Not too long ago, Christina Marie McCauley centered her wardrobe around the back brace she wore nearly 24 hours a day.
Now, she shops as a potential future Miss America.
McCauley, who won the 2010 Miss Georgia Scholarship Pageant Saturday, wore a back brace between the ages of 10 and 14 to curb her scoliosis — a curvature of the spine.
The “hard plastic contraption” was part of her life 23 hours a day, every day.
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It wasn’t an ideal arrangement during adolescence, a time already characterized by insecurity.
“That absolutely influenced my confidence. I had to work to improve everything else about myself,” McCauley, 21, said in an interview Sunday. “I had to develop this idea of inner beauty.”
The outlook likely helped her stand out as one of this year’s 40 pageant contestants. McCauley, who hails from Marietta, won as Miss Southern Heartland.
She was confident throughout the week and felt as if she brought her “A game.”
“I just kept my head up,” she said.
McCauley won the talent preliminary award on Friday night. She sang “And This Is My Beloved” from “Kismet.”
This was her fourth year competing in the Miss Georgia pageant. She previously placed twice in the top five and once in the top 10.
“It was just an incredible moment. I will never forget it,” McCauley said of winning Saturday’s title at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts.
Despite McCauley’s efforts not to cry during that moment, she said “the makeup needed to be retouched.”
She got about three hours of sleep Saturday night. On Sunday morning, she was already excited about representing Georgia in this year’s Miss America pageant.
“I’ve always wanted the opportunity to go to Miss America,” she said.
While holding the Miss Georgia title, she looks forward to raising awareness of scoliosis and advocating for the Children’s Miracle Network.
The avid dancer said she’s always wanted to be two things: a teacher and a Disney Princess. She’ll reach the first goal by pursuing an early childhood education degree, an effort toward which she will apply her Miss Georgia scholarship money.
As for the Disney Princess gig, McCauley already has a degree in vocal performance from Birmingham Southern College. She’d love a future summer position at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
She’ll stay in shape for the Miss America pageant by exercising with her boyfriend, who is also her trainer. “He helps me stay disciplined,” she said.
Another likely part of the preparation process? Saving some cash.
McCauley’s grandmother, who hails from the Philippines, got her hooked on a superstition of placing $1 bills in her pageant shoes during a competition. It’s supposed to bring good luck.
After McCauley won Saturday’s pageant, she had several congratulatory text messages and phone calls. One was from her grandmother, who had a very important question:
“How many dollars did you put in your shoes?”
Sonya Sorich, 706-571-8516