Even if she hadn’t been wearing a sparkly sash identifying her as “Miss Arkansas’ Outstanding Teen,” the lovely girl in front of me in the TSA line at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in August would have caught my attention.
Put-together and the picture of poise, KaMya Tackett of Sherwood just stands out. The judges at the Miss Arkansas’ Outstanding Teen pageant in June thought so, too. After all, the 15-year-old Sylvan Hills High School student — an aspiring neurologist — won the pageant as Miss Conway’s Outstanding Teen her very first year to enter. She also won a bunch of other honors, including Overall Dancer Award, Most Photogenic, Alpha Evening Gown and On-Stage Question. Her ability to answer questions was fully demonstrated when she graciously allowed me to interview her while she waited to fly to the national pageant in Dallas.
As for how it felt to win the Arkansas pageant, she said, “It was a whirlwind of emotions. I didn’t think it was real. I was crying because I couldn’t believe I did it. People made sacrifices for me to be able to compete; I felt like I won it for them. And that’s what I wanted to do.”
How her win has impacted people she doesn’t know has been equally significant.
“It meant a lot because it’s been years since there’s been another person of color to be Miss Arkansas’ Outstanding Teen,” KaMya said. “There’s only been one, and it was back in 2004. … It’s been so long, so many young girls — people of color — were so discouraged from the system because of that. And me winning shows them that they can be themselves and that they can win titles like this.”
They can win titles like Miss Arkansas, too. This is the first year that both the reigning Miss Arkansas’ Outstanding Teen and Miss Arkansas (Ebony Mitchell) are Black.
“We made history together,” KaMya said, her smile as dazzling as her sash.
Speaking of winners, our issue is full of them, from the Arkansas Farm Family of the Year to three Bentonville chefs/restaurants earning James Beard Foundation Award nominations.
Have a splendid September!
Jennifer Christman Cia is the editor of Arkansas Living.