Hi Lady Code! It’s finally Wednesday and I have an inspiring interview with Miss Florida United States 2014, Tia McDonald to help you get over the hump! Our newly crowned Miss Florida United States is not only a beautiful woman, but she cares deeply about her community and is always seeking ways to make a positive impact on her community. What else? She is super ambitious and smart. She hopes to form her own non-profit organization and earn a Ph.D in Communications. She is a great role model and lives a life empowering others! Read Lady Code’s interview with Tia to get to know her better.
Tia was crowned Miss Florida US on March 30th,
is excited to spend her year traveling around Florida
to encourage students to follow the right path; though she’s ventured up the East Coast reaching Toronto, and over the entire West Coast in her short reign, so far
Ten years ago, McDonald started a pageant for special needs people called Our Shining S.T.A.R.S, which has crowned more than 500 kings and queens to this date. The pageant was created to allow mentally and physically challenged children and adults the opportunity to have their shining moment on stage.
At age 15, McDonald started a cheer team for underprivileged girls that won first place at state championships, three weeks after forming. Collectively, McDonald has individually raised more than $100,000 for people in need, not including the five cars given to families in need that have wheelchair lifts, hand-gas and hand-brakes.
She has won the President’s Bronze, Silver and Gold award, Governor’s Point of Light Honor, a proclamation from the mayor and the Medallion of Excellence for her community service efforts. She is looking forward to acquiring and someday owning a public relations firm that concentrates on non-profit organizations. Last summer, she interned at the Special Olympics, where she specialized in managing events and social media. Tia graduated The University of Florida in May 2014, with a degree in Public Relations.
Currently, Tia is modeling full-time through print, commercial and television work. She enjoys racing events, and was a podium official race model for the 24 Heurs of Lemans in France, as well as, a Covermodel for the book “Once Upon a Time,” shot in Australia. She is thankful for the opportunities, and experiences that her work has led her to, and looks forward to speaking with, and inspiring children in the places that she visits.
Favorite Color: Blue
Favorite Book: The Secrets
Favorite Workout: Anything Outdoors, which includes hiking California mountains, to swimming in the “Shark Bite Capitol of the World,” or my home waters, New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Education: University of Florida, B.S. in Public Relations
Hobbies: In the small amount of time that I do have, I enjoy volunteering, singing, dancing, and boating.
Congratulations on being Miss Florida United States 2014! Can you tell us how you got involved with pageantry?
Thank you so much!!! My Mom started me in pageants at 6 months old, but I took a break in my toddler years. At 8, I did a scholarship pageant, and won prettiest hair (which I was estatic, with there being 60 girls competing)… I had a blast at the pageant, and discovered other little girls that I longed to fit in with. I went back the next year, and won $10,000. From that point, I started competing in scholarship pageants, and saving up for the school of my dreams, University of Florida.
What would you say to a woman who may be on the line about competing in a pageant?
I would say that there is sooo much to gain, so why not?
I wore a $50 thrift store dress proudly, and gave it my all when I competed and won the pageant mentioned above. It doesn’t matter where you come from, if you have a will; there’s always a way.
What is the most rewarding thing about pageants?
The friendships, and opportunities to branch out in your community to make a difference. Miss Florida US has allowed me to shed a positive light on many charities, and it’s amazing to meet so many beautiful, and hard-working ladies.
Tell us about your platform:
At 15, I formed a mentoring program for sixth grade students called “On Track” at New Smyrna Beach Middle School, which has led me to travel nationally to speak at schools, clubs and organizations. Throughout school, I was severely bullied for my beauty mark, and believe it’s important to inspire kids to believe in themselves, and make a difference through Relay for Life. With my Mom being a 2x survivor, and my father suffering from Leukemia, I am passionate about finding a cure.
Have you ever been a victim of bullying? If so, how did you first react to bullying?
I remained quiet, and didn’t say anything. As soon as I went home, I cried every day, until I started traveling to other places, and working on my own life, instead of focusing on what other kids thought. If I can reach out to one child to make them feel special, or stop someone from bullying; then I am a step closer to “peace.”
How did you overcome bullying, and how has it made a difference in who you are today?
As I started to really dislike school, I created a world of my own when I wasn’t there. I cheered, danced and had dinner with the Governor for community service efforts at age 10. By 13, I was awarded by the President for academics and community service, and was very fortunate to write for my local newspaper. Interviewing Disney Channel Star’s, Sports Athletes, and other celebrities, on top of pageantry kept me more focused on a goal.
Do you have any advice you can offer for our readers who may be bullied?
The cool kids who bullied me, are the one’s who ended up dropping out before graduation, and had problems that they were taking out on me, which is something I wish I would have seen in middle school.
I would tell a reader to focus on the people who love them, instead of the people who are trying to bring them down.
As far back as 3rd grade, I remember asking a bully why she was so mean, and said she must have a hurting heart, which prompted her to sitting, and telling me all about her problems at home. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the place that others are in.
What can our readers do within their communities to get involved?
Almost every community has Relay for Life, run by the American Cancer Society.
Each year, more than 4 million people in over 20 countries raise much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer through the Relay For Life movement. Please visit relayforlife.org for more information!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?
I hope to own a non-profit organization, with a Ph.D. in Communications, quite possibly in Southern California. 🙂
Who is your role model and why?
Oprah Winfrey is my ultimate role model, though I also relate, and look up to Olivia Culpo. They are both women that built their career’s through pageantry, and found success through hard-work and dedication.