I remember like it was yesterday; it was a Saturday night in late June when I watched Kelly Dawn Fletcher be crowned Miss North Carolina 1989 and my life was forever changed. It was in that very moment I realized my dream was to become Miss North Carolina. Throughout the next few years I watched every June as one young woman was given the unique and wonderful opportunity to travel the state of NC making appearances, compete at Miss America and to leave a lasting impact that would resonate for years to come.
The first Miss North Carolina I had the chance to meet in person, was Jennifer Vaden Smith, Miss NC 1991. To say I was smitten, star struck and speechless is an understatement! Not only was she incredibly beautiful, approachable and all around amazing, she was petite like me and she instantly stole my heart. If there was any question in my mind about my future goals, they were all answered the moment I met Jennifer.
My journey was unique and not easy by any means. The first year I competed I walked away with a Preliminary Talent Award and as a member of the prestigious “Top Ten” Finalists. I was thrilled! The next couple years I competed, I slowly moved up the line with a 4th Runner Up and 2nd Runner Up placement respectively. After being 2nd Runner Up, I honestly considered not competing again. Knowing I only had one more year left of eligibility, the little girl dream that began in 1989 could not let that happen. I proceeded to do everything in my power to make sure there was no stone left unturned, no question that wasn’t answered and there was no way I was walking away with regrets. I decided to put myself on the line, give it my all and if they didn’t like short, dark headed tap dancers, I just wasn’t going to win. The years of hard work, the persistence and the dedication to a dream paid off…at the end of the night on June 21, 2003 my name was called-Dana Lynnette Reason, Miss North Carolina 2003! It was so surreal, spectacular and special I can’t even accurately describe the feeling.
My year of service was amazing and valuable in many ways! I said it then and still maintain that NC will give you back tenfold what you give to it as a titleholder. One of the ways my life has been directly impacted by the Miss America Organization (MAO) was by creating a connection with a member of the United States House of Representatives during our meeting in DC prior to the Miss America competition in Atlantic City. The introduction was exactly what I needed to go back to that Member of Congress and apply for a job in his upcoming campaign for the United States Senate. The skills, connections and tenacity that I learned during my years competing and as Miss NC prepared me to diligently work on that successful campaign.
Today, I am an entrepreneur, a business owner, a fitness instructor and a volunteer. I have no doubt that without my participation in the Miss America Organization, my life would be very different. First of all, I was able to graduate from East Carolina University debt-free. Being a part of an organization that empowers women, provides scholarships and promotes exceptional performance has been an integral part of my life and has definitely altered the trajectory of my life in an extremely positive way. I will forever be grateful to all of the volunteers that make it all possible, to the ladies I competed with each year, for the Miss North Carolina Sisterhood and to everyone who helps those dreams come true for one lucky young lady every single year.
It is often said that it is more likely that your son will play in the NFL than your daughter will compete at Miss America, which I think speaks highly to the caliber of the competitors. As the leading scholarship organization for young women, MAO changes the financial landscape for thousands of contestants each year across the country, as every local titleholder receives scholarships to further her education. The areas of competition encourage personal development in talent, promoting a platform of volunteer work that is close to your heart, supports healthy physical fitness, and requires excellent interview skills that are necessary for long term success in life. It truly fosters an environment of exceptional personal accomplishment and in a time where it can be difficult to find a good and positive role model for our youth, Miss America stands out in an extraordinary way. I encourage you to find a local Miss America preliminary in your area and consider supporting it by way of a sponsorship, a scholarship donation or even as a contestant. Regardless of how you choose to participate-when we all give, we all win!