The last time she was on a pageant stage, Sierra Scott was 26 years old.
She walked the stage in the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City in 1990, and it was the experience of a lifetime, she said.
Now, 27 years later, Scott got a redo. And this time, she won.
On Friday, Scott – best known in Wichita as a television news anchor and emcee of endless charity events – was crowned Ms. Woman United States in Orlando, Fla. She beat out 40 other contestants, all over the age of 30, to win the title, and it felt good.
“I’m going to be 54 in September,” she said. “Who would think at age 54 you would say, ‘I just won a pageant?’”
Scott, a former KSN news anchor and the the current host of the KPTS show “Positively Kansas,” said she decided to compete as a way to better herself, and she set a goal to participate in one final pageant before she turned 55. She began researching pageant organizations and came across the United States National Pageants organization, which crowns five queens a year in different age categories. She liked that the organization was focused on community service.
Though many states hold competitions to select their representatives for the pageant, Scott learned that Kansas wasn’t one of them. She applied for an at-large bid and was accepted.
“I am better about motivating myself to get in shape and better myself if I have a date to do it by,” she said. “I did it thinking, ‘This is a great way to force me to get caught up on current events. It forces me to get back in shape and forces me to concentrate on all the things I’m supposed to do.”
Scott spent all of this year training and preparing, and on Friday, it was time to take the stage.
A swimsuit competition was part of the pageant, and Scott donned a red bikini. She also had to undergo one-on-one interviews with judges and answer one on-stage question. Hers was, “You’ve just won the lottery. What is the first thing you’re going to buy?”
“I said, ‘I’ve already planned this out because I plan to win the lottery,’” she said. “‘I have a list of the top 10 charities that I would donate to. The first thing I would do is give money away. It’s so fun to give it away. People say money is the root of all evil, but to me, you can’t help somebody if you don’t have the means to do so. It’s what you do with money that matters.’”
Scott said that her goal was to make the Top 15 at the pageant. When she did, she was happy. When her name was called in the Top 10, she said, she was shocked. And when she made the Top five, she was in disbelief. Many of the women she was competing against were in their 30s, she said.
When it was time to announce the winner, Scott said, she was confused. The name of the first runner up was called first, so Scott assumed that woman was the winner. She began congratulating the other contestant, who informed her, “You’re the winner. You just won.”
Scott’s fiance, Harrison Schenk, caught her surprised reaction on camera from the audience.
Scott, who won a huge crown and a long list of prizes at the pageant, said she will spend the next year traveling around the country making appearances and promoting her pageant platform, “Show Your Scars.” Scott, who said she has scars on her face from having skin cancer removed, said that she wants women to know that they don’t have to cover up their flaws.
“I want to inspire women,” she said. “We’re always taught that when women are over 30, we might as well be put out to pasture. But women still have so much to contribute. I want to inspire women that if you still have a dream out there, don’t say, ‘I’m over 50. It’s too late.’”