inspiring others to reach her heights or higher. A self-described woman of integrity and character, holding the title of Miss Haiti International USA is more than getting notoriety and recognition to Pierre. She hopes to play a big part in the making of a better Haiti.
So you moved from Haiti to the USA when you were 14. You joined your parents in Tennessee, correct?
Moving from Haiti to the States was a life changing experience on many fronts. The transition was difficult. I often was homesick despite the prospect of a better. I have encountered a plethora of challenges that set hurdles to my adaptation such as language barrier and culture shock. I remember enrolling in courses to later discover I merely understood what the professor was saying. Nonetheless, I manage to grasp the contents, earn A’s and graduate with high honors regardless. According to the dictionary definition of the word victim, I do not meet the requirements. Adverse actions from others do not trick, injure nor destroy me. They are rites of passage that strengthen my character and prepare me for the next level of life’s conundrums. The challenges I encountered as I navigated the then new American culture and language could not set hurdles to my determination to excel throughout high school. I graduated with high honors. My performance earned me a full scholarship to Tennessee State University where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering. There is a personal story behind my affinity for engineering. I was inspired by my late uncle, Arnold Castille. Uncle Castille was a self-taught construction foreman with a passion for good deeds. Helping disenfranchised children and their families with food and tuition became one of his favorite hobbies. When I turned eight, I told Uncle Castille about my desire to emulate his character in my adult life. His somewhat familiar and humble reaction moves me til this day: “You have an opportunity I was not dealt with. If you stay in school, you will be better than me, and you will surpass my accomplishments.” Rest in Peace Uncle Castille!
Your resume is rather impressive. You were crowned Miss Saline County USA, Miss Northeast Arkansas and with the Miss Arkansas pageant, you placed third.
Although the level of emotion involved therein was not too significant, my three crowns prepared me for Miss International. Representing a country is a highly sentimental endeavor, and I assume some athletes and other beauty queens that preceded me can attest to that. When I heard about the opportunity through a friend, and was advised by judges to vie for the title, I was not too conscientious of what my decision really entailed, but I am now glad I listened to the judges and my inner voice.
What’s life like as a beauty queen?
My personal life has been substantially altered by my status as Miss Haiti International 2012. I must admit that I through the same routines. However, my load of responsibility has considerably increased in proportion with Miss Haiti’s duties and responsibilities.
What’s the best thing about being Miss Haiti International USA?
Inspiring others and becoming an ad-hoc ambassador for my country put me on a pedestal, at least from my perspective. These two adventures coincide narrowly with the platform I have been promoting with a deep passion—A Better Tomorrow for Today’s Children: Building a New Generation.
A lot of girls out there are struggling with issues of self-esteem. What advice do you have for them?
Self-confidence is the quintessential trait I believe every girl, or every human being for that matter, should be endowed with. Great many people around the world are reaching fame and thriving despite physical, mental or emotional limitations. They find it within themselves to overcome criticism, sometime with self-deprecation, and circumvent obstacles that would otherwise stifle their propensity for initiatives and dreams. The road to Miss International 2012 has not been rosy, and the difficulties are perpetuating as I write. My own kind, the better part of the time, seems to be willing to disown me for reasons that are outside of my sphere of comprehension, but I arm myself with every ounce of confidence within reach and keep on driving on because the sky is my limit.
You must have a lot of big plans once your Miss Haiti International reign is over.
My altruism is my guide. I serve selflessly and take great pride in accompanying others toward success. One of my short term priority after giving up my reign is to continue partnering with local and global organization to contribute to an equitable distribution of education, medical and nutritional supports not only to kids in Haiti but also to those in other parts of the globe. I am currently working on setting up a scholarship fund, the Hermanie Scholarship Fund, to help disenfranchised students in Haiti afford college tuition.
How would you define beauty?
The most common and accepted definition of beauty is equated with exterior physical appearance. That’s just one element of the concept. It is also about philanthropic and altruistic undertakings. We are doomed to evolve as communities in mutual bonds. Political, economic, social, religious and cultural matters must be addressed with a holistic approach in order to tackling detrimental ramifications from all directions because injustice will eventually spill over and bring chicken back home to roost. I can’t single-handedly slow down nor eliminate the process but I believe It is very beautiful to collectively help, give back, love, and care for each other-the only we can outflank the odds. .
Since graduating in 2010 from Tennessee State University, you have worked for the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, as one of their youngest engineers. What is the secret of your professional success?
I am intrinsically connected to my profession. Choosing engineering as a career was no accident. That’s why I feel content and resolved, every morning and sometimes in the middle of the night, on my way to work. This state of mind nourishes my ambitious being and directs it to upward mobility. It takes intelligence to make it up the ladder. Organizational politics is a thorny territory. Neither knowledge nor outstanding performance alone is sufficient for securing opportunity for organizational advancement. A mélange of both is the secret.
After being part of three pageants, do you anticipate participating at others?
I love challenges and adventures. I would love to partake in more competitions and make a difference but I have reached the ceiling within the system. Meanwhile I intends, to the utmost of my ability, to represent Haiti in the Miss International system and do my best to put Haiti on top of the list.
Now with your career as an engineer, and between pageantry, and the volunteer work you do, how do you avoid burnout?
I do burn out! I get knocked down but I get up again. I just tried to improve on time management and organizational skills. I am young and filled with energy. I want to have a personal and professional foundation built and finish the house while I can.
One of the things that stand out about you is the love you constantly express for Haiti.
My plan is to continue raising awareness for my platform A Better Tomorrow for Today’s Children: Building A New Generation through my life experience. I want young people to emulate my educational choices. I partner with local and global organizations such as Little Piece of Heaven Foundation (LPHF) and Haitian organizations Health Services (HOHS) to promote those choices. Haiti will be a better place with better access to education. It is my goal to utilize my resources, contacts and experience in Haiti’s best interests. I hope to be able to play my part and help make Haiti a better place to visit and live– one where people are valued and accepted for who they are. My life has been filled with privileges, joy and love. I have learned that it is what you make of it.
Our ancestors fought hard for this country. Miss Haiti can do it as well with the support of officials from Haiti. I would be humbled to be acknowledged, in a timely fashion, by my native government. My team and I have made many unsuccessful attempts to reach out those officials. My goal is to be an ambassador to promote and share the positive image of Haiti with the world. I have learned that the world’s perception of Haiti stems from the image that other nations display. It is now the time for us to become proactive in defining how we want to be seen across the world. I want to publicly acknowledge the terrific campaign led by our tourism department in projecting a more positive image of Haiti, thus attracting more visitors and capital to the country.