Over Thanksgiving weekend, I had the chance to spend some time with Miss Teen USA 2016 - Karlie Hay at the Miss Texas Teen USA 2017 pageant and interview her for the first time in months.
We had a real honest chat about how her year has been, her goal as Miss Teen USA, about being a role model, and what she has learned about herself.
Read for yourself what Karlie Hay has to say -- in her own words -- in this exclusive interview for thePageantGuy.com.
-Will the Pageant Guy
Walk me through a typical day in the life of Miss Teen USA when you are doing official pageant duties.
Well, when it is a day full of official duties, I normally wake up pretty early because I like to be on time. So I'll wake up, I'll eat breakfast, drink a cup of coffee, and get ready for the day. I try to arrive 10 minutes early for everything. For example, I have worked a lot with our MUO digital team to create new and exciting content that we can share with our fans. You may have seen my reoccurring fitness videos which I have really enjoyed being a part of because a healthy lifestyle is very important to me. Whatever I'm doing, I do it the best that I can. After the day is through, I always make sure to reflect on the memories made.
And what's a typical day like when you are not doing official pageant duties?
Typical day in the life of Karlie would be normally waking up around 9 or 10am when I'm not doing an official pageant duty. Eat a healthy breakfast, go to the gym, and do my online school work. If I have time I like to go up to the library too. My college is about 5 minutes from my house, so I use the libraries resources to study. I'm volunteering throughout the week at Star of Hope which is a shelter the homeless that provides resources and structured programs for those in need.
How has being Miss Teen USA different from what your expectations of it were before winning?
Well, I think I have overcome obstacles that other titleholders may not have had to tackle right away. But I've used these experiences to push forward and focus on what I want to prioritize this year and that is giving back to my community. It's not all glamorous and red carpet events, it's actually been a humbling experience for me to give my time to something I care about.
Tell me about spending time with your sister titleholders, Pia and Deshauna?
It has been a ton of fun and I am thankful to go through my year with them. This weekend Deshauna and I got to share Thanksgiving with Pia since, of course, she doesn't celebrate the holiday in the Philippines. We all talked about what we are thankful for and also shared some of our favorite traditions and memories. The last time I was here (in New York), Pia, Deshauna and I had a couple of movie nights, we love those. Deshauna and I were also just traveling in Miami together to support Best Buddies. We also had some down time at the beach and the pool which I can't complain about!
"I want to set an example for young girls and boys and live by that example..."
Give me some interesting insight about being Miss Teen USA...some things that people may not know?
Miss Teen USA is a job. Whether I have the crown or sash on, at all times I am Miss Teen USA. I am very proud of this accomplishment. I have a title to uphold and I have responsibilities to a lot of people, that's very humbling. I feel very empowered knowing that I have such a big job this year. Some people may think that when you're wearing the crown and sash is when you are Miss Teen USA. No, I am Karlie Hay, Miss Teen USA 24/7. Who I am with my crown and sash on, is the same person I am with it off.
What is your number one goal as Miss Teen USA?
To inspire others to give back and make an impact no matter how big or small. Especially our teenagers, I know we sometimes get caught up with the various things going on around us. It's important to remember that they are others who aren't as fortunate. For me, being able to go out and give back to others is an incredible feeling.
Being Miss Teen USA puts you in a position of being a role model for teenagers. How do you handle that responsibility and is it tough?
I was Miss Texas Teen USA before I became Miss Teen USA so I felt the need to be a role model then just as much as I do now. I don't ever want to slack off because people are looking up to me. I want to set an example for young girls and boys and live by that example as well. That's why I study hard and try to do everything that I can to help my community. All while incorporating my goofy personality and being as nice as possible to everyone that I have the opportunity to meet. I'm sure you probably heard this, but I live by the motto "be somebody who makes everybody feel like a somebody." So, I try to make everyone I meet feel special in some way.
"I have learned that with every obstacle there’s a lesson to be learned. We can gain strength from it."
If you could give one piece of advice to all the teenage girls and guys, what would it be?
That's hard. I like giving advice, but that's a big one. Just one piece? I would say, stay true to yourself. My final answer at Miss Teen USA is all about peer pressure because I feel that's the biggest problem teenagers face - the pressure to be like your friends, and to fit in with society, and act a certain way, dress a certain way. But I think it's so important to remember who you are and how you were raised and be true to that. Be true to who you are, what you like and how you feel. Just stay true to yourself, it's important.
So how has competing in pageants shaped you to be the person you are today?
