As I stand before you, I can’t help but reflect over the past 394 days, 2000 miles, 20,000 people, and hundreds of moments that have defined my time as Miss Nashville. This year has been the embodiment of one of my favorite sayings: never underestimate the power of an ordinary person when they are presented with an extraordinary opportunity. To me, Miss Nashville was that opportunity—an opportunity to represent a city whose innovation, generosity, and passion truly make it the best place in the world.
Being Miss Nashville is about far more than wearing a crown or putting on a beautiful dress. There’s a certain kind of magic that the Miss America Organization has—the kind that makes tourists on the Pedestrian Bridge stop and ask you for a picture, the kind that makes a little girl’s eyes light up when you let her wear your crown, the kind that inspires people to write hundreds of birthday cards for a little boy in the hospital who laughed at seeing you in scrubs when you came to visit him. Every year that this crown is passed on, the legacy continues—the possibility to touch someone in an extraordinary way continues. People will forget my name in a few years from now—but there are kids who will never forget the day Miss Nashville came to their school or ran a race down 12th South in her crown and pajamas. I’m truly lucky to have been a part of that legacy.
Although I am giving up the title of Miss Nashville, who I am as a person will forever be changed. I will never forget the kindness and support shown to me throughout my year, especially through promoting my platform the Power of One and on the Miss Tennessee stage, where I found the courage to publicly identify myself as a sexual assault survivor to what would become an international audience. I have learned to love every part of myself and my story because of this year, and have found my voice because of it. Our world is in desperate need of strong, passionate, and driven women—exactly the kind of women that you’ll find in the Miss America Organization, and especially here in Tennessee.
I stand here today in gratitude all of the people who believed in me more than I ever did. The biggest reward I received as Miss Nashville wasn’t my crown, scholarship money, or even competing at Miss Tennessee—it is the privilege of calling Scott Hilburn my director, mentor, and friend. Scott, the love that you have for this organization is nothing short of inspiring. I am thankful that in you I have a friend for life and someone who will always encourage me to aim a little bit higher (especially when it comes to my hair). I would not have made it to Miss Tennessee without the support of my family and friends and some truly wonderful people. Paige and the Joann’s team—I don’t think you can call yourself a real princess until you have a fairy godmother who can dress you like real royalty. Thank you for always making me feel that way and for being such a supporter of this program. Kent, thank you for transforming me from a giraffe on ice skates to someone who can walk into a room with total confidence. Gordon—I miss our chats in your salon and am so thankful for your friendship. Steve—I still eat egg whites and blueberry oatmeal just about every morning, so to say I learned from you would be an understatement. Matt and Meredith–from my time as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen to Miss Nashville, you two have been such an important part of my journey. To Mayor Megan Barry and the Metro Nashville School system, thank you for allowing me to work alongside you through my platform The Power of One to encourage and inspire our future leaders. And to the city of Nashville, my city, you have and will always have my heart. Thank you for allowing me to serve you this year.
To my successor—I know that you will carry the Miss Nashville legacy well and I am so excited to cheer you on as you serve our city in an incredible way. And to each of you here with me tonight, I hope you leave here inspired by the stories of the women on this stage and the power that each of us have, in our own way, to make a difference. The power of one of us is formidable; the power of all of us is unstoppable. Here’s to building our legacy together.