- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2020

MONROE, La. (AP) - Most Miss Louisianas get a week of pageantry as their farewell to the job. They get together with the candidates who are competing for the role and are showcased in three nights of on-stage performances that highlight their talents and service to the state.

Meagan Crews won’t be getting that this June.

She said her time wearing the crown and sash has been unorthodox but she’s grateful for the experiences she’s had and thinks God put her in this place at the right time.

“I think if there was anyone able to have done the job right now, I’m glad it was me because I know that outside of Miss Louisiana there are still more opportunities that lie ahead and with or without the title of Miss Louisiana, I knew I was going to be successful,” she said.

She taken the losses she experienced this year in stride because she knows she’s not the only one to experience losses.

Crews worked to get the title for most of her life. It was a dream she attained.

She’s loved getting to go all over the state and meet Louisiana’s unique mix of people from a variety of cultures.

She’s genuinely appreciated her time as a public role model to young kids. “I don’t think that it takes the crown to do that, but it is that fun chapter in life.”

Crews believes that like God led her to this role, he’s also showing her the path to the next place she’s meant to be.

She said she was walking and considering whether she should make the move to University of Louisville, but she had some doubt.

Crews asked the Lord for a sign that she should go - or one showing that door was closed to her. A cardinal - which happens to be the university mascot.- sped out of a nearby tree right in front of her.

Things kept falling into place.

Her friend Miss Kentucky 2019 Alex Francke plans to move to Louisville.

Crews’ academic advisor used to work in the Louisiana State University system and knew how to maximize her transfer from LSU Shreveport. She wants to finish her marketing degree and look at a creative major like interior design.

Crews said it’s all fitting together to let her know she’s ready to fly. She’s the first in her family to move from home, and it’s important to her.

She said competing in the Miss Louisiana organization over the years has given her the skills she needs to succeed, like communication, goal-setting, self-respect and increased confidence.

Crews has worked to develop those skills since childhood.

She met her first Miss Louisiana when she was 4. Kati Guyton took the crown as Miss Louisiana Watermelon Festival - the same title Crews held when she won the crown.

She started competing in pageants when she was 6, starting with National American Miss.

When Crews was 14, she started competing in Miss Louisiana Outstanding Teen and took that title in 2014.

She won Miss Louisiana in her third year competing.

There was a hiatus in 2018 while she served as Student Government Association President at LSUS. She said it was a year for growth that prepared her for the Miss Louisiana role by encouraging her to advocate for her classmates and school.

Crews’ social impact initiative is called LEAD - Leadership Empowerment And Development. It’s an existing program used nationally at YWCAs and has been implemented at YWCA of Northwest Louisiana in Shreveport. It empowers adolescent and teen girls in areas with high crime, poverty and pregnancy rates. They learn skills such as communication, goal-setting, healthy relationships and cultural competence.

As Miss Louisiana, Crews talked to four of the five YWCAs in the state about using the program. She also adapted the basic lessons for talking to large groups of children of all age ranges, regardless of gender.

She said being able to be confident and comfortable but talk to a diverse range of people on their level is a skill that she’s learned through pageants and will use the rest of her life.

Since the day she won, Crews has said being Miss Louisiana is the job that she worked so hard for years to have.

Normally, it requires speaking at schools and attending events. The state shutdown to reduce the spread of COVID-19 effectively cut her reign short.

Crews performed some duties digitally, but it wasn’t like the live appearance schedule that usually defines the position.

She was on the road driving and wondering how much longer it would be safe and allowed to make appearances when she found out that University of Louisiana Monroe, which provided her apartment, was closing for the semester in mid-March.

So she moved home.

On May 13, the Miss America organization and the Miss Louisiana organization announced the national and state-level events will be pushed back to 2021.

Miss Louisiana 2021 is set for June 19, 2021 in the Monroe Civic Center Jack Howard Theatre. Preliminaries will be June 17 and 18.

As of press time, the Miss Louisiana organization had not announced how the title role will function in the coming year.

The young woman who wins the title next year, Crews said, will be in a great position. It’s unfortunate the year has been canceled, but it will give the Miss America organization time to hash out who they are and what they offer.

“I know that the next Miss Louisiana going in to compete for the job of Miss America will know exactly what it is that she’s competing for and will hopefully have a clear idea as far as what that entails,” she said.

Crews said she can’t pinpoint a favorite moment, but she can point to the moment the whole job became clear.

Shortly before she left to compete in Miss America, she was feeling stressed about all the planning that needed to be done and had an appearance at a Christmas event with the Shriner’s and Make-A-Wish foundation.

“I had to really put my Miss Louisiana cap on that day. Like ’OK, Meagan, we’re just going to go in and do this,;” she said.

“It was that day that really put in perspective the job of Miss Louisiana because Santa was there. Mickey Mouse was there. An Elvis impersonator was there, and the kids were excited to see me. And that was really cool.”

She said she walking away is the closing of a chapter, but she knows her time here changed her for the better and made her stronger.

Crews thought she had it all together before and knew exactly what she wanted to do. Being Miss Louisiana has maximized her ability to reach her goals.

However, she’s learned a lot this year about faith and patience and being comfortable with the uncomfortable.

“I’m ready to find an identity beyond the crown. I have been very sure this year of being Meagan first, Miss Louisiana second,” she said.

The scholarship organization is meant to be a stepping stone to help young women reach their goals.

She’s ready to take the next steps and use the tools she’s developed to become the woman she’s meant to be.

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