The journey to the crown: Meet Victoria Huggins, Miss NC

On fifth try, St. Pauls native wins pageant

KINSTON — Victoria Huggins, Miss Greater Sampson County, became the 80th Miss North Carolina when she took center stage under the bright lights of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday night. The moment was the culmination of a five-year journey to one of the most coveted crowns in the state.

“I am thankful for every ‘no’ that led to this ‘yes’ — to my name being the last one called,” said Huggins.

Huggins, 23, is a native of St. Pauls in Robeson County. She’s a singer, a former “American Idol” contestant, an active volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association, a reporter, and five-time titleholder in the local preliminaries leading to her being named Miss North Carolina.

The first came as Miss Fayetteville 2013.

“My life should be a Lifetime Original Movie because it has been an amazing journey,” said Huggins. “Being Miss Fayetteville in 2013 was very special. My grandfather had just passed away and I had finished competing on ‘American Idol.’ He told me, ‘You may have wanted to be the American Idol, but you’ll always be my Miss America.'”

She competed for the scholarships and for her grandfather who saw her potential before she did.

“He believed in me before I believed in myself,” said Huggins.

Miss Central Carolina followed in 2014.

“Central Carolina has a very special place in my heart. It taught me about myself as an individual and who I wanted to be as Miss North Carolina,” she said.

Then Miss Greater Southeastern in 2015.

“I grew up in Roberson County and I wanted to represent the area I grew up in. I was able to represent an area that had done so much for me,” said Huggins.

She followed with a Miss Wilmington win in 2016.

“Miss Wilmington had the amazing opportunity for me to join with the N.C. Azalea Festival and establish partnerships, opportunities and to really get to know the community I was working and living in,” said Huggins.

In her last year of eligibility for competition, she was named Miss Greater Sampson County 2017.

“Greater Sampson County really brought me full circle. Before I competed in Miss Fayetteville, Greater Sampson County was the very first preliminary of Miss America that I attended to see how everything works. Four years later to compete as Miss Greater Sampson County after that was the initial impression of the Miss America organization was such a humbling and full circle experience,” said Huggins.

And finally, Miss North Carolina 2017.

Victoria Huggins, of Greater Sampson County, is crowned Miss North Carolina 2017 on Saturday, June 24, 2017. (Madeline Gray / North State Journal)

“On the way to be Miss North Carolina, every year that I received a ‘no,’ I learned from it,” she said. “Looking back now, I would never have been able to fully appreciate this moment had it happened earlier in my life.”

Huggins acknowledges she met her scholastics, career and personal goals all with one crown. A graduate of UNC Pembroke with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and mass communications, and a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, Huggins is debt-free. The scholarship winnings from competition have paid tuition and student loans. Her $20,000 scholarship as Miss North Carolina will help finance the rest of graduate school.

“Because of this organization, I am graduating debt-free,” said Huggins. “Obtaining scholarships was a primary motivator for me getting involved five years ago.”

She has already begun achieving her career goals, but being Miss North Carolina is a full-time role. She has moved into the Miss N.C. apartment and will take a year off from graduate school and her job as a morning reporter and news producer at TV station WECT in Wilmington.

“I want to grow in my role as a reporter with hopes of being a political analyst with a national news network,” said Huggins. “I love politics, discussing it, and one of my mentors is Barbara Walters. I love how she is able to speak with world leaders, listen to them and share her opinions and it’s not in a biased way. She is a beautiful storyteller, and that’s who I want to be as a journalist — someone people can trust.”

As Miss North Carolina, Huggins will represent all sides of the political spectrum as she travels, meets and works alongside fellow North Carolinians.

“Being Miss North Carolina, this is wonderful practice for my career goals,” said Huggins. “As Miss North Carolina I am very mindful that I am representing the entire state and that’s every political standpoint — the right, left, middle — and every ideology.”

While I do have my own personal beliefs and opinions, it is important for me to listen and be a good role model for every opinion that is out there,” she added. “That’s what I think a good journalist or good political leader should do.”

“Of course, the ultimate personal goal was becoming Miss North Carolina, so check that off the list,” continued an excited Huggins. “And then becoming Miss America would be an incredible opportunity that I can bring a crown back home to North Carolina for the first time since 1962. I believe my unique talents and abilities will help propel me to that job.”

Huggins, indeed, stands apart from the rest. The organization has never had a Victoria as a Miss America and there hasn’t been a winner with the platform of Alzheimer’s disease awareness.

Huggins will vie for the title of Miss America in Atlantic City on Sept. 10. In the meantime, she has already begun the business plan she created for her role as Miss North Carolina — one she presented to the judges in her interview.

The plan includes meeting with Gov. Roy Cooper to discuss ways they can work together to make North Carolina a better place; spotlighting musical therapy needs for Alzheimer’s patients; and meeting with representatives of Fortune 500 companies to secure more support of the Miss North Carolina Organization and the Children’s Miracle Network (the organization’s official platform).

“This organization isn’t about spotlighting yourself. It’s about bringing recognition to the other amazing people and organizations you represent,” said Huggins.

Huggins, in her new role, begins to shine the light on North Carolina.