Her Crowning Glory

Jun 26, 2018 | Style

Braea Tilford, 25, is Miss Kentucky USA 2018, and in May competed for the title of Miss USA. We asked the Louisville native a few questions to see how life is as the reigning Miss Kentucky.

How long have you been doing pageants?

I have not been doing pageants very long. Last year I competed for the first time ever with no training or anything, and I ended up tying for the win and ultimately walking away as first runner up. So, I competed again this year and won.

How does it feel to be Miss Kentucky USA?

It’s actually a very rewarding experience. I do a lot of community outreach with young girls, so I’m able to have access to more spaces to empower and encourage more girls.

What was going through your head when you won?

 I am a perfectionist, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform really well. I was more relieved than anything. It’s a special moment when you’ve worked so hard for something and then you finally crush the goal. It was a very, very relieving and exciting moment for me and all of my friends and family.

How did you prepare for the Miss USA competition? 

I have a runway coach, I have an interview coach, I also have a career coach that I work with personally, I have a personal trainer, and I have an evening gown sponsor. And for me, it’s more of a mental thing. So, just making sure I know who I am and that I can speak to who I am and what it is that I believe in effortlessly, getting that perfected.

Has this been a lifelong dream for you? 

Not specifically being Miss Kentucky USA, but all of the things it entails. I always knew since I was very young that I was a natural born leader. I always knew that I wanted to be in a position similar to Miss USA or Miss Universe, where I can speak to things that I believe in and encourage young girls to be the best versions of themselves.

What advice would you give to young girls with similar dreams?

I would say to every single day work at being the best version of yourself. Take seriously being a good person and being a great contribution to your community.

Has doing pageants played a role in your love of fashion?

Definitely! That’s the most exciting part for me, picking out my outfits for daytime and evening. I’ve been in the fashion industry since I was 16 years old, so I really take that to heart. It’s something I put a lot of time into, just being very meticulous about my image, my brand, and being consistent with it.

What do you like to do for fun when you’re not preparing for a pageant?

I have a lot of friends that are spread out around the East Coast and South, so I love visiting my friends and traveling. I love to work out; cycling is one of my favorite pastimes. And I absolutely love writing and reading.

Is staying fit a big priority for you?

You know, when you look good, you feel good. It’s become a lifestyle. There’s this false notion or narrative that you have to look a certain way or be a certain weight to compete in pageants, but just being healthy is what’s most important to me.

What made you decide to start your leadership conference, Grow Lead Inspire?

I’ve been placed in leadership roles my entire life, and I always knew that I wanted to use or have some sort of platform to encourage other people. It was something that kind of came to me and something that I wanted to do to give back to my community and to give back to young girls, who I once was.

How do you handle such a busy lifestyle?

I have “Braea days.” Some days I do nothing, I don’t leave the house. I know what it’s like to be overworked and to be overcommitted, and you’re not your best self when you are overwhelmed and stressed out. I try to really take some time, even if it’s just a couple hours out of the week, or a full “Braea day.” I try to really take advantage of that.

What are you hoping to accomplish in the future?

I’m really hoping to expand Grow Lead Inspire. I’m hoping for it to become something that’s notable. I want to continue to create spaces to encourage young girls to be game changers in every space that they take up. That is the biggest goal for me.