Megan Johnson has competed in “about 20” pageants, and won a few, but she didn’t expect to win her age division at the 2013 National American Miss Georgia pageant.
To her surprise, she was crowned National American Miss South Georgia Teen in the pageant at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on June 30.
“I just wanted to go for the experience,” said Johnson, a 2013 South Effingham High graduate. “I had no idea I was going to win. It was a huge surprise.”
“She did absolutely amazing,” said Megan’s mother, Sara Johnson. “I am very proud of her.”
A total of 258 girls competed in the pageant, including more than 100 in the teen division (16-18-year-olds). Because the teen division had so many contestants, it was split into South Georgia and North Georgia divisions.
“I had no idea this pageant was this big,” Sara Johnson said. “It’s not necessarily bigger (than Miss Georgia) in that everyone knows about National American Miss, but, with the number of contestants, it was bigger.”
Megan will compete against other state winners in the national pageant at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., during Thanksgiving week. She will have the chance to win a share of more than $500,000 in cash and prizes.
Megan will have a large cheering section for the national pageant. Her parents Patrick and Sara, older brother Garrett and younger sister Haley all plan to make the trip to California.
“It’s the whole week of Thanksgiving, so the whole family is going to try to go,” Sara said.
“I am so excited. The farthest I’ve ever gone from home is Arkansas,” Megan said. “I am really excited to meet my fellow queens, and I’m looking forward to going to Disneyland.”
Unlike pageants in the Miss America system, National American Miss pageants do not have talent or swimsuit portions. Instead, contestants are rated primarily on their communication and presentation skills.
Contestants are scored on their personal introduction on stage, formal wear poise and appearance, communications skills in an interview, and their community involvement. Every participant had a one-on-one interview with each judge.
“The beauty is important, but it’s not what is most important,” Sara said. “This pageant is more about the girls’ confidence and community service and them being leaders.”
The judges were impressed with Megan’s involvement in her community. She has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army and been a counselor for the Arc of Effingham’s summer camp for children. She takes mission trips each year with her church, including one to Tennessee last year to assist people in areas ravaged by tornadoes.
However, she said what she loves most is helping at nursing homes. Megan became a certified nursing assistant through South Effingham’s nursing pathway.
“I have always wanted to help people,” Megan said. “One of my goals in life is to give and give and give as much as I can.”
It’s no surprise then that Megan plans to pursue a career as a nurse. She will attend Georgia Southern, and said she is “very excited” about being part of the university’s “excellent” nursing program.
Nursing is quite a switch from the career Megan dreamed of for years. She said she began dancing at age 2 and continued to do it for 14 years.
“I always thought I would be a dancer,” she said. “I saw myself going to New York and becoming famous.”
However, that changed after a bad break — or rather, a series of them. Over the course of a few years, Megan broke both her feet — twice. She attributed it to “dancing so much” and not allowing time for injuries to heal.
“So I thought, ‘Maybe this isn’t God’s plan for me,’” she said.