In the moment before her name was called as the winner of this year’s Miss Georgia Pageant, Miss Capitol City Maggie Bridges decided that she’d be OK if the other finalist won instead.
That’s because she was standing on stage with her best friend, Miss Cobb County Taylor Voyles.
“So the photos of us just staring into each other’s eyes are so real, because I could not imagine standing on that stage with anyone else,” Bridges said. “It was one of those moments where I realized that, in a split second, I truly believe I would have been just as happy if the crown had been placed on her head.”
Bridges was named the winner of this year’s Miss Georgia Pageant during the Saturday night finals at the RiverCenter. She was named the overall winner in the lifestyle and fitness category as well.
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Bridges — a rising senior at Georgia Tech, who hails from the very small town of Brinson and who plans to go into the pharmaceutical industry — met with the Ledger-Enquirer on Sunday afternoon, still wearing her sash and crown.
We spoke with Bridges about her crowning, her fears during the competition and her future.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Having competed in pageants for a few years, what did you bring to the table?
So I knew that when I was in college, I always wanted to study abroad. And it’s something that’s really hard to do when you’re involved with the Miss Georgia organization, because most study abroad programs happen over the summer. And I called Mansfield Bias (president and chairman of the board) and I said, “Hey, I really, really want to study abroad, but I can’t be at forum if I do this program. There’s parts of Miss Georgia I’m going to miss. How can this work?” And he said, “Absolutely, we encourage you to do that. We want you to pursue all of your dreams, not just this one.” And from January until April 1, I was out of the country exploring.
Where’d you go?
Australia, Fiji and New Zealand. It was actually a biology study abroad program.
So you got to see all the crazy animals they have?
Right, so we studied all these insane animals they have in the Southern Hemisphere — seriously, they have weird animals. They have cockroaches that are larger than your thumb. But it was an incredible, incredible experience. And truly something that all of that taught me is you have to be yourself in everything that you do. And I also learned from the people, they’re just very laid-back, they’re very down to earth. They don’t stress the small stuff.
I’ve heard that advice, being laid-back and at peace with yourself, from multiple other contestants.
I truly believe that that’s something that can apply to not only Miss Georgia, but also life. It’s something I encourage every girl, just be yourself. Just constantly, constantly be true to who you are. It’s never failed me. And until it does, I will encourage people to do the same.
So do you own the sash and crown or do you have to give them back?
It’s mine, they told me I can keep it. (laughs)
Are you going to wear it all day?
I’m probably not going to take it off. I basically slept in it last night.
You have three semesters left of school, but Miss America coming up in September. What’s the plan?
My plan is, go to Miss America and hopefully that will work out for the best and I will have another commitment for the year starting in September, that would be fantastic. Regardless of what happens, I’m committed to Miss Georgia until next year. The following semester, whether that’s next fall or next spring, I’ll plan on picking school right back up.
Georgia Tech is an awesome school and I know they’re going to be really supportive of this. They have been tweeting at me all week. They have been Facebooking me all week. And there were also two other contestants from Georgia Tech there. People think it’s a really big school — it’s actually pretty small. So our whole school has just reached out and just loved on us this week.
What was the hardest part of this year’s competitions?
Funny thing: I always, always, always get the most nervous about talent. Just because there’s so much room for error there. But this year, I wasn’t nervous about talent at all, I felt like I knocked it out of the park. I was most nervous for swimsuit — which is really funny because I actually won overall swimsuit, which still to this moment is like blowing my mind.
That’s got to be validating. I know if I won overall swimsuit, I would be hugely validated.
I still am like, “You guys, that’s funny. You guys are so funny.” But I have worked so hard and it’s something, I think with all women, a mind-set that we have is, “If I can just be skinnier, if I can just get my body in a better place, then I’ll be happy with myself and I won’t see my flaws anymore and I won’t see the things that I find unattractive about myself.” And that’s not true. Whether I’m a size 6, 4, 2, which I have been all of those, I still see the areas that I consider a “problem” on me. So preparing for swimsuit was tough, because it’s just as much of a mental game as it is a physical game. You have to work so hard to make sure that not all are you eating enough and you are exercising appropriately, but that you almost have to assure yourself that you don’t become obsessed with it.
You sang “There Will Come a Day” by Faith Hill for your talent.
It’s kind of a gospel/country song. And it really, something that put me so much at peace with this song, was I feel like with this song, I’m singing to an audience of one and I’m singing to my Lord and my savior and that song was to honor him. It meant so much to me. It’s one of the first times I’ve ever had a song that I just connected with on every level, so that was just a blessing. And I think that’s the reason that I wasn’t nervous about my talent this year, is because I knew that there was one person who had to love it and there was one person I had to glorify and I know I did that.
Have you gotten to spend much time with your family since winning?
No — I actually get to go home tomorrow (Monday) in my brand new Kia, which I’m really excited about. I’m getting to drive a Kia Optima, is what I’ve been told. I can’t wait to go pick it up. And it’s really such a blessing, because my car has been in the shop for six weeks and my dad, he’s like, “Well, we can get you a new car, but we’ll just wait until after Miss Georgia because maybe you’ll have a new car for a year.”
Are you expecting a big homecoming in Brinson?
I don’t know. Maybe? I know that they announced it at church this morning, and I’ve already been contacted by our local newspaper. Lots of fun stuff. I’m sure that there will be an outreach of support, we’ll see. I know we haven’t had a girl from Bainbridge win Miss Georgia since April Brinson (in 1998), so it’s been a while. I’m excited to just be able to go home, and I’m so happy to represent my area and my hometown because they truly have molded me into the person I am today.
Miss Georgia 2014, Maggie Bridges
School: Rising senior majoring in business administration at Georgia Tech, with a concentration in information technology. Plans to attend pharmacy school.
Background: Competed in Miss Georgia once before and in Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen three times.
Platform: Impacting others through volunteerism; partnered with the HandsOn Network, helping people get involved