Originally posted at www.journalnow.com – By Arika Herron, Winston-Salem Journal
When Nia Franklin took the stage at the Metrolina pageant in January, she wore the wrong shoes for the swimsuit portion of the show and used a body oil popular in bodybuilding and figure competitions — a “pageant faux pas.”
It was her first pageant and she didn’t know all of the tips and tricks, but when Franklin, a classically trained opera singer, belted out “Quando m’en vo” from Puccini’s La Boheme, her lack of pageant know-how fell to the wayside.
“It’s like every time she does her talent, everybody is clapping,” said her mother, Kristy Franklin. “It’s not just her crazy family; everybody is clapping.”
Franklin, a Winston-Salem native, didn’t win the Miss Metrolina pageant, but she did win the talent portion. And when she competed next, in the Miss Thomasville pageant, she won the talent and the swimsuit portions and finished first runner-up.
By the time the Miss Capital City pageant in Raleigh rolled around, Franklin was ready. She won the talent award, swimsuit and fitness award and took the top spot, earning herself a ticket to next week’s Miss North Carolina pageant where she’ll be competing against the rest of the state’s local pageant winners — 40 other talented, sharp and driven young women.
The winner will receive a $15,000 scholarship, as well as a host of other prizes, and agrees to spend a year traveling across the state, making appearances and representing North Carolina at the Miss America pageant in the fall.
“It’s a job,” Franklin said.
Should she win, Franklin will take a year off from her studies at the UNC School of the Arts where she is working on a master’s degree in music composition.
To compete for the Miss North Carolina title, contestants must first qualify by winning a local preliminary pageant, like Miss Capital City. The contest is open to women between the ages of 17 and 24, and some women compete year after year, Franklin said.
Each of the local pageants has different eligibility rules. Some are open only to residents of certain counties and some are open to the entire state.
Each contestant is judged in five areas of competition: interview with a panel of judges, lifestyle and fitness (swimsuit), talent, evening wear and on-stage question.
The talent portion is given the most weight, accounting for 35 percent of a contestant’s final score.
Each contestant is expected to promote a platform, in addition to the national organization’s work supporting the Children’s Miracle Network. Franklin’s platform is Music for Life, a cause she uses to advocate for music education and raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Her father, James Franklin, received a diagnosis of lymphoma while she was completing her undergraduate studies at East Carolina University.
After years of chemotherapy and other treatments, he suffered a relapse and needed a stem cell transplant. Nia was his donor. “That’s my hero,” he said, looking at his daughter in their home Friday morning.
Franklin had limited pageant experience prior to entering the Miss North Carolina system. While at ECU, she was crowned Miss Black and Gold, a scholarship pageant sponsored by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Franklin has plenty of performance experience, though. She has been singing since she was a little girl and started voice lessons in high school.
She just completed the first of two years at UNCSA and hopes to continue her studies at Julliard in New York City, where she plans to get a doctorate in music composition before starting a career in the film industry. She wants to compose music for movies.
Franklin said she never considered herself “pageant material” but took an interest in it after two classmates at ECU were named Miss North Carolina.
Quickly, she’s learning the ropes. She’s working with last year’s Miss North Carolina first runner-up, Cheslie Kryst. Franklin connected with Kryst, a Wake Forest University law student, at a pageant several months ago when Kryst was there to pass on her title. Franklin said Kryst has been helping with her swimsuit walk.
“You have to think about having a really natural walk, while showing personality and really showcasing the fitness you have and the kind of body you’ve created for yourself,” Kryst explained.
Kryst, who competed in the Miss North Carolina system in 2014 and 2015, said that Franklin’s talent wins in the Metrolina and Thomasville pageants and her swimsuit win in Thomasville — the first two pageants Franklin competed in — show what a strong contestant she will be.
“The first year I competed, I never won a local award,” Kryst said. “I think she will do amazingly this next week, and I expect great things from her.”
The Miss North Carolina contest will be held in Raleigh from Wednesday through Saturday at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. Preliminary rounds will be held Wednesday through Friday. The final 11 — the top 10 from the preliminary competition, plus the people’s choice winner selected by fans on Facebook — will take the stage for the crowning Saturday night.