When biology major La'Mayah Hodges called her mother to talk about the possible speakers for her Spelman College graduation this spring in Atlanta, she said she never thought of her mother as an option.
In 2011, the school invited first lady Michelle Obama to speak because of her wellness initiative.
In 2012, Oprah Winfrey was selected because of her dedication to education through her Angel Network and her girls school in South Africa, but Hodges' mother, Sumayah Hodges of North Las Vegas, wants to be next.
Her daughter said she couldn't imagine better speakers than Obama and Winfrey.
"I was just, like, who else could there be? Who are we going to have?" La'Mayah Hodges said. "And my mom was, like, 'Me.' "
Her mother launched an online campaign, "Sumayah Takes Flight," in late September to try to make herself famous enough to be considered by Spelman. Her YouTube video had more than 56,000 views at press time. She said her goal is to get more than 1 million views.
"The whole objective is to hurry up and make myself famous," she said.
But how many views will she need to be considered a serious candidate?
Spelman College does not choose honorary degree candidates and speakers based on popularity, said Tamaria Davis, chief of staff and secretary of the college, who oversees commencement planning.
Applications to receive an honorary degree must be submitted to the school, which La'Mayah Hodges did for her mother. Then, two-thirds of the faculty must approve the list of honorary degree candidates and send it to the Board of Trustees for consideration, Davis said. It could be months before the commencement speaker is decided.
She said she has seen Hodges' video, and no, she hasn't seen anything like it before.
"It's not a popularity contest; it really is an academic process," she said. "We're not monitoring her hits or views."
She said honorary degree recipients are selected based on their national and international importance with an emphasis on their contribution to improving the human condition.
But Hodges said she has a story that can inspire many.
After her mother died, with only $7,800, she opened the Grannz Beauty Center, 1306 W. Craig Road, nearly seven years ago, named after her mother.
At the time, she said she was depressed and concerned for her family.
"I was somewhat suicidal because I had just lost my mom and didn't care about life at all," she said.
The salon changed everything.
Hodges said she earned her cosmetology license with her high school diploma in a free program in St. Louis. The only cost was a $285 kit of hairpins and dryers, she said.
"At the time, my mom was on welfare and that took her whole, entire check for that month and she sacrificed it for me."
That dedication to education is something she has tried pass to her own children.
"I think that's just what it's all about: education, education, education," Hodges said. When La'Mayah graduates next spring, she'll be the first in her family to graduate from college in six generations, Hodges said.
Breaking cycles is important to her, Sumayah Hodges said.
When her two daughters grew up, she often told them they were smarter than her and she needed their help. "I would tell La'Mayah all the time that, 'Look, you guys are learning so much stuff at school that I really need you to pay attention to the teacher so you can come home and teach it to me," she said to try to motivate them.
And it worked, La'Mayah Hodges said. She became president of the inaugural class at Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy and a member of the National Honor Society. School came easy to La'Mayah Hodges, she said, and it was her mother who kept her focused.
If she is selected to speak at Spelman, Hodges said her message would be for parents as much as the graduating students. She said she wants to remind parents how important it is to support their children.
"I hope that I would set an example for a lot of moms to believe in their child, as well, and push education," she said.
That's the message that resonated with supporter and patron Emma Major-Hassinger, a retired physical education teacher for the Clark County School District. Earlier this year, she predicted Hodges would be famous by the end of the year. She plans to fly to Georgia to support mother and daughter if Hodges is selected as speaker.
Hodges said Major-Hassinger reminds her often that "she doesn't care how famous I get, I'd better keep doing her hair."
The campaign video can be found at youtube.com/user/sumayahtakesflight.
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Laura Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3839.