When Megan McAfee, Miss University of Central Arkansas 2018, was crowned as her high school’s queen, she got the pageant bug.
"I thought about what it would be like to serve my university in the capacity of how I served my high school so that’s always been a goal for me," she said.
After doing several small pageants to rack up scholarship money for college, Megan made the decision to compete in the 2017 Miss UCA pageant.
The now 21-year-old said only receiving first runner-up was the best thing that could have happened to her.
"Honestly, I could not tell you how big of a blessing it was for me to not have the title last year," McAfee said. "At first, anytime you don’t get something you’re trying for you’re always a little disappointed but I’ve grown so much in the last year."
She said since the 2017 pageant, she’s been able to focus on being more involved on campus, serving her sorority as president, running for UCA Student Government Association and other volunteer opportunities.
"My priorities really needed to be lined out in a way that would allow me to best serve my university so having that year to kind of still have that drive for the title of Miss UCA definitely prepared me more," McAfee said.
McAfee was crowned as Miss UCA 2018 Nov. 10 during the annual pageant by 2017 Miss Arkansas Maggie Benton and 2017 Miss UCA Kelli Collins, who McAfee said she’s known for years.
"It’s still very surreal," she said. "It’s only been six days."
Having been a runner-up last year, McAfee said waiting for the announcement is nerve-wracking.
"The longer that part of the competition goes on the faster your heart starts beating," she said.
When they announced her name McAfee said she couldn’t believe it and ultimately time felt like it was standing still.
"So much emotion is built up that the second they called my name, I just broke down," she said. "All emotions came out of me. It was a really really great experience. I relive it often inside my head."
Immediately following the announcement, McAfee hit the ground running as Miss UCA starting with photos, introductions and more behind the curtain.
"It is a ton of responsibility," she said. "I always say that Miss UCA is probably the closest that any preliminary pageant will get to Miss Arkansas because you’re truly serving as an ambassador of the university at all times."
McAfee said the first thing her director told her was that while she is Megan and will always be Megan, now she is Megan, Miss UCA and she had to take a moment to think about that.
"Having that responsibility was really admirable to me," she said. "It was something that I thought I wanted to put my own spin on, I wanted to serve my community and carry on the legacy of Miss UCA but also do it in my own way."
McAfee said that role is something she’s dreamed of filling since she stepped foot on campus.
"I’m really looking forward to getting to know the community in a different way," she said.
While she’s been involved on campus in a variety of aspects, this is a new venture for her. She said when someone is walking around with a crown on people look at them in a different way and through her time as Miss UCA, hopes to change that.
"Getting to put a relatable side to the untouchable crown is something that I really want to do," McAfee said. "I want to get my feet wet, get dirty, talk to the people of UCA and serve right along with them."
She said she worked hard to get to this point, but doesn’t plan on slowing down because UCA deserves that determination and drive from her and hopes UCA benefits from her as much and she wants to benefit from UCA.
"I know that there’s only one way to go and that’s up," McAfe said.
Throughout her year reign, McAfee plans to go on several personal appearances, educate her peers and UCA on her platform, "So the World May Hear: Changing the World for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired," promote higher education as an option for students, grow her public speaking and interview skills and prepare for Miss Arkansas.
"I’m very excited," she said. "Miss Arkansas is everything you expect and everything you don’t expect at the exact same time."
McAfee said as sad as she’ll be, she is looking forward to the pageant next year.
"I’m excited to be at the end of it and look back and see what I’ve done," she said. "I’m pushing myself to definitely step out of my comfort zone and be as prevalent as I possibly can. I feel like this is an opportunity of a lifetime so to be able to look back on it and say ‘yes I did the best I could, I’m proud of what I did’ and then pass [the crown] onto the next girl … I think I’m looking forward to that accomplishment the most."