Pageantry started as a confidence booster for middle-school-aged Briana Kinsey. Now, at 24, she is the reigning Miss District of Columbia, she finished third-runner-up at Miss America, and she has earned upwards of $60,000 in scholarships in the process.
“Competing for Miss America was one of those dreams I had kind of moved on from,” said Kinsey, who competed for Miss Alabama for five years before moving to D.C for graduate school. “I had moved outside of my home state, but competing for Miss D.C. was another opportunity, and I had people around me who really encouraged me to continue.”
She won Miss District of Columbia and qualified for Miss America during her last year of eligibility.
“It was a surreal experience for sure,” she said. “I was honored and blessed and thankful that I was able to get scholarship money for the things I had been working towards and that are also helpful life skills—being able to interview well, being able to walk into a room with confidence—all of those things that pageants teach you. They’re great for the job of Miss America, but they’re great for my future career as well.”
While holding the title of Miss D.C. and preparing for Miss America—which requires speaking and singing appearances, mock interviews, and personal training sessions several times weekly—Kinsey was also preparing for medical school, which she will begin after she finishes her master’s degree in physiology at Georgetown University.
Her goal is to be a pediatric endocrinologist to help kids fight diseases like diabetes.
“For the families of children dealing with chronic diseases, their doctors become everything,” she said. “I want to be that person for the next generation.”
Kinsey’s favorite part of competing in Miss America was meeting all of the other contestants and being able to say that she has friends from every state in the country.
Her least favorite part? The misconceptions that go with pageantry.
“It’s not always the most inviting thing when I tell people I’m Miss District of Columbia,” she said. “But those layers start to unfold when you talk to people, and they realize that this is a scholarship organization about women’s empowerment and being your best self.
“It’s not so much about the beauty. Of course presentation is important, but it’s not the focal point of the organization.”