For so many reasons, Emily Wakeman seemed like a natural fit to wind up with the Miss North Carolina Teen USA crown.
But upon winning the competition earlier this month, she discovered that the crown didn’t wind up naturally fitting her – at least at first.
“My dad helped me bend it and put wire at the back to make it fit my head and stay in that position,” says Wakeman, 18, who graduated from SouthLake Christian Academy in Huntersville last spring. “We also lined it with foam to make it more comfortable.”
The Cornelius native was awarded the state title in High Point on Oct. 10, a year after finishing first runner-up at the same competition in her pageant debut.
She said her keys to victory were simplicity and authenticity: Leading up to the event, she worked out regularly (as she has for years); ate as healthy as possible (as she has for years); reviewed potential interview questions; studied current events; and recruited a former-pageant-contestant-friend of her mother’s to work on her walk. No coach, no special classes.
For the evening gown portion, Wakeman wore her prom dress. For the swimsuit segment, she purchased a suit using the gift certificate she won last year for second place.
“Sometimes I guess that’s helpful for a newcomer when you’re just out there to have fun and the pressure isn’t there as much,” she says.
At the end of the day, you get a few minutes up on stage, and whether you win or lose, you want to walk away feeling like, ‘Man, I enjoyed myself and it was worth my time.’
Although a pageant was “on my bucket list,” Wakeman says she entered mainly to increase her visibility as a role model – something she’s been doing for years.
As a freshman at SouthLake, she was on the advisory board of Charlotte-based Teen Health Connection, which provides healthcare services for ages 11-22. As a sophomore, she was a member of the Mayors Youth Press Corp at the Democratic National Convention, and wrote an op-ed piece for the Observer calling for every citizen to vote.
She co-founded a charity called Kicks for Kids, which in 2013 raised $8,000 and bought 108 pairs of athletic shoes for Charlotte’s Brookstone School, a Christian school for under-served urban students. And last summer, Wakeman worked at the YWCA and Freedom School Partners, helping kids in need as part of Bank of America’s Student Leaders program.
Currently, she is enrolled as a journalism student at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she hasn’t spent much time in her now-well-fitting crown. (More often, she can be seen wearing a shiny new Alpha Delta Pi sorority pin.)
But Wakeman will get plenty of chances to don the tiara. Among others, her official appearances will include visits to Levine Children’s Hospital, USO functions and Davidson’s North Mecklenburg Christmas Parade.
And of course next summer she’ll rest the crown atop her head when she represents North Carolina at the Miss Teen USA pageant in the Bahamas – where once again the goal will simply be to relish the opportunity.
“At the end of the day,” Wakeman says, “you get a few minutes up on stage, and whether you win or lose, you want to walk away feeling like, ‘Man, I enjoyed myself and it was worth my time.’ ... Most of the people won’t win, but you’ll feel like a winner if you enjoy the experience. So that’s my mindset: I’m just going to have fun, and whatever happens was meant to be.”
Miss North Carolina Teen USA: Emily Wakeman
School: Graduated from SouthLake Christian Academy in Huntersville in 2015; currently a journalism student at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Most recent book read: “Dear John” by Nicholas Sparks.
Most recent movie watched: “Jerry Maguire” starring Tom Cruise.
To book an appearance: firstname.lastname@example.org.