UNION — Cristen Wheatley will graduate from USC Union in May with an Associate of Science degree, and during her last semester at the university, she decided to participate in a school event she never imagined participating in — just to prove to herself she could.
Wheatley was crowned winner of the 2012-2013 Miss USC Union Pageant on Saturday evening.
“I’m still shocked I won it,” Wheatley said. “When they said, ‘Contestant No. 5,’ I was in so much shock. I looked down to be sure I was Contestant No. 5 before I walked to center stage and embarrassed myself.”
Wheatley said she has always had issues with confidence, and she thought it would be fun to enter the pageant, even though she never thought she would have a chance at winning.
“I do feel so much more confident,” she admitted. “Had I not won, I still would’ve gained the confidence just from participating with everyone else.”
Stephanie Davis won first runner-up in the pageant, and Ashley Parker was second runner-up. Cynthia Thomas won the award for Miss Photogenic, while Wheatley and Thomas tied for Miss Congeniality.
“Cristen Wheatley will do a wonderful job representing USC Union for the next year,” said USC Union Interim Dean Dr. Stephen Lowe. “I look forward to it.”
Wheatley mentioned that she enjoyed taking Lowe’s History 101 class last semester.
Wheatley was escorted in the pageant by her brother, Doyle, who assisted her as a dance partner during the opening number. Her brother also served as a fellow actor during a dramatic scene they performed during the talent portion of the pageant. Wheatley performed a scene from TV show “Designing Women,” in which she portrayed main character Julia Sugarbaker.
“I chose that particular scene because it was pageant-related; it was southern; and it had attitude,” Wheatley said, adding that audience members appeared shocked at the amount of attitude she displayed. “That’s the effect I was going for. Julia Sugarbaker — and the show in general — is so confident.”
During the pageant, Wheatley was asked what reality show she would most like to be on and why. She answered, “America’s Next Top Model, because it’s not judged just by outer beauty, but also inner beauty. I would like to represent those of us who are five-two — five-three on a good day — and win it all!”
Wheatley said this was her first pageant, and it will most likely be her last.
“I did it just to prove to myself I could participate in a pageant,” she said.
Wheatley originally planned to go to USC Upstate after high school, but after consulting with her mother, Shana Wheatley, she decided to go to USC Union. Cristen said she made the right decision, as she now has better study habits and is not afraid to ask questions in class.
She plans to transfer to USC Aiken after graduation and go into nursing, following in the footsteps of her mother, who also went to USC Union before transferring to USC Upstate.
“I’ve been interested in nursing since I was a small child,” Wheatley said, pointing out that she has papers she wrote in second grade to verify.
She said she has always enjoyed caring for babies, and she wants to work in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) of a hospital.
The Miss USC Union Pageant was hosted by University 101, taught by Bobby Holcombe of the USC Union Financial Aid Office. Pageant proceeds will benefit the Upstate Alzheimer’s Association which includes Union, Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.