The talent competition will be easy, because Avery D. Wilson can act, sing and dance.
That makes the Baton Rouge native a triple threat in entertainment circles, but he knows the Mister United States Pageant is about more than talent. And much more than looks.
“It’s about being your best self and making the world better for others,” Wilson says. “And I realized that I can’t ask the young ladies that I coach in pageants to do this if I’m not willing to work toward it myself.”
Wilson will be representing Louisiana in the Mister United States Pageant in New York on May 6-8 at the Hilton Garden Inn on Long Island.
The pageant won’t be nationally televised, but the winner will advance to international competition.
Wilson says he has lots of work to do to get ready for the May competition. He’s surrounded himself with a team, which will focus on his physical image through nutritional and body training regimens. That’s the easy part.
In between, Wilson must maintain his cheerleading and dance schools in Baton Rouge and Atlanta while launching his national LOVE Matters campaign.
“LOVE stands for Living Optimistic Values Every day,” Wilson says. “It’s a three-pillared platform that addresses love for self, love for others and love for something greater. I want to give people a tangible idea of what love is, and it starts with yourself. A lot of people have trouble embracing who they are.”
And, he says, only when people accept themselves are they able to reach out to others.
“You are able to find your calling, what you’re put here for,” Wilson says. “And that love comes from engaging in a power source that’s greater than us. For me, that source is God. That source may be different for others.”
Wilson will launch his campaign this month through social media, specifically on Twitter at #LOVEMatters. He’ll take his message on the road by speaking to school groups and organizations throughout the state.
The mission is personal but also a part of Mister United States’ criteria, which requires each contestant to choose an issue for which he cares deeply. The issue must be relevant, and contestants must use social media as a means of inspiring others to take part.
“I chose February to launch LOVE Matters, because of its double tie to Valentine’s Day and Black History Month,” Wilson says. “First, it’s the perfect time to launch LOVE Matters in the month of love, and it’s the perfect time to be a role model as a strong African-American male. Louisiana is one of the highest incarcerators of African-American males, and I want to teach kids that African-American men can be strong with a strong character.”
Wilson’s philosophy also jibes with Mister United States’ requirement that competitors have “good moral character.” Other criteria include that contestants must be between 19 and 35 years old — Wilson is 34 — and at least 5 feet 6 inches tall — he’s more than 6 feet.
Wilson was nominated for the competition by the Miss Louisiana Pageantry Organization.
“There is no Mister Louisiana Pageant now,” Wilson says. “That could change in the future, but I applied through the Miss Louisiana organization. I’ve been working with them and coaching young ladies competing in pageants for 13 years.”
Wilson also has been coaching cheerleading teams at his XLR8 studios in Baton Rouge during that time.
He captained the Jaguars’ cheerleading squad while a Southern University student.
That’s where Renée Chatelaine first spotted him. She’s the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge’s executive director now, but she was director of the Mid City Dance Project when she asked Wilson to stop by the organization’s studio on Government Street.
Wilson likes tell how Chatelaine immediately believed he had a talent for dance, but made it clear he had to first learn the basics before leaping across a stage.
“I had to go to ballet class, and there I was surrounded by all of these little girls,” Wilson says, laughing. “But it was a great experience. It taught me a lot, and it was a joy being in that class.”
Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Southern’s Honors College in 2003 and, at age 19, was one of the school’s youngest Student Government Association presidents. He later became the first student from Southern to be elected the National President of all Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a student member to the Southern University Board of Supervisors, a USAA Academic Collegiate Scholar, a two-time Collegiate All-American Cheerleader and the NASAP National Student of the Year. He also studied with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York.
At 21, Wilson started the MOKA Cheerleading & Dance Association, which provides students with instruction in studio dance, all-star cheerleading, all-star dance and choreography.
He now divides his time between Atlanta and Baton Rouge while dancing with professional companies in New York and choreographing musical theater and dance productions for New Venture Theatre and Theatre Baton Rouge.
“I’m constantly teaching kids to go after their dreams,” Wilson says. “I can’t keep preaching this without doing it.”