“I remember wanting to fall on my knees or at least fall down, I was so excited,” Tiara Pennington said as she reflected on the moment when she was crowned the new Miss Alabama on June 8, 2019. In her unforgettable moment, Pennington shares that she felt the support of every person in the room as she cried tears of sheer joy and thankfulness.
Her Journey. A native of Helena, Ala., Pennington grew up hearing about the Miss Alabama Competition. In fact, her mother, Dedra Eastland Pennington, competed in the Miss Alabama Competition in 1985. “Ever since I was a little girl, I knew that I wanted to compete in the Miss Alabama Competition,” Pennington said. At the age of seven, she joined The Rising Star Program, a Miss Alabama mentor program. Through the program, Pennington met Scarlett Walker, Miss Alabama Outstanding Teen 2010 and sister of Miss Alabama 2018 Callie Walker. Pennington remembers Scarlett Walker allowing her to try on her crown. “I went back home and said, ‘Mom, I want to compete in Miss Alabama Outstanding Teen and then I want to compete in Miss Alabama.’ ” Crowned Miss Alabama Outstanding Teen in 2016, Pennington competed in the Miss Alabama Competition for the first time in 2018 and placed first runner up. She went on to win the title of Miss University of Alabama in November of 2018. “I have learned that regardless of whether you win the title and walk away with the crown, you are gaining something out of the opportunity of just being in the moment and representing wherever your local title is,” shares Pennington. “You never lose.”
Her Faith. Pennington is a firm believer in trusting God in every area of her life. Throughout her years of pageant competitions, she has learned a lot about perseverance and surrendering to God’s perfect will. “I think that being a Christian has taught me how to persevere and leave everything up to God…You have to believe that God has a plan for your life, whether that is to become Miss Alabama or not.” Pennington credits her whole family with raising her up in the church and helping her grow in her faith and staying grounded in Christ throughout her life. “I love God and give Him all the glory because I would not be Miss Alabama today without God. We do not deserve anything; God is the one who blesses us, and I consider my role as a blessing.” Pennington is a member of Hoover Church of Christ. When asked what she does in her daily life to center her in her faith, Pennington said, “I pray all of the time. I pray when I get up in the morning and when I go to bed. I pray whenever I am about to speak with different people I come in contact with. And I am even praying right now.” To strengthen her faith, Pennington reads daily devotionals from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and has the goal of reading the entire Bible in 2019. “I find that different books in the Bible speak to me in the moment and encourage me. I try to keep God first in everything I do. All day, every day.”
Her Voice. Pennington’s talent for the Miss America competition is vocal performance. As a young teen, Pennington followed in her mother’s path of being an R&B, soulful singer. It was not until her mother heard Pennington singing along to a song from the opera show, Carmen, that they realized she had the gift of an operatic singer. Pennington became immersed with singing during her middle school years at Helena Middle School. “I had an awesome choir director, Mr. Frank Andrews. He loved teaching music and supported me in my endeavors of being a singer.” Mr. Andrews, still the middle school choral director today, encouraged her to audition for soloist competitions including the Montgomery City Classic Vocal Competition she won in middle school. “I caught the bug and have been singing ever since.”
Giving Back. Each Miss Alabama contestant is required to pick a community service platform, known as a Social Impact Initiative. Pennington chose to raise awareness regarding psoriasis. Both Pennington’s mother and uncle suffer with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. “A lot of people think that those suffering with psoriasis can just go to CVS or Walgreens to pick up an ointment and their disease will automatically just disappear,” says Pennington adding this is not the case since psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease of the skin that has five different types. Each person that suffers with psoriasis can have different combinations, so it can quickly become a complicated disease. As a part of her “Psoriasis Take Action” platform Pennington researched volunteer opportunities for psoriasis in Alabama and hit a dead end until she connected with the National Psoriasis Foundation. She soon became one of the Foundation’s 36 community ambassadors. “It has been amazing to raise awareness here in Alabama, as well as speaking with the FDA Board of Directors about my mother’s story suffering with psoriasis and the harsh side effects from the different biologic medications that psoriasis patients have to take.”
As Pennington prepares to compete for Miss America, she hopes to be a light to everyone she meets. When asked what advice she would share with anyone hoping to one day become Miss Alabama, Pennington shares, “Persevere. Keep God first. Know that God has a plan for your life…trust God because He knows what is best for your life.” She adds, “Perseverance and faith will take you further than anything in this world.”