Kristen White of Stone Mountain has been a runner-up six times in major state pageants, including first runner-up twice in Miss Georgia USA.
But earlier this week, White finally had her crowning moment – this time on a national stage – winning the Miss Black USA pageant in Las Vegas.
"I finally heard my name last!" cheered White, shortly after arriving in Atlanta.
With the $20,000 in scholarship money, the 27-year-old model plans to return to college and finish a drama degree. She also won a walk-on role in Tyler Perry's sitcom "House of Payne" and a week-long trip for two to the Bahamas.
While dining at the Pancake House after her flight home, she spoke to the AJC.
Tell us about your Atlanta connections.
I grew up in Stone Mountain and graduated from Stone Mountain High School in 1999. I was class president all four years. And I was a cheerleader. I was the popular kid that wasn't all that popular. My parents were strict and had rules, and I wasn't the partying kind.
What is the best part about winning?
I am really excited about the scholarship money. I left Tennessee State University to try out for "American Idol" and made it to the quarterfinals. After that, I pursued an acting and singing career. And I really wanted to go back to college but didn't have the money to pay for it, so a friend suggested I go for the pageant. I thought even if I didn't win, I would get enough money to cover my books. So here I am at 27, going back to school.
Are you single?
Yes, very single. My nephew jokes, "Why are you always by yourself?" That's pretty sad when your 3-year-old nephew notices how single you are.
What do you love about Atlanta?
I am a huge sports fan and love that we've got it all — baseball, hockey, basketball, football. I am a big Karaoke fan and I love to completely embarrass myself. I love running in Piedmont Park. I love hot yoga at Urban Body Fitness. And I love Tavern at Phipps — perfect for me and my girlfriends for a girls' night out.
How was your experience with Miss Black USA different from the Miss USA pageant?
They are both great. ... But being an African-American woman, there was an appreciation and a celebration of my roots and where I come from. There's nothing like being celebrated by people who can also identify with you. It's very cool.