It is not often that someone wakes up and knows that the coming day could change everything about her life. Today is just such a day for Erika Powell. No, she is not getting married or bringing a child into the world. Her day is far more public. Tonight, the Greenville resident will compete in the Miss USA contest in Las Vegas, Nev.
While Erika will certainly be nervous, she’ll be a little less so than the rest of the competition. That’s because she’s no stranger to the spotlight. More than just a pretty face, the Easley native spent the last several years in New York City appearing in small roles on television shows and in commercials. She also had a chance to display her considerable musical talent, making her solo debut at the Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall and performing in the New York Philharmonic’s production of Janacek’s “The Cunning Little Vixen.”
Her success in New York allowed her to partner with Palmetto State favorite Edwin McCain, who helped produce her self-titled debut EP last year. It’s available for download on Amazon and iTunes.
Not only is Erika no stranger to the spotlight, she’s no stranger to the pageant spotlight. She was Miss South Carolina as part of the Miss America competition in 2005 while she was completing her degree at Furman.
She decided to give pageants another go earlier this year. “I talked to people who were close to me and we thought this was a great way to create some buzz and I said ‘Hey, I’ve been successful at this before, so let’s give it a shot.’”
Times have changed a great deal since Erika last competed. Facebook was in its infancy and Twitter and Pinterest could have passed for the names of golf courses.
Erika had changed in the intervening years, too. “I lived on my own in New York City, paid bills and managed a budget,” she explained. “I met and worked with people from different countries and from different socio-economic backgrounds. Nothing can replace that kind of life experience. That’s just given me so much confidence.”
That confidence was on display when she won the Miss South Carolina contest in November in North Charleston.
Since then, she’s been prepping for tonight. She did a media blitz in May and has been in Las Vegas for the last few weeks, fine-tuning her skills.
Her preparation has been both intellectual and physical. Erika knows that with the prevalence of the aforementioned social media, the slightest slip-up to a question from the panel can spread across the Internet in a matter of minutes. That’s not the kind of attention she’s looking for. So, she’s talked with experts on a variety of subjects as well as former pageant judges.
“You want to know the facts, but you also want to keep your own values,” Erika said.
That being said, there’s no denying appearances matter.
“I’m wearing not much more than a candy wrapper on stage so it’s important to be fit,” Erika said.
But she knows tonight represents the chance of a lifetime. “It is such an opportunity and a platform to develop a personal brand,” Erika said. “I don’t think it’s so much what you do to win as what you do not to lose.”
She heads into tonight's event with a lot of confidence.
“I’m expecting to wear the crown and you have to think that way because if you don’t someone else will pass you by,” she said.
NOTE: You can help Erika by sending her a message on Twitter at @realmissscusa with the hash tag #missusa.
The pageant airs on NBC starting at 9 p.m.