Miss New Jersey contestant is black, gay and a STEM lover

Taylor Lee is not exactly a typical beauty contestant candidate. Yes, the 24-year-old former model is tall, thin and attractive, but she’s also Black, gay and a computer geek who’s passionate about STEM.

The Montclair resident’s life has taken some surprising turns to bring her to her passion, which she has turned into a business that does grant-writing and STEM research for small businesses. It’s also the reason she’s competing in the Miss New Jersey contest next week, to be a role model for young people and preach the gospel of science, technology, engineering and math.

In the fall of 2015, just a couple of weeks into her senior year at Montclair High School, Lee was knocked over while standing on a lacrosse field during gym class by a 200-pound male classmate who was playing flag football on an adjacent field. She suffered a concussion, dislocated jaw and hip, and a back injury. She spent the rest of her senior year home-schooled, in and out of a wheelchair and spine specialists’ offices. 

Taylor Lee, a 2015 Montclair High School graduate, is using the platform of the Miss New Jersey contest to advocate for STEM study and careers.

“It was completely devastating,” she said, adding that she missed many milestones, including taking the SAT. Though she’d been an A-student, after the accident, college was “not on my mind at all,” she said. “All I was planning on was getting my health back and how the heck to make it through senior year.” 

Another deep disappointment was having to cancel an appointment to sign a modeling contract with Red Model Management. She’d been building her portfolio as a runway model at New York’s Fashion Week every year since 2012.

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