COLUMBIA, SC - Earlier this month, the 60th annual Miss USA Pageant was held at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. While Californian Alyssa Campanella captured the crown, one of the eight remaining ladies was Miss South Carolina, Courtney Hope Turner. We caught up with her asking her about her experience.
Courtney is a 21-year old from North Augusta, Georgia, who attends the University of South Carolina. She’s been competing in pageants since she was fifteen.
“It wasn’t easy getting here. I was runner up a handful of times before winning the Miss South Carolina title. So, I’m incredibly thankful for this opportunity because it took me to another level in personal growth,” Turner says.
All contestants compete in preliminaries, but only the Top 8 get to compete in both swimsuit and evening gown on national television.
“I was so nervous on finals night. Everyone constantly reminding us that millions were watching! Yet, I was so thrilled knowing this was what I’d wanted my entire life. I gave this competition a 110% in my fitness, interview and media conferences, hair, makeup and wardrobe… everything. So, for a small town girl like me to make it into the Top Eight was a dream come true!”
The 51 contestants are flown out to Las Vegas to spend three weeks of fun prior to the competition. Yet, Courtney says the competition began way before the pageant aired on CBS.
“You have to keep in mind that this is a business—so from the moment we landed to the moment I left—while we’re out at dinner each night, sitting in the VIP sections of shows and concerts—I knew I was competing the entire time and the Miss USA system wants a girl they know will promote them well her entire year.”
Over the three week course, the contestants met many celebrities such as Giuliana Rancic, Andy Cohen, Kelly Osborne and even danced with Richard Simmons. Courtney also made appearances on the Today Show and showed off her black belt moves on Regis and Kelly. She also received lots of prizes such as Chi hair products, a dozen bottles of signature O.P.I. nail polish, and Chinese Laundry shoes.
“Everyone wants to know what things are like behind the scenes. The girls really are amazing. I became close friends with Miss Alabama, Miss Maryland, Miss Georgia, Miss Texas, Miss Florida and Miss South Dakota. And although I seriously didn’t get more than five hours of sleep a night, people at home sending me gifts and encouraging letters – it was like taking an energy pill, giving me more motivation when I was running on empty.”
Courtney says she’s retiring from the pageant world come November when she gives up her title as Miss South Carolina USA 2011.
“But for the rest of my year, I’d love to do more media tours, traveling, more appearances and volunteering. I hope to go overseas and do missions work, too. Carrying out the rest of my duties as Miss South Carolina is important to me and I have that freedom now, not focusing on the competition aspect anymore.”
Turner has worked for the past three years with the Golden Harvest Food Bank, conducts motivational speaking sessions to schools, and does Self-improvement consulting.
Her goal is to be a provisional sponsor for organizations that help stop the sex slavery industry, human trafficking. She has been working with History Starts Now in promoting the cause by creating awareness and raising funds. Courtney was awarded with the Coin of Excellence from Fort Gordon’s military base for outstanding volunteerism and communications. She also received the Leadership award from the Governor of SC.
Her hobbies include sky diving, tennis, painting, and hiking. She is a member of the Central Carolina Realtors Association, the South Carolina Association of Realtors, and the National Association of Realtors. Courtney is also a member of the Entrepreneur Club, Alpha Delta Pi, and the Mountaineering Whitewater Rafting Club.
For more pictures of Miss South Carolina USA 2011: click here.
Miss South Carolina's Evening Gown Competition: click here (3:32)
Miss South Carolina's Swimsuit Competition: click here (3:38)