Kathleen L. Sullivan, For The Miami Student

Senior Kristin Smith beams a catching smile as she plays with a diamond tiara on her ring finger. In the red brick jungle of Miami University, she is one of hundreds of girls who make the campus ‘beautiful,’ including one rather royal distinction.

On Nov. 10, Smith was crowned Miss Ohio USA 2013 in Portsmouth, Ohio.

“It’s unreal,” Smith said.

A total of 52 women competed in the pageant from across the state. In June, Smith will represent Ohio in the nationally televised Miss USA pageant. Smith is also scheduled to complete a media tour in New York City with pageant owner Donald Trump.

“I’m very excited to represent the great state of Ohio and to meet the other girls,” Smith said. “It was unexpected, which made it even more special.”

In the first competition of her life, Smith won the title pageant girls across the state had spent years training for.

“I had never done a pageant in my life, so it was a whole new ballgame,” Smith said.

In the two-day competition, Smith watched her fellow contestants rehearse with poise that only experience brings. All 52 girls competed in areas including interview, swimsuit and evening gown. Smith remained confident, but admitted the experience to be nerve racking.

“It’s a tough thing,” Smith said. Everyone is beautiful and intelligent. It’s still a competition, but I wanted to learn everything.”

Smith was stunned when she made it to the top 15 the next day and thrilled when she was announced in the top five. Speechless with a bouquet of flowers cradled in her arms and a crown heavy on her head; her name was the last one called.

“The hardest part throughout the whole competition was keeping it a secret from everyone,” Smith said.

Smith said she was nervous and kept the pageant a secret from even her closest friends and family members.

“I didn’t want anyone to come!” Smith said.

A few days before competition, Smith let her family in on the big surprise, all of whom were beyond supportive. The day Smith left for Portsmouth, she let her boyfriend know what she was up to. Her roommate, senior Taylor Owens, learned only hours before she was crowned.

“The first thing I said when Kristen won was, ‘I knew she would win it!'” Owens said.

The two had met on their first day of college and had remained close ever since.

“In my opinion, no one deserves it more than she does,” Owens said. “I have met few people in my life who care for others as much as she does.”

For now, Smith is focusing on her education and has set her sights on graduation in May. Her life now includes public appearances, traveling across the country and working with charities. Smith hopes the confidence she has gained from the experience stands out to future employers.

“I’m a very shy and introverted person so [the competition] allowed me to come out of my shell and become more confident in myself,” Smith said.

Before becoming Miss Ohio USA, Smith had plans to move to Los Angeles and work in the public relations field.

Smith said she has always wanted an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. She said she believes her new title will help her accomplish this goal.

“I’m enjoying all the new experiences and everything on the way. I can’t wait to perform,” Smith said.

Smith has also become the ambassador for the Pink Ribbon Girls, a breast cancer foundation. She received a number of prizes beyond the sash and crown, including a diamond tiara ring, a scholarship for graduate school at Lindenwood University and partial tuition to the New York Film Academy.

The winner of the 2013 Miss USA pageant will represent the U.S. in the Miss Universe competition.