LUMBERTON — Last weekend Lumberton’s Johna Edmonds gave up her sash and crown, officially ending her tenure as Miss North Carolina and by Tuesday she was already eyeballing her next big challenge — becoming “Miss Governor” of North Carolina.
“Of course I can’t run for any political office until I am 35,” said Edmonds, who at 25 has plenty of time to develop her platform. “… But I like to keep my options open.”
Edmonds isn’t the first native of Robeson County to be named Miss North Carolina. She isn’t even the second. Those honors belong to former Miss North Carolinas Lorna McNeil and Rebekah Revels, both of whom, like Edmonds, are Lumbee.
“We breed them right here in Robeson County,” Edmonds said with a chuckle.
At the moment, the North Carolina State University student is getting prepared to take her Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination in the fall, before taking up a job offer with the professional services firm Ernst & Young.
Edmonds credits the contacts she had been able to make during her time as Miss North Carolina for helping her line up the job, among other opportunities, but is quick to point out that opportunities haven’t always come so easily.
As a child, Edmonds, like thousands of American school children, struggled with reading comprehension, which Edmonds says greatly affected the way she felt about herself. Through hard work and determination, Edmonds managed to catch up to her peers, but she never forgot the feeling of shame she had experienced during that time in her life.
“Your classmates will pick on you and tease you, especially during those years in life which are so pivotal to development,” Edmonds said.
While working with her mother, a former teacher at Littlefield Middle School, assisting students who were participating in Robeson County’s Battle of the Books program, Edmonds says that she was reminded of her own struggles growing up, which inspired her to make her platform as Miss North Carolina childhood literacy.
“At some point we all face obstacles and struggles,” Edmonds said. “But you can overcome anything and reach any goal you believe in.”
According to Edmonds, one misconception about the title of Miss North Carolina is that it is just a title and a scholarship. In reality, Edmonds says, being Miss North Carolina is a full-time investment.
“It is one year of service, you dedicate it to serving the constituents of the state. You have to take off from school or work, because it is an everyday commitment,” Edmonds said. “It is a full-time job. I averaged about three days off a month … I think how much of your time is demanded, a lot of things suffer. Your relationships, boyfriend, family, whatever. Just the day-to-day tasks ask a lot of you. I didn’t have someone driving me to appearances … People think I have someone who answers my emails.”
Keeping a busy schedule is routine for Edmonds. Growing up, Edmonds balanced school work with a myriad of extracurricular activities, including softball, soccer, cheer-leading and, of course, taking part in local pageants.
For Edmonds, the greatest difficulty of carrying the crown was the impossibly high standards that come with being put in the public spotlight.
“You very suddenly become a public figure and with that you are always being criticized, people are always going to be criticize and find something negative. Especially on the Internet,” Edmonds said. “But I think anyone who is in a public position, you have to know what you are going into. You have to be mentally ready going in. I think too, with pageantry, there are so many negative stereotypes … A lot of people don’t know what is required.”
To ease herself out of the experience, Edmonds is setting up a website to allow organizations to continue booking her for speaking engagements. Giving up her crown to the 2014 Miss North Carolina winner Beth Stovail, Edmonds says, was a bittersweet experience, though she says that she has every confidence that Stovail will do a terrific job.
“I definitely will miss being able to travel across my home state and interact with people I would never be in contact with and just being able to serve as that positive role model but at the same time … I am excited to begin my career,” Edmonds said. “ … I know one thing I won’t miss — pulling out my hair every time I sit in a car and forget I am wearing a crown.”