by Tiffany Probasco
The restaurant Harlem Shake (100 W. 124th, Harlem) opened its doors back in 2013 amidst the resurgence of the dance craze garnering the same name. Though the name of the restaurant and the dance are identical, the restaurant actually serves up drinkable shakes rather than the ones that brings all the boys to the yard. But that doesn’t mean they shy away from the affiliation; they are proud to be located in the neighborhood deeply rooted in musical and artistic traditions.
Though its retro decor has been the backdrop for a photo shoot in Cosmo and even Remy Ma’s “She Don’t Like Me” video, Croatian born owner Jelena Pasic, is interested in becoming more than just artistic scenery; she wants the restaurant to fuse itself into the forefront of everything Harlem represents. So, when it came time to pick a new spokesperson for their restaurant, instead of going for just another pretty face, they decided they would hold a competition to choose someone within the community to earn the title of Miss Harlem Shake. The title affords the winner bragging rights, free burgers for a year, $500 cash, and a $1000 donation to their favorite charity that met the needs of the surrounding community.
The first official Miss Harlem 2014 is Ijeoma Eboh, a Columbia University PhD candidate that is studying public health; more specifically how asthma affects African Americans. In her free time, she also runs a natural hair blogsite klassykinks.com. The West African native, came upon the competition by being a frequent customer, “I would go there often as there isn’t any other type of restaurant that has quality burgers and milkshakes in the area, and then people said that I should apply.”
Before she delved deeper into her studies, Eboh worked for the Harlem Children’s Zone which is where she donated her $1000 in prize money. The non-profit organization works with youth 0-22 with the goal of having the students graduate from college. She worked as a health educator to guide students who were overweight or obese to set healthier living goals and was encouraged by Harlem Zone’s mission to empower youth over their lifespan.
Since Eboh, has a public health background, I wondered if her draw to Harlem Shake had anything to do with their use of grass-fed burgers and organic cage free eggs. “Yes, working in youth development around healthy eating and healthy habits, I feel a little less guilty eating here. I think also their ice cream is sourced from a local vendor. It’s those little things that make them a socially and environmentally conscious restaurant. I really liked that they’re a happy, hearty and healthy eating environment.”
With a full year of free burgers she could have had any of the variety of burgers on the menu, so I had to ask which was her favorite, “When they first opened, my favorite was the Barbecue Onion Burger, but then they added the Harlem Jerk Burger…I’m a person that likes a deal, and this burger comes with fries on it, not a lot of fries, but still, it’s also spicy, so that’s my new favorite.”
As a representative of Harlem Shakes she’s also a representative of Harlem, even if only in a small way. When I asked her why she loves Harlem so much, she had this to say, “I’m not native Harlemite. I’ve been living for here for 3 years, but it was a purposeful decision to live in Harlem. I was inspired by the history – cultural, artistic. When I’m walking through Strivers Row or the Apollo to go to the gym, I’m just in awe… I feel like everything I need in my life is here…everything that anyone could want in life is here. That’s why I love Harlem.”
The competition is now in it’s 2nd year and is already underway with only until the end of the week to cast your vote. Here is a summary of the six candidates you’ll have to choose from:
Alison is a professional dancer and Juilliard graduate specializing in ballet, pointe, contemporary, jazz and musical theatre who also teaches at Alvin Alley Dance Theatre. She is competing on behalf of the Children’s Aid Society which offers early childhood educational programming to kids in the Harlem community.
Regine is a UX Designer with a passion for accessibility, design and tech. She is a proud member of NY Cares and Teaches a Project Runway Apprenticeship at Citizen Schools. She is competing on behalf of Children’s Aid Society-Dunlevy Milbank Center on W118th, a comprehensive community facility that includes medical and dental services, mental health services, preventative information, family wellness, child care and more.
Amanda works as an interior designer, event producer and commercial print model. She is competing on behalf of the Church of the Master Mentoring Program.
Francheska is a Production Assistant and Freelancer. She is an aspiring photographer who enjoys yoga, biking, jogging and fashion. She is competing on behalf of Harlem Hospital (Center), a teaching hospital associated with Columbia that provides health care to economically disadvantaged communities and is one of the largest US training centers for minority and female physicians.
Limore is a wellness education specialist who promotes well-being through nutrition, physical activity, hydration, sleep quality and relaxation through her blog. She is competing on behalf of Harlem Children’s Zone, a non-profit organization for poverty-stricken children and families living in Harlem that provides free support in the form of parenting workshops, pre-school programs, three public charter schools and child-oriented health programs.
Kristyan is an attorney who graduated from Howard University School of Law. She is competing on behalf of the Harlem Business Alliance, a group that works to reverse the void that resulted from years of disinvestment in Harlem.
The competition is so fierce in more ways than one! Cast your vote when you visit Harlem Shake and find out the winners after September 13th.
For more information about Harlem Shake visit their Facebook page here!
Photo Credit: Will Vaultz Photography