“She’s just such a nice girl, maybe I’ll dream of her.” Mallory, age 6 speaking with her mother after meeting Ashley Love-Mills, the reigning Miss North Carolina USA.
On Saturday February 23rd Carolina STYLE Magazine gathered with a select group to meet and greet our state’s queen, who will be competing in the Miss USA Pageant in Las Vegas come this summer.
Strikingly beautiful with a calming presence, Ashley Mills glided into the Sheraton ballroom to greet a host of fans and supporters. Ashley was stunning in a black and white color block dress by Alice + Olivia [courtesy of Rebecca & Co of Greensboro, NC.] She hurried across the room to assist with a slideshow presentation that was prepared for the evening; it would give attendees a glimpse into her helpful and hardworking nature.
We also had the opportunity to sit down for a chat with Ashley’s mother, Gloria. When asked, “How does it feel to be the mother of Miss NC USA?” she replied, “I felt blessed that God had honored her hard work. We didn’t get to see her get crowned – the production team came and whipped us away!” Gloria shared that Ashley has competed for Miss NC USA before, “ I was so proud this last time. Ashley has truly matured. She would measure what she needed against what she had. There was calmness in her spirit. She was different this time.” Foundation and faith have been instrumental in Ashley’s perseverance and achievement, “ I understand to be a strong young women you have to have a foundation. I gave her my favorite devotional, when I saw her studying that made my heart proud. Every Sunday night she has a phone date with her Dad, and prayer time with me.” (Gloria)
Overwhelmed by the strong support system and accomplishments of this young lady, the interview begins:
Carolina STYLE Magazine: You have accomplished a lot, let me ask you this: why pageants?
Ashley Mills: “Honestly I stumbled into it, it wasn’t something I wanted to do at first. When I saw girls competing on stage and they looked really confident I knew that being in the pageant world would give me the voice that would make people really listen. At the time I was 17 and I was trying to get involved with the youth and I knew a title would help me to do that.”
CSM: What would you say to people that find pageants shallow and about beauty only?
AM: “Well this is very cliché, but never judge a book by its cover. Because that was me, which is why I threw the letter away when I first got it. But when I started to learn more about the pageant world and what it had to offer, it not only teaches you interview skills, it teaches life skills. How to be a better person, how to be more confident. It prepares your for life. And beauty is really only skin deep; you are competing against 50 other gorgeous women something besides your beauty has to radiate. And something else has to resonate with the judges. I think the judges saw that I had a pure heart going into this, and had a vision and a goal of what I wanted to do after winning Miss North Carolina.”
CSM: So tell me about your platform, why is this so important to you?
AM: “I was bullied all 4 years of high school and I knew that becoming a title holder would give me the opportunity to give back to the community and talk about the epidemic and I knew going into the competition working with Peaceful Schools NC would help elevate that for me after becoming Miss NC USA. It means a lot to me because I understand what it’s like to be bullied and to go through that, feeling like you’re worth nothing and having all this self doubt, that’s what inspired me to want to do it.”
CSM: In what ways were you bullied?
AM: “I was bullied not so much physically but verbal abuse. I was bullied through social media. There were times when I’d find my name written all over the bathroom walls at the school. I was threatened a lot. It stuck with me, and at 24 the one thing I can tell you is [that] I still remember the names of the girls and boys who bullied me, what they were wearing, and everything they said to me.”
CSM: So what would you say to the young girl, who goes into the bathroom and sees her name all over the walls at school?
AM: “First, tell an adult. If she knows something is going on and it’s making her feel uncomfortable, she needs to let someone know about it. Also stand up to the bully; if you know who did it confront them and say your words don’t affect me. The most important thing is not to let the words affect you and learn that confidence.”
CSM: So where does your confidence come from?
AM: “Pageants. At 17 that was the first thing I ever did outside of my box. I realized I was good at it, and that built my confidence. Doing a lot of public speaking, community service, and volunteering put me in a position where I always had to talk, which built confidence. Also, setting goals and being able to achieve my goals gave me the confidence because I knew everything I set out to do, I was going to do it.”
CSM: What do you want people to know about you Ashley?
AM: Aside from being an advocate for the bullying epidemic, I am a Harry Potter fanatic! I’m a thinker, I’m a writer, I’m a philanthropist. I’ve been given these gifts from God and I’m hoping I can use that on a national level after winning Miss USA. Besides that I’m just a regular girl. I’m authentic, I’m real, and just happy to represent North Carolina.
CSM: What do you love most about North Carolina?
AM: The people. When I first moved here I hated the weather but I loved the people. Most of my development has come from living in NC. Living in this state has taught me a lot and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Miss North Carolina USA® 2013, Ashley Mills will visit several North Carolina schools to introduce the “Reach for More: Be Better than Average” Anti-Bullying Tour; the tour began in Durham, NC on Tuesday, February 26, 2013.
Photography by Jason Rizzo
Shannon is a wardrobe stylist and blogger . She completed her B.S in Textile Technology with a concentration in Design. She does wardrobe styling for North Carolina Theater and for the Miss Black USA organization, where she also is a member of the production team. She has a background in fashion show production and publishing. Shannon is a Fashion Contributor for Carolina Style and lives by these words from Coco Chanel: "In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different".