COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Glittering tiaras and polished smiles graced the steps of Columbus’ RiverCenter for the Performing Arts. Fifty-six Miss Georgia and 36 Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen participants were presented as the 2023 candidates for the Miss Georgia and Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen title in a “Meet the Crowns” ceremony.

Despite the glitz and glam of the occasion, past winners and contestants agreed the competition comes with its own challenges. Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen 2022 Anna Kate Robinson, 18, said Columbus has become her home away from home, after years of competing in the city since the age of 12.

“With this role and this title, you have to have, you know, good balance skills … I’m a full-time college student, I’ve had to do many events right after a test or right after a midterm, but I love it,” said Robinson.

Even when her workload gets tiring, Robinson puts on a bright face and does her best. She credited the competition for building her into the person she is now.

For Miss Georgia 2022 Kelsey Hollis, 23, the trick is staying grounded. She explained her title sometimes makes people forget she is more than just Miss Georgia responsibilities. Hollis said once she figured out who she was outside of pageantry, she was able to balance the different aspects of her life better and finds the change rewarding.

According to Hollis, being Miss Georgia is no easy feat but it’s one many women can aspire toward, whether they know it or not. Hollis emphasized it is never too late for a woman to start competing, as long as they meet the competition’s age requirements. Miss Georgia contestants can be up to 28 years old, according to the scholarship competition’s website.

“I think a lot of people look at this and think that you have to be this super crazy-intricate person and that all these amazing things have to happen to you in order for you to obtain this title,” said Hollis. She elaborated this is not the case, pointing to the diversity of this year’s competitors.

Aaliyah Phillips, 21, won Miss Columbus State University (CSU). She stood poised in a baby blue dress and bolero with matching pumps and earrings, seeming like a practiced professional. But Phillips it was her first year doing the competition.

The newcomer said, “I’m really learning through all of this, but it’s really been such a rewarding feeling … really getting out here and doing the service work and getting my hands dirty, that’s been the best part throughout this whole entire journey.”

According to current Miss Columbus Safiyah Abdullah, 26, it was a previous Miss CSU who inspired her to start competing in the Miss Georgia competition. This marks her fourth year competing but she explained she has grown over that time.

“I wanted to be outgoing, well-spoken and to be able to just relate to anybody that I’ve met and that’s 100% the woman that I’ve become through this journey,” said Abdullah.

If she wins, Abdullah explained she hopes to use her platform to improve nutrition in school meals and nutrition education. Phillips said she wants to spread literacy resources and catalyze a change in educational accessibility.

Miss Georgia and Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen competitors will stay in Columbus for the next week. The competition will be held June 14 to 17 in the Bill Herald Theatre of the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, concluding with a crowing night on the final day of competition.