Sarah Park entered the Miss UGA Competition intending to gain new experience and win the competition’s scholarship. Park not only walked away with the Miss UGA 2023 crown, but she also discovered newfound potential to use her voice for good.
Park was unfamiliar with the pageant world before being crowned on January 21. A senior public relations major from Sugar Hill, Georgia, Park has been heavily involved at UGA with several organizations. She was a 2022 orientation leader and is the director of the Athens Branch of the Atlanta Run Club.
Last year, Park wanted to try something new by participating in the Miss University of Georgia competition. A main motivation for Park to compete in Miss UGA was to increase Asian representation in spaces like beauty pageants. In an interview with Kelsey Hollis, Miss Georgia 2022, Park discussed the learning experience the competition provided. “The pageant culture is foreign to me, but it’s been pushing me to learn that it’s more than face value,” Park said.
She won the Miss UGA title against 16 fellow contestants. What started as a one-off experience became a journey for Park to learn so much more about herself.
The Miss UGA Scholarship Competition is a local affiliate of the Miss America Organization. Held annually in the Fine Arts Theatre on campus, the program consisted of several parts, including interviews and talent performances. For the talent portion of the competition, Park sang Michael Jackson’s classic “Man in the Mirror.” She also earned the Best Interview award.
Jerry Anthony, director of the Miss UGA Competition, went into further detail about all the aspects and behind-the-scenes work that goes into the pageant. “We try to make it fun and enjoyable,” said Anthony. “For most contestants, it is their first time participating in a Miss America Organization pageant.”
The competition awards Miss UGA $1,000 and scholarships to the first and second runners-up. Anna E. Mercer, Carson Bridges, Sallie Stowers, and Elaine Metcalf won fourth through first runners-up, respectively, prior to Park being crowned Miss UGA 2023.
Each year Miss UGA is expected to make appearances and promote her social impact initiative. Since winning the title in January, Park has judged several pageants, performed at a Miss America event in Atlanta, and spoken to several groups around Athens. She also interviewed on FOX5 recently about being Miss UGA and her preparations to compete at Miss Georgia.
Park said that being Miss UGA has proven to be less about appearances and more about impact. In Park’s interview with former Miss Georgia 2022, Park mentioned that the key to the crown is being relatable and to “fit the title to your life, not your life to the title. Authenticity is what sets people apart.”
Park’s service initiative is “humanizing mental health.” When choosing her initiative, Park wanted a cause that held longevity, so she chose mental health. Park is actively making multiple efforts to promote mental health awareness. She has a podcast and YouTube channel called “How Are You, Really?” where she creates a space to hold honest conversations about others’ mental health. She is also involved with a nonprofit Active Minds, which works to mobilize young adults around mental health advocacy and suicide prevention.
From wanting to be a mental health counselor to a public relations professional, Park is passionate about meeting people where they are and helping them foster a sense of belonging in any setting.
Park is currently preparing to go on to compete for the title of Miss Georgia 2024. The 78th Miss Georgia Scholarship Competition is June 14th-17th, in Columbus, Georgia at the RiverCenter of Performing Arts.
The Miss University of Georgia Scholarship Competition is an initiative of the department of Engagement, Leadership, and Service.
Written by Grace Yancey, Student Affairs Digital Marketing Assistant