Leilani Taylor is a student at Richwood’s High School. She is excelling in her IB program and plans to graduate from IB with her sights set on being Valedictorian. Besides her ambitions at school, Leilani has been an avid philanthropist alongside her mother in the community since she could walk.
Her mother is very passionate about assisting with changing the narrative within the brown and black communities stricken with poverty, and it was a given that Leilani would be working alongside her during community food drives, coat drives, resource fairs, toy drives, etc.
Although the work within the community was plentiful, Leilani always made time for her own creativity to flow. At the age of 8, her Step Father, Ezra Murry, CEO of Joker Visuals, entered her life and introduced her to the camera. She meshed her love for animals and photography together and, for a brief moment, was an animal photographer.
From that short-lived goal, Leilani slowly started to bridge over into Modeling herself. During her 8th grade year at Rolling Acres Middle School, Leilani’s mother, Chanel Hargrave-Murry, Supervisor of Community Connections with the Peoria Park District, and a few of her friends founded the Yani Collective, which provided opportunities for the community to showcase their talents. Which led her to walk with Lexii Loushell’s Self Model agency in her first runway show during the first Juneteenth celebration held at John Gwynn Park.
One year after a major pandemic, Leilani found her niche and began excelling in it. With the assistance of her Father, a professional photographer, Leilani was able to build her resume and content and line her future with endless possibilities.
Earlier this year, Leilani was a Greeter at a fundraiser event held at the Country Club for the Tri-County Urban League when her mother was working for them as the Operations Manager. It was there that her now Pageant Coach Brett Brooks of Beauty for a Cause and the Earth Pageant division, first saw her. Through that encounter, Leilani was soon competing in Chicago for the Miss Teen Illinois Earth State Title.
The competition was held in late September in Chicago at the Hyatt. Unaware of what to expect, Leilani went in with confidence and the understanding that she was here for the experience, not expecting to leave with the crown. On the day of the competition, she was a ball of nerves but proceeded with the routine and left Crowned Teen Miss Illinois Earth.
Leilani’s life seemed to have soared into new spaces from that day. She participated in New York Fashion Week, where she had the pleasure of meeting and working with Tyra Banks’ Model coach. She walked for Viola Rose’s Clothing line and met some amazing women along the way.
With her platform, Leilani chooses to use this space to merge her love for fashion and her love for the environment with her efforts of upcycling. It was by chance that she was introduced to a Project Runway event being thrown by the Peoria Riverfront Museum.
Leilani joined the event, this time as a designer. Her artwork is inspired by the well-known artist Andy Warhol and his Endangered species exhibit. Her rendition of the Endangered Butterfly will be revealed on November 7th. Through this experience, Leilani hopes to display her creativity through upcycled clothing that will not only speak about the beauty of nature but the art of using unwanted clothing to create more.
Leilani’s future goals are to become a Runway/Print signed model and attend a university overseas to study architectural design. Leilani hopes that through her Campaign as Teen Miss Illinois Earth 2022-2023, she not only spreads awareness of the problems with our environment and justice for our earth, she hopes that she is a positive role model for other young girls, and paves the way for confidence, beauty, and intelligence.
Leilani grew up with her mother reminding her that Beauty is nothing without our Brains. This is a quote she holds near to her, and she hopes that through her actions, she can teach another young woman to have the same understanding.
She will be competing for Teen Miss USA in January in Orlando, Florida, and is seeking sponsorship.
For more information, please email Chanel Hargrave-Murry at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 309-229-0166.