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pageantry interview ● leah sykes
A Song in
Leah Sykes sees the end of her
reign as Miss America’s
Outstanding Teen as a blessing,
for the girl that she’ll soon
crown and the next step in her
F or many teenagers, the prospect of moving away
to a new city for college is as terrifying as it is nec-
essary. After all, new cities mean new faces and
fewer friends, and if that school is out-of-state,
then it also means being further away from par-
ents and a source of free food and endless laundry deter-
gent. But that’s just one of the many beneﬁts of being Miss
America’s Outstanding Teen, as Leah Sykes has learned the
fun way by adding so many miles to her travel odometer
over the past year. Going to college at Belmont University
in Nashville will probably be a breeze, since she’s already
been there during her reign.
If all goes well, she’ll be in Nashville well beyond college,
too. Leah’s singing career is just starting to take off as her
time as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen comes to an end,
and taking classes in the same city that so many of the
music industry’s biggest stars have recorded their best hits
is simply going to inspire her like never before. But before
she can get to that point, she has to crown her successor in
Orlando, the same way that Rachel Wyatt crowned her on
August 17, 2013. It’ll be a bittersweet moment for Leah the
same way that it has been for others, but she couldn’t be
more excited for it.
Pageantry magazine: You’re a very busy young
lady, but looking back, what memory still remains
from the night you were crowned Miss America’s
Leah Sykes: I know that every girl always says it, but for
me that night was so special and so crazy, having been my
ﬁrst pageant and not expecting to win. Being able to turn
around and see all of the girls come running towards me to
give me a big hug was so memorable and sweet, because
that night I made so many amazing friends. That’s some-
thing I will cherish forever.
PM: Tell us a little bit about your travels as Miss Amer-
ica’s Outstanding Teen.
LS: They told me right after I won that there would be this
time in the summer when I would be just totally swamped
for like six weeks with continuous travel. They called it the
“Summer Tour.” I’ve been to around 15 states this year, and
I visited four more than once, so I’ve been super busy but
it’s been so wonderful to get to go to completely different
climates and meet completely different people. It has been
so much fun to be there to support the girls and meet so
many people. It has been such a blessing.
PM: Was there a particular place or state that you were
able to visit for the ﬁrst time that really blew your mind
and changed all of your perceptions?
LS: I don’t know if my perceptions necessarily changed, but
for the ﬁrst time this year, I got to go to Nashville, Ten-
nessee, and I’m a singer/songwriter and I play guitar. It was
so amazing for me to get to go there and it really does ﬁt
every stereotype that you know. There is music on every
corner and to me it’s the happiest place on Earth. It was my
favorite place to visit.
PM: One of your goals as MAOTeen was to be a role
model for young people. Have you been able to carry
that message throughout the whole year?
LS: Absolutely. One of my favorite appearances was in
Philadelphia, where I got to go to the U.S. Dream Acade-