Southern University alum Avery Wilson is an inspiration as Mister United States

Avery Wilson strides into the room like a perfectly color-coordinated ray of sunshine, his smile broad and confident, his sash folded neatly in one hand.

He carries two phones to manage his busy schedule; these days, the newly crowned Mister United States is splitting his time between traveling for crown-and-sash duties and teaching dance and cheerleading workshops throughout the state. His students have been thrilled with his victory, he says.

A singer, actor, dancer, motivational speaker, choreographer and all-around purveyor of positive vibes, the 34-year-old took home the title from the pageant in New York City this May.

“I love that I teach for kids the same things that I’m constantly working on as well. [Before the pageant,] we had just finished a show all about these positive affirmations of your life, so they had been calling me Mister United States already,” Wilson says. “People assume too much pressure when it comes to being a role model, but it’s really just being in alignment with your truth—working in your authentic power and allowing people to see how that light really transcends for you.”

Wilson was a favorite to winthe competition throughout the preliminary formal wear, talent and interview rounds. He also was a favorite among his fellow contes- tants for his megawatt smile and Southern hospitality—hometown charm that has helped him take over direction for the image of the Mister United States pageant.

Wilson is now using his “authentic power” to fulfill his Mister United States duties across the country, including a speaking tour to support his message, hosting gigs, mentoring Mister Teen United States contestants and raising the profile of the pageant to get more contestants and fans.

“I’ve taken an aggressive hand in the rebranding of Mister United States,” Wilson says. “We’re promoting it more into the community, getting more people to know about it. We’ve slightly shifted the [angle] to being the nation’s gentleman, and I really love that Southern style of pageantry and what we bring to that.”

Part of Wilson’s influence has been convincing organizers to move the pageant to New Orleans next year. Organizers took Wilson’s enthusiasm to heart, and in May he’ll get to introduce contestants and eventgoers to Louisiana culture.

And this fall, Wilson takes his Southern flair to Ecuador to compete for the Mister Universe title with men from all over the world.

Wilson’s reign revolves around the social media campaign he launched ahead of Mister United States, as part of the competition, using the hashtag #LOVEmatters. Each contestant was tasked with generating social media influence with an online campaign, and Wilson pushed out his own positivity mantra through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The love, he says, carried him through to his win.

“I used to think the thing I [would remember] most would be having the crown placed on [my] head and the sash on [my] shoulders, or that first walk,” Wilson says.

Instead, he says, what he’ll always remember is turning around to see his fellow contestants rush- ing forward to congratulate him.

“I felt like they were just as genuinely excited for me as I was for myself.”