SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – With less than a month before her reign ends as Miss Utah USA, Narine Ishhanov shares her experience and reflects on her title that took six years to achieve.
What made you want to compete for Miss Utah USA initially?
“I first competed for Miss Utah USA in 2013 and it was thanks to my mother who signed me up. I didn’t want to compete the first time because I didn’t feel like I was ready at all nor did I had the knowledge of what this pageant is about. Then after not placing, I just kept going and going. It wasn’t until 2015, I realized I needed to be myself, embrace my ethnicity, and not hide it like I used to. I thought the judges only want to see a girl that was born here in America.”
How did your family feel about pageants during your six-year journey to the crown?
“My mother and my little brother supported me fully and kept telling me I couldn’t give up. They said I needed to keep going, because one day, I would be Miss Utah USA! The rest of my family tried discouraging me, because they thought it was hurting me every time I wasn’t winning, and some of my family thought it was rigged, but it wasn’t. It was just God’s timing, and my timing was 2018 and my family realized that.”
It took you six times to win the title. How did you overcome the negative feelings that came from failure and what kept you going each time?
“I’m the kind of a person who will go through anything and everything to get what she wants. I overcame all of the negative feelings by putting them away and imagining that I will be a titleholder one day. Most importantly, I believed in myself that I have what it takes to be Miss USA and that’s what kept me going. My mother also always reminded me to never listen to any negative comments from people in-person and social media, and to listen to my heart and believe in myself because that is what’s going to push me the hardest.”
You don’t fit the stereotype of a beauty queen (in a good way), because you have a unique story. What do you hope your story does for other girls who also may not fit the stereotype?
“Yes, my story is quite unique and different from the past titleholders, that’s why I kept fighting six years to become Miss Utah USA. I was not only fighting to show that I can be one of the best and dedicated titleholders, but I was also fighting for all of the young women out there who also don’t fit in the same stereotype. I fought for the those who thought about competing, but never had the strength or courage to do that. I hope other women realize that no matter what shape, size, background, ethnicity, nationality, religion they are, they can’t let that stop them from becoming the next Miss Utah USA. Keep believing in yourself and don’t let anyone in this world discourage you, like how people tried to discourage me!”
Did you have any tough or difficult days when you were competing or during your reign as Miss Utah USA? Would you be willing to share an example?
“Yes, one of my most difficult days was the weekend of Miss Utah USA. I was really close to not competing because I was extremely sick. The week before the pageant, I was in the emergency room and during the check-ins for Miss Utah USA, I had a high fever and my voice was completely gone. The night before my check-ins, my mom got me out of my bed and told me that I HAVE to pickup all of the strength that I have and push myself to compete that weekend…and I made it happen! It was a little stressful preparing for Miss USA, because we had director change happen in Utah. I felt alone, like no one was there to work with or direct me in the right path. Therefore, I did almost everything myself through my own connections that including charities, appearances, sponsors.”
What did you learn out of your experience at Miss USA?
“I learned that I didn’t need to win Miss USA, I just needed to be on that stage. I wanted other women who think they don’t fit the mold of a beauty queen that they could do it. I wanted to them to see where I came from and that it’s possible for someone like me to make it to that national stage too. If I was able to get that message out, then my time at Miss USA was all worth it, despite the outcome.”
What is something you think most people don’t know about pageantry?
“Pageantry is the HARD work and it takes a lot just for opportunity to compete for a state title or national title. Also, not every contestant is just about beauty and grace. There’s also many contestants who are engineers, scientists (such as myself), business owners in a male-dominated industry (also what I’m in), and more. It’s not all about the crown. It’s about who the person is on the inside and what they’re doing to better the world, one step at a time.”
What are you going to miss the most about being Miss Utah USA?
“I’m going to miss traveling for the purposes of the competition, because ever since I won the title, I had the opportunity to visit so many beautiful places that I’ve never seen before. It has allowed my parents to give me the freedom to travel and not worry about me for the first time ever. Even though I’m 25 right now, they wouldn’t allow me to travel alone due to cultural purposes. Of course I’m going to miss wearing my crown in public and experiencing kids running to me to hug me and ask me if they can be a princess OR a king too!”
What’s next for you?
“What’s next for me is simple, but a tough journey. I am working towards getting into dental school, hopefully here in Utah! Also, I’m working on growing my trucking business with my family.”
What advice do you have for the contestants competing in a month and a half?
“My biggest advice for the contestants is BE YOURSELF. No, I know you all have heard that phrase from many pageant girls, but seriously you have no idea how important and how rewarding it will be if you are being yourself. Don’t be afraid of telling the judges where you come from, or what your nationality is. Don’t try to hide your accent. In my interview for Miss Utah USA, I was asked to say “I am your Miss Utah USA 2018!” in my favorite language, which is Russian. I finally realized how important it is to love your body, love your skin, be your genuine self, and most importantly, not look at other girls as your competition. Look at who you were yesterday as your biggest competition.”
Ishhanov will pass on her title at the Miss Utah USA 2019 competition at Kingsbury Hall on January 26, 2019. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.