mstennNASHVILLE, Tenn. (7/2/14) — 2014 Ms Tennesee United States and Madisonville native Lauren Wallace will arrive in Washington, D.C. today for the Ms United States Pageant.

“I don't think I'll ever feel prepared. You always wonder, 'Did I do enough? Did I prepare enough?'” Wallace said. “I'm trying to have as much confidence as I can.”

Still, Wallace is optimistic.

“I think once I get there tomorrow, everything will be fine. I'm sure I'll make lots of new friends. It'll be a great experience for me,” she said in a Monday evening interview.

According to Wallace, pageants are much more difficult than most people would assume.

“It's so much more than just putting on a gown or a swimsuit and walking on stage. I've prepared so hard for this. It's emotional, mental,” Wallace said. “You have to educate yourself with current events. The interview process is stressful.  It's hard work. It's like working two jobs.”

Wallace's first job is as a nurse in the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.

“It's a tough job to have, with sick, sick, sick kids.,” Wallace said.

The two jobs did collide when Wallace had the opportunity to volunteer at the hospital as Ms Tennessee.

“They have a Queen for a Day program, and we're there as queens and the kids can dress up as princesses. It was so much fun to interact with them not as a nurse,” Wallace said.

Though she enjoys the work she does as Ms Tennessee, Wallace remains grounded.

“I've never been a pageant girl,” Wallace said. “I've been an athlete and never really had any interest in it until my mid-20s, until a family friend encouraged me. She said I had the look for it. I got to a point in my life where I was feeling stagnant, and I wanted to try something new.”

Since becoming Ms Tennessee in April, Wallace has given her time to charity and volunteer work.

“We have a platform that we promote. My platform is raising awareness for human trafficking,” Wallace said.

It was a mission trip to El Salvador that first brought her in contact with victims of human trafficking, Wallace stated, but her cause is closer to home.

“It's not just in other countries. It's right here under our noses,” Wallace said. “In Nashville, I became involved with End Slavery Tennessee. I'm trying to get donations. We put together survivor kits. The first day they get off the street, they have nothing. The kits have hygiene items, food, all the things they need that first day and first night.”

One of Tennessee's most prevalent human trafficking areas is on the route from Nashville to Madisonville.

“Clarksville has one of the highest rates in Tennessee because of the Army base,” Wallace said. “You don't want to think about our soldiers being involved in this. You don't want to think that it's our teenagers and runaways being sucked up into this life. It's hard to get out of once you're in it. It takes a lot of work.”

According to Wallace, the support she has received from her hometown has been great. She grew up in Madisonville and graduated from Madisonville North Hopkins High School.

“Madisonville has been my biggest support through this. It's amazing to see how many people from my childhood give donations and write the Facebook comments and support me. It's just so wonderful to have those people behind me. Nashville's a bigger city, obviously. I have support here. But the people from my childhood, the people I grew up with, are my biggest support,” Wallace said. “It's been great to reconnect with people. It's great to be from a town that continues to care for their children no matter where they go on to in life.”

Those who want to support her should consider voting for her in the contest for the most photogenic contestant, Wallace stated.

“I have my own Facebook fanpage: facebook.com/mstenneseeus. They can go there, click on the picture, and it should take them right there, and they can click 'vote,” Wallace said.

The public can also vote through the pageant's official website, www.missunitedstates.com. Voting will end July 5.

Ami Clayton
SurfKY News Reporter

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