Miss Connecticut USA On Empowerment, Giving Back, & Competition

When I first met Jamie Hughes I was only 15 years old. I didn’t know much about her, but I could tell she radiated confidence and authenticity. There was something about Jamie that made you want to be around her. To this day, she is still just as down-to-earth and her smile is just as infectious.

Jamie currently reigns as 2018’s Miss Connecticut USA and will be competing for the title and crown of Miss USA on May 21st. Recently, I got the chance to chat about pageantry, modeling, traveling, and always keeping your girlfriends close with Jamie. 

How old were you when you first started competing in pageants? What about competing has kept you interested and motivated since then?

I competed in my first pageant when I was probably 14 years old. It was a very small pageant that gave out every award you could possibly imagine. My mom did pageants growing up. She never pushed me into doing them, but randomly asked one day if I wanted to try it. I said yes and then fell in love with it!

At first I loved dressing up and feeling like a princess. As I grew into a more mature teen I craved the competition. Then as I kept competing I loved how pageantry opened my eyes to charity work and giving back to my community. As a young women, I continued to compete because I loved the friends and network of women I had surrounded myself with. I loved the confidence pageantry gave me, I craved the opportunity for a platform pageantry provided me with to make a difference in society, but overall I love pageantry because of the woman it has molded me into today.

Walk me through a day in your life as Miss CT USA. What is your favorite part?

Well we start at 6am, get up and get ready to go into work. Workouts start for me 6:30am-7:30am. As a Fit Model I commute into NYC Daily, so I normally catch the train at 8am. From 9am-6pm I am in fittings, working with a variety of clients ranging from Victoria’s Secret to Rachel Roy. Running from fitting to fitting, I have 15-30 minute breaks in between fittings and that is usually just enough time to get from one fitting to the next.

Being healthy is incredibly important for my job! I normally carry a lunch box and have food on me at all times! I eat very healthy, all natural and am constantly snacking throughout the day. After a full day of fittings I catch my train back into CT and normally get home around 7:30pm. Once I arrive home that is normally enough time to make dinner and answer emails or go to a charity event/appearance. I usually rotate between the two. My mornings and works days are incredibly busy, leaving my weeknights and weekends my designated time to make appearances and do charity work.

I heavily rely on being organized and scheduling because otherwise it is too much to remember. As Miss CT USA, every day is different, but every day is always wonderful! My favorite part of every day is when I lay down in bed because I get to reflect back on what I did today that was impactful, think about what I plan to do tomorrow and then pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming!

How was prepping for Miss CT different than prepping for Miss USA?

It’s honestly the same, I think prepping for Miss USA is just more intense. Like taking it all up 100 notches. It’s literally the Superbowl of Pageantry. This is the Final Show! It’s a lot of pressure because you want to do your best, make your state proud, but you have to make sure to slow down and enjoy every step of the way.

How do you deal with the stress and pressure that comes along with competing?

I think if competing becomes stressful and too much pressure, then you’re doing it all wrong. You have to enjoy it and have so much fun. Pageantry is a choice and a blessed opportunity, one that so many girls would love to have. Yes competing is a lot of work, but it is all just preparing you for the next opportunity that lies ahead. Everyone handles pressure differently, but for me working out is my safe zone. It’s my time every day to unwind and focus on what I’m working towards.

If you could get paid to do anything in life, what would it be?

Travel the world! And do charity work along the way. I love to travel. I’m all about going to new places and experiencing new things.

What is a goal you have for yourself to complete within the next five years?

I would like to become Miss USA, travel to 1 new country annually and get a Masters Degree.

On social media you often use the hashtags #PressForProgress and #Acceptance4All, what do these tags mean to you?

#PressForProgress represents the pertinence of making a change for the future, a change for women. As Miss CT USA and a Miss USA titleholder, you are part of an organization that represents and produces strong women. As Miss CT USA I am leading by example and my goal is to empower women through spreading the message on the importance of #Acceptance4All. #Acceptance4All encourages individuals to accept those around you no matter where they come from and not to be limited by anything or anyone in the pursuit of your dreams.

What is the most important message you want to spread using your platform?

I want to continue to raise awareness on the importance of #Acceptance4All through my program E.A.R.S. – Empathize, Accept, Respect and Stand Up. In order to relate to those around us, we need accept and respect them. You need to empathize with others, get to know where people come from in order to have a true vision of where they want to go in life. We need to accept each other for our differences and respect the values of others. Once we can accept and respect each other, then we can stand up for one another in pursuit of our goals and dreams. We can stand up together, united as one and make a difference for the future.

Biggest role model?

My mom, she molded me into the woman I am today.

Life motto?

“Pretty is as pretty does” – Meaning you need to be beautiful on the inside in order to be beautiful on the outside. Kindness and a good heart will always shine through.

The pageant industry is often criticized for fueling competition between girls and women, along with objectifying them. As a believer in girl power and female empowerment, what do you have to say to those criticisms?

I would invite anyone who criticizes or questions pageantry to come hang out with my girlfriends and I who all do pageants. I have made some of my dearest girlfriends through pageantry. It is a beautiful and special bond that is unbreakable.

My pageant girls get it, we motivate, empower and uplift on another. We push each other to be the best we can be. We relate to each other on a different level because we have similar hopes and dreams. True friendship is something you cannot fake and is something that is real. Anyone who questions if the true element of female empowerment is present in pageantry, I invite them to come to spend some time with myself a a few pageant girls and they will probably change their minds.

If you could go back in time, how would you describe your current life to the thirteen year old version of yourself?

I’d say… “Girl you are in for an amazing ride! Enjoy every minute of it, be true to yourself and get ready to inspire those around you because you will be given an opportunity to make a difference in the world.”

What advice would you give your twenty year old self?

Be true to yourself and love yourself fully! You are perfectly imperfect, ride the rollercoaster of life and surround yourself with people who continually lift you up to be the best you can be.

All photos from @jamiehughes_ or @missctusa where you can follow Jamie along her journey to Miss USA.

 

 

 

Siera Nezaj

I am a journalism student in New York City and a firm believer that ice cream is an appropriate dessert all year long.

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