WARNER ROBINS -- It’s a tradition in Houston County that high school seniors wear crowns on the first day of school. Olivia McMillan missed the first day of her senior year, but she will get to wear a crown for the next year as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.
The 17 year old, who attends Northside High School, was crowned Miss America’s Outstanding Teen on Saturday night in Orlando, Florida.
In an interview with The Telegraph, McMillan said she will spend the next year as a representative of not only Warner Robins and Georgia but also the entire country trying to raise awareness of important issues.
“There are a lot of negative images of women out there,” she said. “I want people to know that being confident and being modest are still good traits.”
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AT THE COMPETITION
After relinquishing her cellphone and saying goodbye to her parents, McMillan started her week of competition with an interview. It was on her second day of competition, however, that McMillan got a boost that helped her throughout her week. The teen won the talent competition for her vocal performance of “Nessun Dorma,” the classic aria made famous by Pavarotti.
“Talent is what I love to do,” said McMillan. “It’s my passion, so for me winning, I really felt confident and it set a precedent for the rest of the week.”
After preliminaries the next two days, contestants got a day off and McMillan and the other teenagers toured the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. The Miss America’s Outstanding Teen program raises money for the Children’s Miracle Network.
“A lot of us had not had our state crowns long so we hadn’t had the opportunity to make appearances as a state title holder, so we really got to see how the money is being used,” she said.
The pageant picked back up Saturday evening and McMillan worked her way through the categories -- first making top 12, then top 10, then top five.
She had to answer two onstage questions: one about how she would like to be remembered in her high school yearbook and the other about an event that changed her mind about something and why.
McMillan told the audience that, shortly after being crowned Miss Warner Robins Outstanding Teen, someone said to her that she was too big to win at the state level.
“That question gave me an opportunity to say to other girls, you can do anything that you set your mind to. Never let anyone tell you no,” said McMillan, who embraced a healthier lifestyle and lost 50 pounds in the eight months leading up to the Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen Competition.
THE NEXT YEAR
After being crowned, the next 24 hours were a whirlwind of activities -- an after-pageant party, brunch the next morning and meetings with the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen board to talk about the year ahead.
Tracey McMillan, Olivia’s mother, said the organization “understands that she is in high school and has school and community activities.”
“They want to help make the year not over demanding,” her mother said.
That starts with social media. As Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, the teenager had to shut down her own personal sites on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She will have official sites on Facebook and Instagram, where she will blog and people can follow her journey over the next year as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen and as a student.
Her first official event on her schedule is the Miss America pageant to be held Sept. 9-14 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“She was already going to Miss America in her role as Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen,” said Tracey McMillan. “But because of the new title, she will have a bigger role. She will be performing at the preliminaries and will be introduced at the televised pageant.”
Her mother will travel to Miss America with her, but for most of the year, the younger McMillan will have a traveling companion provided by the Miss America organization.
McMillan will miss some school, but her mother said that already has been all worked out.
Northside Principal Greg Peavy and the school “have been very accommodating with us and the Miss America organization. Everyone wants her to be successful in school,” said her mother.
For Olivia, going back to school Monday was what she wanted.
“I was ready to be with my Northside family,” she said. “I would have never made it this far with the support of the school and all the opportunities I have been given there. It is my second home.”
This week, she jumped right back into school with one-act auditions.
“People asked me if I felt different,” she said. “I am the same girl, just one with more scholarship opportunities.”
McMillan made a lot of friends at the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant, many of whom were surprised she doesn’t have a Southern drawl.
“I am so grateful to this community. We have good old Southern values. But Warner Robins is the International City -- everyone is from everywhere and I feel so fortunate to have grown up in a place where people don’t see color and that has so much culture that adds to the community. We are also a patriotic community and that has helped me have a deep appreciation for this country and the armed forces.”
“In Warner Robins, we love America,” she said.