How long have you been competing in pageants?
It all started when I was 18 years old, and I competed in the Miss Georgia United States of America pageant. I placed in the top 15 and won Miss Photogenic, which was great for it being my first time ever doing something like that. So, I decided that I would wait until after I finished college and had a degree before I would compete again. During that break I signed with a modeling agency in Atlanta and Chicago, and I did that to make a little extra money on the side while I was in school at Auburn.
What kind of preparations need to be made to get ready for something as huge as the Miss USA pageant?
Well, obviously, it’s a beauty pageant, so you’ve really got to focus on your outward appearance by means of constantly going to the gym and making sure you’re eating right. You have to maintain perfection, all the way down to your hair, nails, teeth, and makeup, but you’ve also got to prepare mentally and internally by just spending some time by yourself to gather your thoughts and focus on what you’re going to do while you’re in Vegas competing. You’ve also got to prepare for your interview by meeting with your interview coach and have them teach you how to handle political or personal questions, and how to correctly answer those questions. It’s a lot of work.
As far as your hair and nails go, do the judges really look that close?
No, but if you’re standing beside someone who is equally beautiful, and we’re all the most beautiful girls in each of our states, and being compared to those girls, those tiny little things make a big difference.
As for mental preparation, talk about your progress from when you were 18 and just starting out till now. You had to have some kind of nerves at first, right?
Oh gosh yes. I was just finishing from high school, and I was competing against these girls who had a lot more life experiences than me, so I knew I was going for a long shot. I wasn’t mentally ready or mature enough to win Miss Georgia at 18. So, as the years passed, I had a lot of time onstage from modeling to work on my runway walk and stage presence, and that taught me alot. After having gone to college and experienced that stage of life, I knew I was ready to compete at the national level.
So, you felt comfortable and confident at the Miss USA pageant?
Yes, which was suprising, because everyday leading up to that moment you wake up and get a little pit in your stomach like,”Oh gosh, one day closer.” I remember waking up that morning and having no nerves at all. Of course you get nervous right before the competition, but it was strange for me to see Donald Trump walking backstage like a normal guy. It was weird because that night I walked up to him and said, “Hey, Mr. Trump.” Then, he just said, “Hello, Alabama.” And, at that moment, all of my nerves dissapeared because I remembered that the beauty pageant is first a television production and second a beauty pageant. Therefore, I needed to perform for this show and its audience. The whole night I had no nerves at all, and I was completely shocked.
Obviously, every contestant is trying to win, and everyone wants that crown, but is it as intensely competitive behind the scenes as most people think it is?
Yes, for some girls it is. At registration, all of the girls are comparing themselves to one another and sizing each other up. I try my best not to do that because we’re all beautiful. If that weren’t the case, none of us would have been there. To me, there’s no point worrying about something you can’t control. It’s the judges who pick the winners. However, we all became friends and got to know each other well, and it was really cool getting to know the different personalities from across the nation.
So, what does a Miss USA hopeful do when she’s not onstage?
Well, leading up to the Miss USA pageant I had three or four appearances per week. I remember one week I put 1,500 miles on my car while driving across Alabama. It’s exhausting, but you’re promoting yourself and your state. For me, I’ll probably go to New York City and take part in the New York Film Academy. After that, I’d like to go to Los Angeles and see what kind of modeling or acting opportunities I can find.
So, you’re going to try to use this to springboard into a modeling or acting career?
Yes. I come from a very religious family, and my parents are worried about me jumping into such a liberal arena, but how cool would it be to have some girl from Alabama with southern qualities about her jumping into the film industry?
What about your downtime activities that aren’t job related?
Well, for the past week, I’ve literally been on my couch in my pajamas. My parents live on a lake, so I love to waterski, tube and just chill on the dock. Right now is the perfect time for me to reconnect with my friends. Sadly, I’ve kind of been anti-social for the past three months because I’ve been so busy. And I’ve been catching up on my movie time and all of my shows, like "The Bachelorette."
Looking ahead toward the realm of acting and modeling, who do you admire the most in those professions?
I’ve always been fond of Heidi Klum. I love her because she’s so real and very exuberant. She’s full of life and has one of the best smiles in Hollywood. Wherever I end up, whether it’s modeling or acting, I hope that I can be like her. She’s created an empire for herself, and she’s a household name, but at the same time she’s influenced so many lives in so many ways, which is what I hope to do.