Junior Nicole White had her sights set on a sash and crown last weekend when she competed in the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas.
While White, who represented District of Columbia, did not end up with the crown, she was among the top 10 highest-rated contestants by users of the Miss USA Web site and had a unique experience few others can boast.
“You would think that it would be really nerve-racking to be up on stage in front of all those people and cameras, but it’s actually completely exciting and exhilarating,” White said. “You go up there, the lights are on and it’s like the moment where all your hard work pays off. It’s just great.”
Contestants in the Miss USA pageant are judged based on an interview, swimsuit and evening gown competitions. Unlike the Miss America pageant, Miss USA contestants do not take part in a talent portion. This year’s Miss USA, Carrie Dalton of North Carolina, will go on to represent the United States in the annual Miss Universe pageant.
White said she spent two weeks in Las Vegas for the competition and was able to experience what the city had to offer.
“I had never been to Vegas before and I would love to go back,” White said.
White has also volunteered at Miriam’s Kitchen, a local soup kitchen in D.C., and took up homelessness as her platform in the pageant.
Preparation for the Miss USA pageant is not as glamorous or easy as it may look and takes much time and effort, White said. The American Studies major had to miss three weeks of classes to participate in the competition, in addition to months of training and practice.
“It’s time consuming and it takes a lot of energy. You have to get the wardrobe right, have your interviews down, fitness training to make sure your body is in top shape – it’s a lot.”
Bitten by the pageant bug at age 15, White went on to compete in the Miss District of Columbia Teen USA competition in 2004 and won after two and a half weeks of training.
“I never considered myself a pageant girl. I was a tomboy when I was younger. I played basketball and lots of sports. Pageantry just really wasn’t my thing, but my hairdresser signed me up for the competition and I really loved it after that,” said White, who is also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority on campus.
One of the most important lessons she learned in the competition, White said, is to be true to who you are.
“Some girls will change their look or personality drastically and you can tell that they’re not really being who they are. The judges see that,” said White. “When you’re trying too hard to be something you’re not, that’s when you get knocked out.
Now that the competition is over, White plans to take a break from pageants and focus on her studies. She plans to enter the field of marketing and believes her pageantry background has honed her communications skills.
“I’ve spoken with a lot of media outlets and I think it’s definitely helped me with my interviews and TV training, which will be useful.”