A London native is one of the women who is vying for the Miss Kentucky title this weekend in Louisville.
Emily Sharp, a graduate of South Laurel High School and student at the University of Kentucky, is competing as Miss Heart of the Commonwealth and has been undergoing the preliminary interviews and performances for Saturday night's finale - the crowning of the contestant who will represent the state in the Miss America Pageant this fall.
Sharp has worn the crown of 2017 Miss Laurel County Homecoming and has based her platform for the Miss Kentucky pageant on some of her own personal experiences. She competed Wednesday night in the talent portion of the annual pageant as well as the interview section.
Sharp's platform is "Mess Before the Message," which recognizes that trials are the basis to form stronger character and inspiration to move forward. Her message is as follows:
"Today I am here because I learned that you can’t have a message without a mess or a test without a testimony. As Miss Kentucky, Mess Before the Message, will encourage social media advocacy in order for viewers to realize that growth comes from hardships faced throughout life. Viewing hardships as learning opportunities, individuals will be able to build their confidence and be able to spread that confidence among their peers.
"During the 2019 Grammy’s, Lady Gaga said, 'It’s not about how many times you get rejected, or you fall down, or you’re beaten up. It’s about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep going.'
"Today we live in a world where people are quick to judge and define someone by their shortcomings. Individuals can find themselves at rock bottom and feel as if they will never have status or be successful due to their past. A year ago, I was one of these people. I found myself so far away from the person that I once was, I let depression and stereotypes dictate my life and make me someone that I am not.
"When I lost my father to cancer, I tried to be who everyone thought I was: resilient and proud. I didn’t want others to think I needed help because I viewed that as a sign of weakness. This resulted in shoving my grief and sadness deep down and offering a fake smile to others. I would offer to help with their problems instead of seeking help for my own. I found myself engaging in relationships or tasks for the wrong reasons and never reflected on how this was pushing me away from who I wanted to be.
"Once I found myself at the lowest point of my life, my eyes were open to the fact that it was okay for me to not be okay. Once my mistakes came to light, people who I once relied on chose to define me by the mistakes I had made instead of seeing the good in me. Statements made to me by people who I had never thought would be able to conjure up such things to direct towards me dug deep and tacked onto the already overbearing weight on my shoulders. For a while, I accepted these statements for truth, that I would never amount to anything, that I would never fit in based upon my mistakes.
"Because of the Miss Kentucky Organization, I was able to rise to my feet. Directors, contestants, and true friends refused to see me give up. I learned that regardless of your mistakes, depression, or past, you can take whatever you have been through and turn it into a lesson.
"A common misconception is Miss Kentucky is perfect, however, that is far from true. Miss Kentucky has stories and life lessons that she is able to share with others. Growing up, I always thought that in order to be a Miss Kentucky or Miss America you had never made a mistake. Unfortunately, too many people still have this idea. As Miss Kentucky, I will look at little girls and little boys and show them that is is okay to not be okay.
"I believe that more dynamic young women would be involved in the Miss America Organization if they realized that they did not have to be perfect in order to compete. I believe that negative stereotypes towards ‘pageant girls’ would decrease if people realized that every contestant is a real person who has made mistakes and isn’t perfect.
"Looking introspectively into our organization, there are women who act like everything is perfect and that hardships do not exist. Additionally, it is very rare that someone shows or talks about the hardships that they are going through or have went through. It is time that we, as titleholders, are more transparent and more relatable.
"Miss Kentucky is meant to be a role model, a leader, and a difference maker in our state. When she openly shares about the adversities she has overcome, it allows others to speak about their mistakes, own them and become a role model because of it.
"Mess Before the Message is a platform that everyone can relate to. I plan to use the media to encourage a chain reaction through people turning their mess into a message that will positively impact society. As Miss Kentucky, I will use social media tools such as Instagram to make sure people do not believe that their past defines them.
"There were times where I felt alone, but as Miss Kentucky I plan to promote social media as a positive resource for youth and teens to share their life experiences like myself. I am here to change the idea of a “perfect” Miss America. I am here to be transparent and relatable. I would be a perfectly imperfect Miss Kentucky."
As stated in her platform address, Sharp experienced an emotional roller coaster following the death of her father, the late Dave Sharp, just weeks after she graduated high school and just weeks before her first involvement in the Miss Kentucky pageant in 2016. She is also the daughter of Ronda Stewart Sharp and has four siblings - Annie, David, Mary Jayne and Jenny.
The Miss Kentucky Scholarship Organization is a prerequisite to the Miss America pageant and is a non-profit foundation devoted to empowering women across the state to achieve the goals that will benefit them and their state. Achievement, educational opportunities and public service are key components for those wishing to wear the crown of Miss Kentucky and Miss America. The Miss America Foundation is the largest scholarship organization in the world, according to their website. In 2016, this organization, combined with state and local organizations, awarded over $45 million in cash and in-kind scholarships.