http://hamptonroads.com/2011/08/chesapeake-native-wears-miss-united-states-crown)So, courtesy of the awesome writer Vicki Friedman and great photographger Hyunsoo Leo Kim, here it is!!! (You can also view the story on The Pilot's website at
The 23-year-old Chesapeake native was crowned July 14 in Las Vegas.
"There's no talent competition in Miss United States, and Miss America has been around a lot longer, but other than that, there's not a lot of difference," said Smith, traveling with her crown and sash in tow. "Everyone has heard of Miss USA and Miss America. I want them to know Miss United States."
Those who have heard of Miss United States probably remember the 2000 movie "Miss Congeniality," when FBI agent Sandra Bullock went undercover as a "Miss United States" contestant.
Smith relates to the unpolished Bullock in the film.
"I didn't have the cool clothes; I didn't have the money for the cool clothes," she said. "I didn't have any friends. I wasn't a very outgoing person."
She decided she needed to change that, so Smith entered Oscar Smith High's pageant her junior year "to get people to notice I was alive," she said.
Smith finished first runner-up, and won the next year, setting off a seven-year career that included titles as Miss Virginia Beach, Miss Virginia Peanut, Miss Norfolk, Miss Chesapeake and Miss Hampton Roads.
But a state title eluded her.
"I had really gotten discouraged the last few years," Smith said. "I entered some pageants and didn't get anything - just, 'I did this pageant and all I got was this lousy T-shirt,' sort of thing. I decided this year I would focus on some other things."
Those included pursuing her master's degree in journalism at Regent University and working - Smith is an anchor on Channel 48 and works full time as a management analyst for the Navy. An accomplished keyboard artist with a passion for gospel, Smith is minister of music at First Baptist Church Gilmerton.
She figured to hang up her heels until a Facebook post piqued her interest in Miss Virginia United States. Considering herself "pageant rusty," she felt no pressure that night in Richmond in April.
"I wasn't expecting anything," she said. "I just expected to go and get my feet wet back in the system of pageantry."
Instead, the win in Richmond qualified her for Miss United States, a surreal week that started with her first-ever plane ride before pitting herself against 22 other delegates. (Some states do not have Miss United States pageants.)
Smith nailed what she calls the "15 seconds of pure fury" known as the fitness portion, where she wore a black and gold suit she picked up off the rack years ago. She didn't flub the on-stage question about the value of learning a foreign language, despite considering it "atypical."
The interview portion allowed her to elaborate on her platform: "Breast cancer: It's not just hereditary."
Smith's grandfather was diagnosed with the disease in 2002, and a year later, her mother, Marie, learned she had breast cancer. Through her own research, Smith discovered that a growing population without the traditional risk factors has been affected by the disease.
Marie Smith, 53, an eight-year survivor, takes particular pride in her daughter's efforts.
"For her to get out there and work so hard for that platform is huge," she said. "She tells people about self-breast exams and the importance of mammograms. It brings me to tears."
Smith was crowned in her favorite gown of all time: a rhinestone bodice that faded into a gray silk fabric. She doesn't remember the details of what happened after her name was announced, but she was thrilled to be part of a memorable night for Virginians.
Virginia placed finalists in all four divisions of the pageant. Ashley Greenfield was named Miss Teen United States; Laura Eilers won the Ms. United States crown; and Miss Jr. Teen Virginia, Shania Weaver, finished second runner-up.
Smith will receive more than $10,000 in cash and prizes for her national title win.
"I really wanted a national title because it gives me the opportunity to impact people nationwide," Smith said. "I feel a lot of joy in talking to kids who would never get to meet a Miss Anything. Doing as much as I can this year - that's what it's about for me."