As a double major in theatre and international studies, College of Charleston student Ngaarumbidzwe “Rue” Magombedze has a better sense than most about how to navigate new settings, present herself with confidence and hold meaningful conversations. As a child and young teen, she traversed moves from her native Zimbabwe to Ohio to South Carolina to Zimbabwe and back. She can appreciate different perspectives and she wants to make sure everyone has a voice. 

And, as Miss South Carolina Collegiate America 2023, Magombedze is using all of those skills and experiences to amplify the organization’s national platform of BRAVE (Building Respect And Values for Everyone) and empower young girls.  

women dressed in traditional african clothing

Magombedze attends an African attire Juneteenth gala in Conway, South Carolina. (Photos provided)

“It’s just really about providing opportunities, which is something I’m really passionate about, especially being a woman of color in this space that has been seen to be predominated by everyone else,” says the rising sophomore. “Coming into that space and being successful and representing people and bumping into little girls who look like me and are so excited: It’s mind-boggling. It’s a big honor.” 

It’s her passion and optimism for social change and equality that drew her to the College. 

“I chose the College of Charleston because I wanted to be at a college that stood for what I believed in, was focused on community and had a strong arts and study abroad program,” says Magombedze, who graduated from Aynor High School near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “Core beliefs like diversity, equity and inclusion, alongside student empowerment, are what made it an obvious choice for me.” 

Magombedze spent her freshman year at the College honing her diplomatic and theatrical skills as a member of the Black Student Union, the student theater group Center Stage and the Student Ambassadors, a student-led organization that focuses on the recruitment and retention of first-generation students and students of color.  

Joining those organizations, she says, helped her find her footing as a first-year student at the College and gave her additional experiences to complement her two majors. Her mentor,  Peter Spearman ’15, a visiting assistant professor of theatre, also helped, first developing her acting and directing chops in his Script Analysis class and then guiding her as an assistant director for the Department of Theatre and Dance’s spring 2023 staged reading of The Late Wedding 

When she won the title of Miss South Carolina Collegiate America in Greenville, South Carolina, last January, she knew she was prepared.

“What pageantry does, which I really like, is you get to do outreach, and you get to make connections, network, build those connections and still represent something and make that impact in a way that melds both theater and international studies into diplomacy,” says Magombedze, who will compete for Miss Collegiate America on July 2 and 3, 2023. 

people in an industrial kitchen holding food on trays

Magombedze volunteering with members of Charleston Area Senior Citizens Meals On Wheels.

With only four pageant competitions under her belt to date, Magombedze is a relative newcomer to the pageant scene, but Kenyatta Grimmage is not surprised by her success. 

“I recruited Rue from Horry County. Not only was she sound academically, she was a bold and confident leader, who was proud to be a woman of color. I felt in my heart that she would be a change agent here at CofC, and I was right,” says Grimmage, associate director of admissions/access initiatives and pre-college programs and advisor for the Student Ambassadors. “Since enrolling at the College, she has made diversity, equity and inclusion her mission. She not only joined the Black Student Union and Student Ambassadors – which are both organizations at the forefront of diversity recruitment and retention here at the College – she is making her mark as a woman of color in the CofC theatre department, having had lead roles in multiple productions. Rue understands that representation and visibility are important to creating inclusion and a sense of belonging, and she is proud to be that representation for other women of color.” 

And her experiences as an active member of the College community have given Magombedze extra confidence and understanding of what she wants to achieve with the platform she’s been given. As Miss South Carolina Collegiate America, Magombedze visits schools, community centers and churches to talk about building confidence in today’s youth and fighting against bullying.  

“At the College, being a part of Student Ambassadors has helped me understand the importance of BRAVE and identity because a lot of the outreach we’ve done for students of color was centered around them not knowing what they wanted to major in because of stigma,” she says. “Being in the schools and on panels has helped me strengthen my understanding of why I want to compete for Miss Collegiate America and what I would do with the platform.” 

The College community can watch Magombedze compete for Miss Collegiate America starting at 5 p.m. on July 2 at The finals for the competition – which takes place in Little Rock, Arkansas – will begin at 4 p.m. on July 3. To vote for Magombedze as the People’s Choice, visit this website.