Wammack reflects on year as Miss UNA

After a year of wearing the crown, Miss UNA will pass her torch to the next woman Jan. 23 at the Miss UNA Scholarship Pageant.

Rachel Wammack accepted the crown with shock and awe last year.

“This has been the best year of my life partially because I was Miss UNA and because I’ve met people that have poured into my life,” Wammack said.

“Also, I’ve just had a lot of self-evaluation being a senior. I was just thinking, ‘Why am I living? What is my purpose?’”

Throughout her time as Miss UNA, Wammack said she focused on making a positive impact on people, even if she only meets that person one time.

“We come in contact with a lot of people throughout the year,” she said. “You have a lot of random encounters and experiences. One encounter with someone can change their life dramatically.”

She said she has spoken to many school groups about self-identity, a positive outlook and believing in people.

Throughout her life, Wammack said she has tried to treat all people with kindness because of her dad’s influence on her life.

“When I was younger, my dad would tell me, ‘Rachel, you be a peacemaker, no matter what situation you’re in,’” she said. “It’s important the way we treat other people. I think we get caught up in the day-to-day life and we can get sarcastic, sassy or just prideful about ourselves.”

She said she got the opportunity to speak at an anti-bullying rally for sixth graders in Lauderdale County.

“I got to talk about being a peacemaker (while I was there), which was something that’s really important to me,” she said. “I know sixth graders deal with a lot of bullying and self-image issues.”

Aside from winning Miss UNA, Wammack also won the talent portion and Miss Congeniality at the Miss Alabama pageant in June, taking home over $3,000 in scholarships.

“I literally just cried when I got Miss Congeniality,” she said. “That’s not the biggest scholarship, but it’s just cool. You’re very tense, and you’re very nervous (at the pageant), and for them to like me through that was an honor.”

She said competing at Miss Alabama was one of the “most new” experiences she has had as Miss UNA.

“Not that it’s all about Miss Alabama, but she did really well at Miss Alabama,” said Director of Student Engagement Tyler Thompson. “She won talent portion of the preliminary pageant, so that’s huge. It’s been a few years since we’ve gotten awards at Miss Alabama. She also won Miss congeniality. To me, that’s really important and special.”

Aside from her pageant victories, Wammack also has won several awards as a musician.

She won the 2012 UNA Music Entertainment Industry Student Association Music Showcase and performed at Lion Night and Take Back the Night in 2014. She released her first album, “Pass it On,” when she was a freshman in 2013, and her second, “Lavender,” debuted December 2014.

She said she plans to go on tour in Alabama this July with former student Jordy Searcy, who competed on The Voice, and local singer-songwriter McKenzie Lockhart.

“My degree is going toward being a professor, but I have this other dream of playing music,” she said. “I just want to go for it while I’m young. Why not?”

Thompson said he thinks Wammack was unique as Miss UNA because she carried a name for herself outside the pageant because of her music.

“She already kind has a fan club,” he said. “There were more requests to have her perform and do some different things. She carries a crowd.”

After she returns home, Wammack said she plans to begin her graduate degree in English at UNA in August.

She said she will play the marimba and the piano at the pageant this year. She will also play an original song she recently wrote.

Overall, Wammack said she would encourage any woman at UNA considering the pageant to just “go for it.”

“It’s five peoples’ opinion of you in one night,” she said. “You can’t let what anyone thinks of you define you. As girls and as guys, we can be people-pleasers. We think, ‘well, if this person doesn’t like me, then I need to change this.’ You need to decide who you want to be.”

She said her experience in the pageant taught her many things about being professional and having a positive outlook on self-identity and purpose.

“I think there’s a level of superficialness that we have, even has young people,” she said. “We want to look good on paper but sometimes we’re not that transparent with the real world. We’re not even transparent with ourselves. Now, everyone knows where I’ve come from, where I am and where I am going.”

Tickets for the 2016 Miss UNA Scholarship Pageant are free for students to pick up at the Student Engagement office in the GUC.

The Student Engagement office said the number of tickets is limited.