There seems to be no shortage of determination from several of the Miss America 2018 contestants, who after numerous attempts will get to perform and compete for the ultimate pageant title.
Victoria Huggins, 23, could have been 76th or 79th, but this was the year she took the title as the 80th Miss North Carolina. Huggins competed for the past five years to win the state crown, knowing one day she’d make it.
“I just love singing and performing, so I had to keep going,” Huggins said.
While only starting pageants at the age of 19, Huggins was no stranger to the spotlight, competing on several talent reality shows, including “It’s Showtime at the Apollo,” “Star Search” and “American Idol,” where she placed in the top 100.
Huggins said besides getting to perform her talent, what kept her motivated to continue with pageants was the opportunity to get a debt-free education.
“I was really inspired to keep going because of the scholarship money,” she said.
Through competing, Huggins has won more than $50,000 in scholarships. She is currently in graduate school at Johns Hopkins University studying government and political communications. Huggins already has a career in the broadcast news industry and aspires to be a political analyst but wouldn’t mind continuing with school, if the situation presented itself.
“I would even possibly go for a Ph.D. I would never want to waste a scholarship,” she said.
Miss New Jersey Kaitlyn Schoeffel’s name has been in pageant booklets for a decade, first competing in the Miss New Jersey Outstanding Teen when she was 13.
On June 17, the 24-year-old Schoeffel was crowned Miss New Jersey after finishing as second runner-up in 2016 and falling all over the list the previous years.
“It took a lot to be able to come back (for a sixth year),” Schoeffel said the day after she was crowned. “But I think it goes to show that if you keep trying and strive for your dreams, then you can do it.”
Schoeffel said she first got involved in pageants because she wanted an opportunity to dance a solo in front of a crowd.
“It’s kind of funny. I won the state title for Outstanding Teen on my first try and Miss New Jersey on my last try,” Schoeffel said.
In 10 years of competing, Schoeffel said, there were moments of discouragement and doubt.
“I would ask myself the questions, ‘Am I still enjoying what I’m doing,’ and the answer would be yes. And ‘am I improving as a person by doing this,’ ... and the answer was always yes,” she said.
Schoeffel’s love of performing inspired her work with her platform “Operation Empowerment” to get children involved in the arts, as well as her work outside of the pageant world, including a past career as an Atlantic City showgirl and a magician’s assistant.
Briana Kinsey, 23, had to travel more than 800 miles to finally get her crown. After competing for five years in the Miss Alabama competition, Kinsey competed for Miss District of Columbia, where she plans to attend medical school in the coming year.
“It was my last year of eligibility,” Kinsey said, “and I still wanted to be a part of the Miss America Organization.”
Kinsey said she struggled to keep going, but what kept her motivated was “every year I competed, I was able to gain something new to make me a better person.” She said competing in pageants helped her gain self-confidence and overcome a fear of public speaking, as well as inspire her platform and help her pick a career.
“I started college as a marketing major and through my work with the Children’s Miracle Network, I met a pediatric endocrinologist who inspired me to go to medical school,” she said.
Kinsey founded the nonprofit Daring to Defeat Diabetes and has spent her five years as a local pageant winner advocating for the cause.
The dream continues for these three ladies to become the final winner who walks the Miss America runway on Sept 10.