The Miss Tennessee USA started in California in the forty’s as a swimsuit competition and has grown into what is now a full on pageant. This year the pageant lasted a total of three days of competition with almost fifty girls competing. Then after the girls would compete they would cut the fifty girls to fifteen. Then the contestants would have to immediately go change into their swimsuit, the portion that is judged on physical fitness and personality. and they only had two minutes to do so. Then after that would follow the evening gown judging, judged on more of your personal style
“I tried to do something different that wasn’t very pagent-ish for the evening gown portion, because I am a fashion major. I wanted to be different, so I slicked my hair back. I wore a turtleneck dress and I actually had the sleeves of the turtleneck cut off and tweaked it up to make it different. I get to do something different for my next pageant too and that’s exciting,” said Hope Stephens.
The Miss Tennessee USA pageant was held at Austin Peay State University, in a huge theatre room. Contestants must apply for the pageant. It includes questions like what you’re involved in at school and even what your passionate about. Then they receive a phone interview, if they pass the phone interview contestants will get a confirmation email that they are chose to compete in the pageant. When Hope got the news she was competing she listed Drug Abuse Awareness as her personal platform from being affected by a family member through her life. It is a cause she wants to bring awareness to.
Hope was only nineteen when she competed in the Miss Tennessee USA Pageant and contestants can be up to the age of twenty-six to compete. “Going in mentally I was just like, okay I hope I make it top 15 or top 5, that would be amazing, I wasn’t sure I would win because I was so young,” said Hope. After the first round Hope felt like she had at least done that much. “I’m not the typical bubbly pageant type, so they tell me to work the room and that’s what I try to do,” said Hope. Hope paused for a little while and I could tell she was trying to recollect her thoughts, then she described that everything after that round was almost like a huge blur because it went so fast. Before one makes it to the top five, Judges ask contestants questions. One of the questions Hope remembers was that she had to explain a time she was criticized and how she handled it. “They want to pick your brain and see how you handle each question, its almost like you have to sell yourself, like you’re trying to get a job. You have to work the room,” explains Hope.
Hope then made it to the top 5 and when a contestant gets to the top 5 judges will ask them an interview question. Vern Wyip from TLC’s Trading Spaces was one of the judges and Hope chose his question to answer. “Throughout my life I had to transfer many spaces, if you could transform yourself, how would you do that?” Vern Wyip asked Hope. She explained to me that she wasn’t sure how to answer the question because to her it seemed so broad. “I would just transform myself to the best version possible is how I answered it,” said Hope. “Afterwards I was just like was that a good answer or not, because it was such a weird question that I didn’t know hot to answer,” jokingly said Hope.
Then after the interview questions, they immediately start announcing from 4th runner up. “When they were announcing 1st runner up I didn’t want them to call my name,” said Hope. Her competitor was such a strong competition because she had gone all the way to top 10 in the Miss America Pageant. “I kept thinking when they call my name as 1st runner up I will hug her, because that’s the polite thing to do,” said Hope. When they announced Hope Stephens as Miss Tennessee USA 2016 she was in a complete state of shock. “I just kept going ‘oh my gosh, oh my gosh’,” said Hope, “They tried to hand me my flowers and what’s funny is this part is on a video somewhere, all I replied and said was, ‘I can’t feel my hands’,” she said. Immediately after the winner was announced everyone was to leave the room. Not even thirty minutes after she was announced her new title photographers were taking headshots of her and the first runner up, for a press release.
Hope stayed in the hotel room that the winner of the pageant received that night. “The next morning I met with my directors,” Hope explained, “They pretty much told me how my year would go and then everything got crazy from there. I just kept thinking was this what was really supposed to happen? Because I’m so young, I was only 19, I just aged into be able to compete,” she said.
I asked Hope what her daily routine was like everyday and she replied with, “Well, right now with prepping for Miss USA. I am in training. So I am up by about 7amish to do fasted cardio, then I prep meals for the day. I then go to workout with the trainer. Aftet that I meet with different sponsors and pretty much work on my speaking and stage presence and walking. Then I’ll go to another workout that afternoon and that will be my day. It’s working out and eating well.” She explained what was next in her journey. “Then there are days where I do the same thing but also fit in going to appearances. I try to make 1 or 2 a week! They can vary from charity events, to schools, to holiday events,” said Hope. “It’s weird talking about my like life like this,” Hope laughed. “It puts into perspective though.”
Hope has had a huge transition in her life since she earned the title of Miss Tennessee USA. She had to put the brakes on attending college at Tennessee tech University and she explained that it was definitely a hard thing to for her. “I honestly miss school sometimes but I know I couldn’t have juggled school and this at the same time. I had to view this as once in a lifetime opportunity and that I needed to make the most of it. I plan to go back to school next fall,” Said Hope.
She is in Nashville Monday through Friday and three out of five of those days she meets up with sponsors. She is currently living at her home in Livingston, Tennessee on the weekends and on the weekdays she lives in Nashville.
Hope explained to me that the best part about this whole journey is the experiences.
She won a 5,000 scholarship for school; she wins prizes all the time, such as hair care products and beauty essentials, she gained a team to work with, two interview coaches, a walking a coach, a trainer, someone to look at her skin once a month, and even someone to see about the food she eats all to help her with the Miss USA pageant but out of all of this the main thing she loves is the experience she gets to go through. She has received chances to meet tons of people, chances of job opportunities, and this has also led her to modeling opportunities.
“It’s not all about being pretty. People stereotype, they think it’s all about being pretty and looking pretty. It’s about 1, getting out in the community and 2, getting to USA is one huge accomplishment. I spend a lot of my time in the gym so it’s about physical fitness too. I don’t think people realize just how much time you have to put into working out and eating well. I can honestly say when I won I did not have a good workout schedule or eating habits. They take it very seriously. They pretty much tell us girls to train our bodies to be a well-oiled machine,” explained Hope. Hope is training and working hard everyday to compete for the Miss USA pageant, which she is expecting to be sometime this summer, though the date hasn’t been announced yet.