NEW HAVEN — It was literally a crowning moment for 21-year-old Lauren Roush of New Haven Sunday, as she was chosen Miss West Virginia USA 2017.
With approximately 45 close family members, friends and sorority sisters in the crowd cheering her on, they watched throughout the two-day pageant in Morgantown as Roush was named to the top ten, final five, and was finally crowned.
Roush described the winning moment as an “out of body experience.”
“I remember falling to my knees, and then feeling very loved and supported as fellow contestants surrounded me, helping me up and congratulating me,” Roush said. “I remember pointing up, giving all the glory to God, and looking out at my family. It was all so surreal.”
Roush and other contestants competed in three categories – interview, swimsuit and evening gown. Once she was named to the top five, those contestants were given on-stage questions. Roush said hers was concerning social media and how she would use her account as Miss West Virginia USA. Her background had prepared her to easily answer. Roush speaks to middle school girls in a program she created, and told the judges and audience she would use the account to promote female empowerment.
After being crowned, Roush said it was a whirlwind of activities. She and the winner of the Miss West Virginia Teen USA pageant, Olivia Hutchinson of Huntington, were taken into a meeting with the pageant owners. The royalty, along with their parents, signed contracts and were given information about the year ahead. Then there were photo shoots with the pageant owners, former royalty, family members and other officials.
Roush said she and Hutchinson were placed in a motel room for the night, and spent Monday in photo shoots both together and separately. One of her first official events will be Sunday, when she attends the Miss Indiana USA pageant.
The daughter of Jamie and Becky Roush, the new Miss West Virginia USA remains humble as she tells of her road to get to the title.
“I was in close to 50 pageants and lost most of them,” she said.
Roush said she has been competing in pageants since the age of 16, and while several times she felt like giving up, it was the people of Mason County who encouraged her to continue.
“I’m really thankful for the ongoing love and support from the people of Mason County,” Roush said. “I was ready to give up, but the community kept encouraging me. I’m very lucky to be a Mason County girl and I feel really grateful. This isn’t a win for one, it’s a win for all of us.”
Roush presents a program in the elementary and middle schools titled, “11 Things I Would Tell My Middle School Self.” The program deals with school work, social media, dating, the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and many other topics. She now can add a twelfth topic of how to stick to your goals.
“I would tell girls to never give up on their dream,” she said. “There is power in perseverance. The sky is the limit, and don’t let the world change you. You are enough.”
Roush mainly resides in Morgantown these days. She attends West Virginia University, where she is majoring in secondary education. This past summer, she spent time teaching children in Santiago, Chile.
As Miss West Virginia USA, Roush will make a variety of appearances and act as an ambassador of the state at charity and social events. She said among those will definitely be visits here.
“I would love to make appearances in Mason County,” she added.
Roush will go on to compete in the nationally televised Miss USA pageant. She said the date and location have not been announced, although the pageant is typically held in June. Last year’s pageant was held in Las Vegas, while the year before was in Baton Rouge. Roush attended both.
Roush can be followed on social media with the hashtags #RoadtotheCrown, #ConfidentlyBeautiful, and #MissWestVirginiaUSA. She also has a Facebook page, Miss West Virginia USA.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing who lives in Mason County.
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