World

When Sarah Rose Summers donned the tiara and began her reign as Miss USA 2018 on Monday, May 21, she was making history. She is the first-ever Miss Nebraska to win the title since the pageant began back in 1952.

You seem to be taking a very practical approach to this, calling it a job. I don’t think I’ve heard it described that way before so I’m curious in what way you see it as being a job.

On the legitimate side of the verbiage, I am an employee of the Miss Universe Organization so that is one reason I call it a job and this is my full-time priority. There’s a quote about finding  something to do that you love so you can wake up excited every day, so a job doesn’t have to have a negative connotation by any means. This is my job for the year and not many people get to say that, so I am honored.

There are several beauty pageants. Why did you enter Miss USA?

I really resonate with their #ConfidentlyBeautiful campaign. Even before I had a personal connection to that concept, I dreamt of Miss USA. I had watched since I was a little girl and I started competing in pageants when I was 10 — in a system where you can’t wear makeup and there’s no swimsuit competition — and from that point forward, I I always dreamt of being Miss Nebraska on the Miss USA stage.

I don’t have a specific reason why young Sarah Rose wanted that, but now, I’m so passionate about the #ConfidentlyBeautiful campaign as something more than just outer beauty. It’s not just about your physique or your face. It’s so much more about your passions, who you are, and that you can be an intelligent woman and empower other women. That’s why I chose and am honored that the Miss Universe Organization chose me.

When your year is up, will you return to being a child life specialist?

I don’t know. A lot of things are unknown right now. I up and moved to New York City and it’s still all so surreal and I’m trying to get everything aligned. I’m getting my belongings shipped to the city and right now I’m just living in the moment. I haven’t tried to answer too many questions, even for myself. I’m excited to embrace any opportunity that arises if it aligns with my heart and my goals.

I know that I do miss kiddos. Being in the city and so busy as Miss USA, I didn’t see many kiddos, but on Memorial Day weekend, I got to travel the city and I did go to the beach in New Jersey for the first time with a little girl named Sage. She took me to the ocean. I love the innocence that children have and the pure joy from the small things, and it was refreshing to get to play with her for a little while.

Also, I attended Papillion Junior High — that’s where I was born, raised, grew up — and they do a summer D.C.-New York City trip. So, I got to meet with all of the Papillion Junior Highers that were in the city. I was excited to see them for the first time. It’s just been an outpouring of love and support from the community. I’ve watched a few interviews of my former teachers that just brought me to tears at how proud they are and how loving they’ve been.

You mentioned that you’re a small-town girl, but do you also consider yourself an old-fashioned girl?

I don’t think so. I think that I am very evolving to our society, for example, social movements such as the #MeToo movement that’s prevalent. That’s not an old-fashioned concept by any means. I think it’s sad that it hasn’t been brought to our attention until now. I think that it is a terrible issue that needs to be discussed and should have been long ago and I’m proud that it’s being talked about, but I don’t think that’s an old-fashioned thought. I’d like to think I’m pretty relevant.

Sarah Rose Summers, Miss Nebraska USA 2018

Sarah Rose Summers, Miss Nebraska USA 2018 (HO/The Miss Universe Organization)

That said, how do you see that the pageant fits into modern life?

Going back to the #MeToo movement right now, and it’s not just a movement, it’s so much more. It’s going to continue to make history. I’m sure our kids will be reading about it in school one day. It’s not just for a moment and what that is about so much is women’s empowerment. That’s another thing that the Miss Universe Organization aligns with so perfectly.

For example, my first runner-up, Caelynn Miller, Miss North Carolina, we are such great friends. We just connected at the very beginning of our time in Shreveport, La. for Miss USA, and we were able to support each other throughout that week and a half period and really bond on a deeper level. That was through pageantry. Just like a soccer team would bring together people who are competitive and like that sport, pageantry brings together like-minded women that are passionate about their specific causes due to whatever life experience brought them to that, they’re passionate about impacting others with good, and they’re passionate about fitness, so I think it’s very relevant.

Miss North Carolina was one of the women who was very involved in the #MeToo movement because she had been assaulted herself, correct?

Yes, ma’am. We had talked about that during our two weeks at Miss USA. I’m just so proud of her from a friend standpoint. I’m honored to know her. She not only had mentioned it during the segment on the show, but also in her on-stage question.

She’s had many people reach out through social media to thank her. It was such an honor to be up there, to be able to hug after she answered that question because she was so vulnerable to the judges, to the audience, and to the viewers at home.

So, someone in Nebraska could have been sitting on their couch watching her and then empowered to speak out about their own experience and that is a platform like no other. I’m really grateful to have a friend like her that’s open and excited to help this change and say, “No more,” and absolutely zero tolerance for these issues.

The women come together for about two weeks before the pageant. Can you tell who’s going to be successful and who’s not, or because you become friends, maybe you can’t see it?

I don’t think you see. I met over half of the girls earlier in the year. I won Miss Nebraska USA in January and we had an event in New York City that was not mandatory in February. So, I met over half of them then and I remember going back to Nebraska and answering questions because everyone wants to know about the competition and I said, “Obviously, all of them are stunning, but they’re also intelligent, they are respectable, eloquently spoken women that all have their certain causes that they’re passionate about and I have no clue what could happen.”

I remember saying up until I went on stage for the finals that I would not be surprised if I didn’t make the Top 15, and I would not be surprised if I didn’t make the Top 5 because I believed in myself, but I also believed in all of the other amazing women that I was there with. You just never know. You never know what people interview like with strangers behind closed doors, so I had no idea. I was not able to decipher that.

So, part of your job is to enter the Miss Universe pageant representing the United States. What will you do to prepare for that?

I feel like I’m already preparing. Speaking to you and interviewing last week throughout the city is already helping me feel prepared and be more confident in chatting with others. As far as the Miss Universe competition, I know a lot of people have already been asking what I want my dress to be, so that’s a really fun, exciting part of preparation as well. I have no idea. I feel like I just picked out my Miss USA gown.

Miss Universe is an exciting endeavor that will come on later down the road, so stay tuned for that, but I’ll also keep up-to-date with world news and news in the United States. That’s what I did before Miss USA and I do in my life, so I can be aware of what’s going on. That way if I am in a political discussion or current event discussion, I feel confident saying how I feel about it, what I know about it, what I don’t yet understand, and I think that’s what it’s about. It’s all about that conversation and being open, aware and knowledgeable about what’s going on so that you can form an opinion and just chat with people to get to know their side as well.