Miss SC USA keeps her wits about her within the glamorous pageant world

otaylor@thestate.comJune 15, 2013 

  • On the air

    Miss USA 2013 will air at 9 p.m. Sunday on NBC, Time Warner cable channel 3. For more, visit missusa.com.

— At the 2010 Juno Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Grammy Awards, Justin Bieber performed an acoustic version of his hit single “Baby.” The rapper Drake, a fellow Canadian, surprised the audience by rapping a verse from the song’s remix.

The verse includes Megan Pinckney’s favorite Drake quote: “God forbid I ever trade the wisdom for the glamour.”

“And I constantly, constantly, constantly repeat that to myself,” said Pinckney, Miss South Carolina USA 2013.

Pinckney, a Charleston native and a University of South Carolina senior, will be strutting on the most glamorous stage she’s ever been on when she competes for the Miss USA crown. She is one of 51 contestants who will be competing Sunday night at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

Donald Trump has owned the rights to the Miss USA pageant, which began in 1952, since 1996. Miss Rhode Island USA Olivia Culpo won the title last year before becoming Miss Universe. Nana Meriwether, Miss Maryland USA, took over as Miss USA.

In a “hot seat” interview on the Miss USA YouTube channel, Pinckney revealed her celebrity crush is Drake, an introspective rapper known for singing hooks, thus further blurring the distinctive line between hip-hop and R&B. In a relaxed lunchtime interview over rice and vegetables at M Vista last month, Pinckney revealed that “So Far Gone,” the 2009 mixtape that launched Drake’s pop career, was all she listened to as a USC freshman.

“I don’t even think anyone else existed for a year, because he was the only music that I listened to,” she said.

Pinckney has met Drake twice, and the two were BBM friends until she misplaced her BlackBerry. (And speaking of popular music, The Jonas Brothers are reuniting for Miss USA.)

“He still is my favorite rapper, but then you know when you meet someone, then it’s weird,” she said. “But I also think he’s cute for the personality that I know.”

This is the second time Pinckney has been on the Miss USA national stage. She was Miss South Carolina Teen USA in 2010, and is the fourth person in the state organization’s history to win both crowns.

She also competed in the Miss America Organization’s Miss South Carolina pageant in 2011.

“It’s one of those things that gets you hooked, but it’s because when you’re competing, you’re the best person you can possibly be — physically, emotionally, mentally,” Pinckney said. “Well, maybe not emotionally because you’re a little stressed out.”

Pinckney, who is majoring in fashion merchandising, has also been a legislative aide for Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, for three years. She would’ve graduated in August, but decided to take the spring semester off.

“Having a degree is always very important, but having experiences is just as important,” Pinckney said. “It was definitely hard watching everyone graduate knowing it was supposed to be me as well. But just knowing what I can get out of this year makes it worth it.”

There’s a USC connection at the Miss Universe Organization, which operates the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. Marquis Bias, a former president of the Fashion Board at USC, is fashion assistant for Miss Universe.

“I loved seeing him and seeing all the stuff he gets to do, because he started in the same place that I started, in the same program,” Pinckney said of Bias, before nodding as this reporter sang the chorus of Drake’s “Started From the Bottom.” “It gives me hope that if he can do it, I can do it and I hope that I give people hope to.”

But Pinckney doesn’t want to be a stylist like Bias. Rather, she wants to work on the business and marketing side of fashion. She’s using Miss USA to make industry contacts.

“It’s about who you know, it’s about networking,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of opportunities through pageants to network and do a lot of things that I don’t think I would’ve been able to do.”

Pinckney, who left for Miss USA before Memorial Day, celebrated her 22nd birthday two days ago. In two more days, her recent hard work will culminate with, perhaps, a new crown. Is she nervous?

“Petrified,” she said. “I think this is easily the biggest thing that I’ve ever done. So it’s nerve-wracking, because I’m putting so much of myself into it. So much time, so much effort, so much energy into this one event.”

But God forbid she trade the wisdom for the glamour.

Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.

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