Speechless. I am truly speechless. 
As I sit here in my new apartment looking out of the window at my new surroundings. I skim through the closet full of new clothes and shoes, and I’m adjusting to a new “normal.” The newest thing to me is something that is not new to many others. It is an accessory that has been worn by 78 of the most influential, successful, and intelligent women in our great state… The crown. While getting ready for an appearance, I went to grab my crown that was sitting on top of the Miss North Carolina jewelry box and had to take a double look because I’m still not used to the fact that it is mine! Every time I open my crown box, I am speechless. In the midst of an appearance, a drive in the car, a quick look in the mirror, or even a glance at a picture, I get butterflies every time I see the reflection of it placed on my head. 

I am often asked the most common question that everyone wants answered, “How did it feel hearing your name called out as the new Miss North Carolina?”
Imagine the excitement you would have running downstairs on Christmas morning and seeing that (corgi) puppy you’ve been dying to have (cough cough, dad) with a red bow on its head popping out of a present box.. If you know me and my obsession with corgis, that would be pretty exciting! 
Honestly, it took my breath away. Of course I grew up as a little girl who always wanted to be Miss North Carolina, but that dream became a mission and goal when I was 16 years old. The moment I knew I wanted to be MissNC was when I was sitting in the audience of Miss America 2012 and I felt the chills run through my body when the music for opening number began. That was when it hit me that I wasn’t watching my TV and that Miss America was REAL. It was attainable. It was possible. I worked for three years as a Miss contestant to hear not just my name called as the new winner, but to know God’s plan for me. So to feel his merciful and gracious hands wrap around me onstage as I could hardly stand up straight, I’m not exactly sure how you find the words to express those emotions. 

Flexible. Adaptable. Adjustable.
Those are the first three words required in order to do the job of Miss North Carolina. The day after I was crowned, the job began as I was interviewed by local WRAL and ABC11 WBTV, had a photo shoot with our new MNCOTeen, Catherine White, and met with the MNC directors. We hit the ground running visiting sponsors to begin gathering pieces to add to my wardrobe, and traveled down to Georgia to work the the incredibly talented, Matt and Meredith Boyd. My first official appearance was with Cat at the 4th of July parade in Southport, NC, where we spoke with Governor Pat McCrory, Richard Burr, and Dan Forest. Cat and I had a blast at Fort Bragg’s Independence Day Celebration, even though it rained a little! I proceeded to pick up my brand new Ford Fusion from Dunn-Benson Ford and have made numerous appearances with the dealership and their motor sports company.
I’ve enjoyed meeting many new faces, as well as seeing familiar ones. I had the opportunity to do something very special for my younger brother, Dillon, at his race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and ask him to ride with me in the “Show Us Your Shoes” parade in Atlantic City! I might not have gotten a picture to prove that there he had watery eyes, but at least I know that he understands how much it means to me to do this for him. I love my little Dill Pickle! Another exciting event for me was actually one I held myself!! I taught a “Master Class with McKenzie” for The SAFE Project at Dance Productions in Harrisburg. I am thrilled to teach more of these classes throughout the year, and you can check out the video on my social media pages to see what it’s all about! So far, I have visited Raleigh, Dunn, Fuquay-Varina, Clayton, Fayetteville, Smithfield, Greensboro, Concord, Harrisburg, Charlotte, Wilmington, Greeneville (SC), Myrtle Beach, Atlanta, and Washington DC.
Something new that was added this year was that the Miss America Class of 2017 were invited to Washington D.C. for our orientation! Not only did I meet my national sisters, tour the White House, eat at the top restaurants in town, meet with Senator Tom Tillis and Representative Richard Hudson, Sam Haskell also took us to the Lincoln Memorial to read the Gettysburg Address. Of course being a Miss America contestant at any level is admirable, but understanding the foundation and relation that MAO has to our country goes far beyond wearing the crown. Walking in the same steps as our nation’s founding fathers and the men and women who both served and currently serve our country gave me so much pride and joy to be an American. And, truly grasping the concept and ideas behind who Miss America has always been as an icon gave me an entirely new perspective.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg committee hosted a perfect Homecoming dinner for me at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. Walking through the doors and seeing my competition and crowning pictures projected on every screen took me back and time stood still. Walking down the stairs into an area full of my friends and family made me, yet again, speechless. While I was driving home from the mall that morning, I heard the song by Tim McGraw, “Humble and Kind.” This song has been close to my family and I because it embodies who my Papa was and the depth of the simplicity in those lessons. I know every word, but one verse in particular stood out to me in that moment. “Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you. When you get where you’re goin’ don’t forget turn back around, and help the next one in line, always stay humble and kind.”
The amount of people who have helped me get where I am today is a number impossible to count, but the amount of people who helped me who have helped me be who I am today was the number of people standing before me on July 28th. (There were a few others who couldn’t make it, but you know who you are!!) I can assure you that there will never be a second throughout this year or my life after the crown that I take their love and support for granted. I’m deeply appreciative and grateful for each and every person that I am able to call family or a friend. No matter where I go in life, I will always carry them with me because I would not be “me” if it weren’t for them. Throughout my good or bad days, my struggles, my accomplishments, my depression, and especially my present, they still look at me as McKenzie and love me the same. It has been and always will be what keeps me anchored.

1 month has passed and there are 11 more to go… But I’m going to need time to slow down because I don’t want to waste one second of this blessing. Stay tuned for my next entry!