UNCP's Miss N.C.
Determined to Make a Difference
McNeill is not a typical UNCP student, and she insists that she is not
a typical beauty queen.
If she was not a
typical student before winning the Miss North Carolina title, she certainly
will never be a typical student again.
She has used her
time as Miss North Carolina to tirelessly crusade against substance
abuse. Her conviction that she can make a difference make her a remarkable
young lady on a mission.
I am not beauty
queen, the Robeson County native said in an interview days after
competing in the Miss America pageant. My emphasis for the year
is drug and alcohol awareness and prevention.
This is not something
I made up for the pageant, she said. I have worked and volunteered
with substance abuse programs for a number of years.
Miss McNeill had
just covered 3,000 miles of North Carolina roads in 10 days since returning
from Atlantic City to promote safe and drug-free schools and Red
legacy as Miss North Carolina will be as a proud Native American who
is a powerful advocate for her cause.
This is a
lot of work, a full time job, she said of her hectic schedule.
TRUE TO HER ROOTS
Catching up to her
is like catching up to a speeding bullet. However fast she is moving
and however far her talent take her, she remains true to her roots.
She has made numerous
appearances in her home Robeson County and several at UNCP. She recently
appeared as mistress of ceremonies at the recent Miss UNCP Scholarship
Her feelings for
the university go deeper than school spirit.
For me, attending
UNCP is more than just an education its a cultural statement
because of the history of the university as the first state supported
college for Native Americans, she said. This is an important
part of who I am.
Miss McNeill needs
just nine more hours to complete her music degree. She plans to return
in the fall.
and focus were sharpened at the Music Department, although my roots
in music did not begin at UNCP, she said. Ive recorded
a solo contemporary Christian CD and two ensemble CDs with UNCP.
She was trained
in classical voice and sings Broadway, pop and R & B. Her musical
choice for the Miss North Carolina came right from the heart.
I had just
finished reading Aretha Franklins biography, From These
Roots, and Natural Woman was something I wanted to
do, Miss McNeill said.
The story of her
decision to enter one last pageant before aging out of the Miss American
organization happened very suddenly.
It just happened,
she said. In January, I had returned from Hawaii, where I was
performing as a featured entertainer on a cruise line. I had not planned
to enter any more pageants.
is the age limit, so I had one last shot at the title Miss McNeill
said. I didnt spend a lot of time or money before the Miss
Topsail Pageant, but I won the title, and I won the physical fitness
From there things
got very serious for the future Miss North Carolina.
from Hawaii, I was struck by the struggles of our youth and adults with
substance abuse, she said. I knew that attaining the Miss
North Carolina title would give me the opportunity to make a difference
in the lives of so many.
Winning a state
pageant required considerably more planning and mental preparation.
She weighed this
commitment against her desire to finish work on her degree at UNCP.
If she won the title, it would mean a year away from school, and winning
was a strong possibility because she was a Miss North Carolina semi-finalist
in 1998 as Miss Fayetteville.
Taking the cue from
her personal philosophy, carpe diem, or seize the day, she
plunged headlong into the competition.
I went in
strong and focused, she said, but winning was a shock.
From all accounts,
her rendition of Natural Woman blew away the competition.
It hit me
when they announced the first runner-up, then I was in shock,
Miss McNeill said. It was like slow motion. From the video, I
had a blank look on my face.
Although she admits
to some disappointment about the outcome of Miss America, it does not
show in her conversation. She said it was a great experience, and she
did not return to Robeson County empty handed.
was THE event, she said. I gave it 150 percent.
Miss McNeill, the
non-traditional student and atypical pageant winner, says she never
wants to say what if about her life. Any disappointments
will be short-lived as she moves on to complete her reign as Miss North
Carolina and later her degree.
She credits a stable
foundation for her willingness to take on seemingly impossible challenges.
Her parents, Hazel and L.H., who own two successful businesses in Lumberton,
gave her that foundation.
believe how supportive my family has been, she said.
Miss McNeill plans to continue as a professional entertainer.
From now on,
Ill let my students do the pageants, she said.
I hope to
continue in professional entertainment and to build a performing arts
studio that includes drama and dance lessons in addition to my existing
Although she admits
to not having a boyfriend at the moment, her long-range plan includes
marriage and family, she said.
I have an
active social life, and I like to have fun, she said. A
relationship requires a lot of time and energy, something Im short
on right now.
Whatever the future
holds for Lorna McNeill, it is certain that she will remain her own
person committed, intelligent, talented and beautiful too.
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