Smith competes for NC-USA title

Published 3:21 am Friday, November 5, 2010

Contributing Writer

A Beaufort County woman is among 62 contestants from across the state seeking the Miss North Carolina USA title this weekend in High Point.
Melissa Smith, 25, of Bath left home Thursday morning for the contest, a state preliminary to the Miss USA pageant. Contestants face off in three areas of preliminary competition today: swimsuit, evening gown and private interview with the judges. The 15 women garnering the most points will compete in Saturday’s finals.
“I want people to know that this is not a ‘beauty pageant’ for me,” Smith said in an interview prior to leaving for High Point. “It’s an opportunity to let my voice be heard and give me more chances to help others through volunteering.”
Smith is no stranger to volunteerism. Locally, she has offered her time, energy and talents to several causes, including Eagle’s Wings, March of Dimes and the Children’s Miracle Network. For the past three years, she has been an instructor and performer in the Dancing With OUR Stars fundraiser for Eagle’s Wings.
Along with advocating volunteerism, Smith is making awareness of prescription drug abuse a part of her pageant platform.
“I want to heighten the awareness. … Emergency rooms have seen a 44-percent increase in prescription-drug overdoses, a subject that it often overlooked,” Smith noted.
On Tuesday evening, dozens of supporters gathered at AVA Formals in Washington for a wardrobe showing and send-off party honoring Smith. The boutique donated Smith’s opening number outfit, and it has been instrumental in putting together the rest of her pageant wardrobe.
The pageant’s theme is “Diamonds &Pearls,” and the opening number frock is perfect for the event, according to AVA owner Stacey Clark. The knee-length dress is a black, strapless ensemble with a heavily beaded bodice and a skirt of organza ruffles. Smith’s evening gown is raspberry-pink silk in a mermaid style with a bodice adorned with sparkling crystals. For the swimsuit competition, Smith will wear a coral bikini trimmed in a brown-and-white tortoise print, Clark said. Smith has chosen a gray blouse and black skirt for her interview with the judges.
Smith said she owes a big debt of gratitude to Clark for helping assemble the wardrobe. She also thanked her friend and fellow pageant enthusiast, Brandy Lee Grimes, for her assistance, as well as personal trainer Randy Moore of Fitness Unlimited for whipping her into swimsuit-ready shape.
Smith has had a long and successful career in pageants, winning her first competition at age 14. Pageants have helped raise her self-esteem and forced her to overcome shyness, she said. A veteran of more than 20 pageants, her titles have included Miss Washington Summer Festival, Miss Independence, Majestic Princess of Beaufort County, Carolina Dream Girl and Majestic N.C. Pickle Princess. That last title took her to a state-level pageant, where she finished as first runner-up in the Miss North Carolina United States of America pageant in 2006.
As it turned out, that state pageant was her last one until she decided to enter the Miss NC-USA event. Smith’s father died in 2006, and she “retired” from pageants for a time.
“This is the first pageant I’ve competed in since my father passed away,” Smith said. “I feel this is a sign of closure and achievement for me. I have grown tremendously since he passed away, and I feel I am actually at a place in my life where I am prepared to really give it my all.”
Support from family and friends also convinced Smith to give pageants another try.
“The encouragement from my friends, community and family played a big factor in me deciding to compete,” Smith said with a smile. “And I age out this year, so this is my final year to compete!”
The daughter of Heidi Smith and the late John Smith, she has maintained her passion for pageants over the past few years even though she wasn’t competing herself. She is a co-director of Belhaven’s Miss Independence pageant, has assisted with hair and make-up backstage and has judged several pageants, including the Miss Beaufort County pageant, a fundraiser for Washington’s Turnage Theater, earlier this year.
A graduate of Northside High School, Smith is completing coursework at Mount Olive College for her bachelor’s degree in health-care management; she plans to continue her education by pursing a Master’s degree. She works with orthodontist Dr. Kenneth Manning, dividing her time at offices in Washington, Williamston, Greenville and Edenton.
Of course, should she be crowned Miss NC-USA, Smith’s life will change dramatically. She’ll have a schedule full of appearances, all the while preparing for next year’s Miss USA pageant. Success on the national level would take her to the Miss Universe competition.
But she isn’t letting the pressure get to her.
“I’m ready to go,” she said. “I’m ready to work hard and become a spokesperson. I really want to work on my platform, and as Miss North Carolina USA, I could get my message out to others.”
For more information about the Miss NC-USA pageant, including photos of this year’s contestants, visit
Just the facts
• If Smith is named the new Miss NC-USA, she’ll succeed Nadia Moffett of High Point.
• Miss NC-USA wins, among other prizes, nearly $4,000 in gift certificates to help her prepare for the Miss USA competition.
• To be eligible for the state title, contestants must reside in or attend school in North Carolina, be single, never married and between 18 and 25 years old.
• North Carolina has had two state queens become Miss USA, Chelsea Cooley in 2005 and East Carolina University student Kristen Dalton in 2009. Both were among the top 10 contestants in the Miss Universe pageant.
• Along with the Miss USA winners, North Carolina titleholders were second runner-up in 1975, 1994 and 2004; third runner-up in 1960; fourth runner-up in 1974; semi-finalists in 1956, 1972, 1979, 1984, 1986, 1991, 1992 and 2007; Miss Photogenic in 1991; and Miss Congeniality in 1998 and 2001.
• Kinston’s Constance Dorn, Miss NC-USA 1975, was second runner-up at the national pageant. She had previously been first runner-up to Miss America in 1972.
• The state pageant’s Miss Congeniality award is presented in memory of Tess Elliott, Miss NC-USA 1992. Elliott was killed during her reign in a skydiving accident near Farmville in Pitt County.