Tennessee is one of the states that I believe soon become the next Texas, California, and New York for the Miss Universe Organization. Tennessee has been selecting amazing girls, like Ashley Durham, who is profiled in my next interview.
Ashley is a former Miss Tennessee Teen USA 2006. She hails from Adamsville, Tennessee. Ashley competed for Miss USA 2011. She and Alyssa Campanella, Miss California, were my top two. My prediction was correct. Ashley would be an amazing Miss USA if Alyssa won Miss Universe, which I thought she had a very good shot at becoming in 2011. After the Miss Tennessee organization selected Ashley to represent at Miss USA, I knew there was no doubt that there would be another Miss Tennessee as Miss USA in the near future. Ashley is currently modeling for Tony Bowls, one of the preeminent dress companies from which may pageant girls get their gowns. Ashley chose one of the best evening gowns I have seen in the pageant world (Lissette Garcia, Miss Florida USA 2011, also chose a beautiful gown). Tony Bowls designs amazing dresses, so check him out.
Ashley is one of my favorites and someone who I look up as a role model in the Miss Universe organization, even though she didn’t win the title. I hope you enjoy this interview and feel the same special bond with her that I do.
1) What made you to decide to compete again after you won Miss Tennessee Teen USA 2006?
It takes courage to compete for the Miss title, especially as a former Teen titleholder. I waited to compete until I felt like I could give the job of Miss Tennessee USA my entire heart. Encouragement from a few of my dear friends, Maria Montgomery, Ana Rodriguez, Katie Stam, Joel Green and Tony Bowls, had a huge impact on my decision to compete again. They were my cheerleaders every step of the way.
Ana actually stuck her Miss Texas USA dress from the year prior in my face at one point and said, “Wear this at state! You are going to Miss USA with me!” (This was before EITHER of us had competed for the 2011 titles.)
2) What do you think of Brittany Sharp, who is Miss GA USA 2013? Since she was in your class for Teen Division.
As you know, Tennessee and Georgia (and now Mississippi) are fortunate enough to have Kim Greenwood as a director. Because of this, Brit and I were basically connected at the hip as teen titleholders. I am happy to say that we have consistently kept in contact since our teeny bopper days. She is truly a class act with a fierce determination to excel, making her a strong contender for Miss USA 2013.
3) At the top two, standing with Alyssa, what were your thoughts? Have you been in touch with her?
I am not sure how long her and I were on-stage as the top two but I can safely say anything you can imagine that Could have crossed my mind, Did. Thoughts were flying through my head at lightspeed during that moment. Alyssa and I became very close during our time in Vegas and we continue to keep in contact. Of course I was heartbroken placing 1st runner-up. However, at the same time, I was ecstatic that someone I genuinely adore won Miss USA. She did a wonderful job during her reign and I am very proud of her successes.
4) Have you been in touch with other girls in the class of 2011?
Absolutely! Our class actually has a social media outlet where, as a group, chat and keep up with each other. Outside of the mass conversation: Ana Rodriguez (Texas) is on my speed dial. I just visited Courtney Hope Turner (South Carolina) in Los Angeles. Brittney Dawn Brannon (Arizona) and I also catch up regularly.
5) After your time as Miss Tennessee USA, you became a very successful model. What companies do you model for?
At this time I am represented by, New View Model Management, FORD Miami, FORD Chicago and CLICK New York.
6) Who designed your dress for Miss USA 2011?
Honestly I was never particular about what my gown would look like for Miss USA 2011. My only preference was that my gown HAD to be a Tony Bowls design. Tony and I have worked together for 8 years. He knows what I look best in and my personal style. I felt incredible in my competition gown and even the “back up” dress I wore for photos!
7) Where did you learn to be amazing confident on the stage at Miss USA?
I didn’t have much confidence in general when I was crowned Miss Tennessee USA. This was something I had to work on consistently before competing at Miss USA. Women especially have severe problems with self-confidence. We tend to underestimate our own ability on a daily basis. I was blessed enough to have people in my life that called me out on my LACK of confidence AND helped me feel better about myself. A person’s self-image is extremely important in maintaining a healthy mind and lifestyle. It is the best beauty tip to live by. When you are happy with yourself you feel, look and perform day-to-day activities better.
8) Describe one word about yourself and why?
I was once told, “You are the sweetest smart-aleck I have ever met.” I thought it was hilarious but I didn’t realize how much it applied until after I told a few friends and their responses were “YES! That is a GREAT description of you!” “That’s Perfect!” …etc. etc. I am always cracking a sarcastic joke but never-ever to be rude or pick on anyone. Actually, I give myself plenty of material. But hey, if you can’t laugh at yourself, life would be very stressful!
9) What are your future plans?
I have been incredibly “mobile” since I passed on the title of Miss Tennessee USA. I finished up at the University of Memphis, graduating with honors. Working in the modeling industry requires taking opportunities day-by-day. I have lived in Memphis, Miami, Chicago and New York just in the past year. I am excited to be traveling to South Africa for the month of July 2013 on a mission trip. Until then, I will be working out of Chicago. After that… who knows! 🙂
10) As I have seen to you being a model for Tony bowls, what would you say about Tony and Tony bowls?
Tony never ceases to blow me away even after 8 years of working for him. His growth as a designer throughout our time together has been unbelievable. The dresses are always phenomenal and unlike many designers he has a hand in every stage of the designing process. But not only is he a fantastic designer he has a huge heart, much humility and, despite his success, he has never lost that.
11) What your experience different between Teen and USA?
Yes, they were completely different! I will admit I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I began my journey as Miss Tennessee Teen USA 2006. It took me 5 years to return because I wanted to make sure I could give the job of Miss Tennessee USA (and potentially Miss USA) everything I had in me. My experience at Miss Teen USA was a huge force continually motivating me to excel locally and nationally as Miss Tennessee USA.
12) Could you name one or two former Miss USA or Miss Universe or Miss Teen USA as your role models and why?
Chelsea Cooley, Miss USA 2005, had a tremendous impact on my life. I had the pleasure of getting to know her at the StandOut Productions Retreat and we still keep in touch today. Chelsea has a sincere faith and genuine heart that truly makes her a one of a kind. Of course, we talked about Miss USA preparations but that topic was never the sole reason for our conversations. She took interest to me as a person and not as a titleholder. Her selflessness, reliability and guidance helped me overcome a difficult situation in my life and in turn allowed me to mature as a person
13) Were you able to keep all of the dresses that you compete at Miss USA as opening dress and Tony Bowls?
Thank to Tony Bowls I will forever cherish my evening gown from Miss USA 2011! I was also very fortunate as Miss Tennessee USA to have generous sponsors supporting me throughout the year. I wore several gowns/cocktails at Miss USA and throughout my year given by the following sponsors:
Steven Fields (Brentwood, TN), JoAnn’s (Union City, TN), Anne’s Bridal (Paducah, KY), Debbrah’s (Paducah, KY), Formal Affairs (Corinth, MS), The Encounter (Kingsport, TN), The Competitive Image (Dothan, AL), A Bridal Path (Bristol, VA)
Sherri Hill was also kind enough to allow the contestants to keep a cocktail dress from the 2011 introductions.