Well, I think before pageants I was a little lost and I didn't really know who I wanted to be. I was a follower in high school and I think that pageants have shown me that my words are powerful and impactful, and I can be a leader. That's something this title gives you, leadership. When I started competing two years ago, I fell in love with the pageant system and I decided from that point forward, I wanted to push myself to be better and better and better. And I think that helped shape me into the best version of myself.
So, in the few months that you’ve been Miss Teen USA, what have you learned about yourself, if anything?
I have learned that with every obstacle there's something to be learned. We can gain strength from it. I have definitely grown over the past couple of months. And especially through my service at the Star of Hope shelter it's been such a humbling experience. Giving back to my community has shown me a whole different side of the Houston area, a whole different crop of people that I never thought that I could have interacted with or become close with. Now, I look forward to going seeing the same faces every week. Being able to just put a smile on their face and giving back has become so important to me.
"I want to make people laugh and smile and get to know me as Karlie. I want people to like me for who I truly am."
After your time is up being Miss Teen USA, what’s the next thing you want to accomplish?
Well, I want to go to Texas A&M University and get my degree, but I will always continue giving back to my community. The goal would be to pursue a career that I am passionate about, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do. Whether its business, or modeling, or something where I could couple the both, but I do want to continue to with community service efforts.
Enough with the pageant questions and on to some fun questions. Tell me what’s on your playlist? Like what are you jammin to right now?
You know the Bohemian Rhapsody song, it's really old? There's a Panic! At the Disco remix and it was in the movie Suicide Squad. Every time I’m in the car I jam out to Bohemian Rhapsody. It doesn’t get old, I just keep singing it. It gets stuck in my head.
Do you have a pet? Do you like like animals? What’s your story with that?
Okay, I obsessed with all animals. I have an Australian shepherd, but I have dreamed and begged my dad for a couple of years now to get me a mini micro pig – a piglet. I have already picked out a name for it. I want its name to be Jodi. Yes, a piglet, is on my wish list is for a pet, but I would be happy with any type of non-traditional pets. I'm obsessed with koala bears, I have two koala bear stuffed animals – one that I bring with me to New York all the time. Monkeys, I love monkeys. I could go on and on and on about animals, but piglets are something that I see in my future. I need a piglet.
If I asked you to take me the best restaurant that your hometown in Texas has to offer where would you take me and what dish would you suggest?
If you came to my hometown of Tomball, I will take you to Mel's. It's a little town café where they have tons of comfort foods, it's all so good. Some of my favorites are fried steak fingers and mashed potatoes. And it's the best home cooked, country food. And they have desserts and all kinds including pies, cakes and ice cream. It's dangerous to go in there because you are going to want to everything. I'll take you there if you came to Tomball, it's a very traditional, local popular place.
On whatever dish that you eat, what type of condiments do you like to put on your food?
I do not like any condiments except for ranch and barbecue sauce. I really don't care for ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise, and I will not eat anything that it comes with it. So it's just ranch and barbecue sauce for me. I'm very specific. I like chicken with barbecue sauce and French fries with ranch. Oh and pizza with ranch. Ranch on everything!
"...the key to my success was just being myself and letting my personality show."
So, you competed in Texas, with a hundred girls every year at Miss Texas Teen USA. So what's your best pageant tip or trick of the trade that you've used or seen that you can pass along to girls in pageant land?
Beauty tip number one - Vaseline is your best friend. Vaseline is versatile and I use it to remove all my makeup, works like a charm. The second pageant tip is to relax and be comfortable on stage. When I first started competing, I was so nervous that my family told me that I did not look like I was enjoying myself – I looked scared, my lips were shaking, my legs were shaking... I had to be more confident. I think this is probably when I got the most compliments, after Texas Teen USA and Miss Teen USA, people told me that I looked comfortable on stage.
I agree that once you were more comfortable with being you, being goofy Karlie, that’s when you stood out to me.
Thank you. Yes, I had to learn to let my personality show and not be what some may think is a stereotypical pageant girl. I wanted to talk in my own voice and really have a conversation with the judges whether it be on stage or at the interview table. I wanted to be normal "me", I didn't want to sound forced or rehearsed. I wanted my thoughts to come from my heart and be genuine. I definitely think that the key to my success was just being myself and letting my personality show.
Last question. If there’s one message that you would like everyone to hear so people can know who you are as a person, what would that message be?
I strive every day to be someone who makes everyone feel like they are somebody. I want everyone who meets me to feel good about themselves. Through my own personal growth, I have become comfortable and confident in my own skin and I want to encourage others to feel the same. I want to make people laugh and smile and get to know me as Karlie. I want people to like me for who I truly am.
This article was written by Will the Pageant Guy
I'm the Guy at thePageantGuy.com