Emma Terry remembers watching the contestants of Miss Alabama from the audience. She recently got the chance to be one of them and finished first runner up for the crown.
“I have watched Miss Alabama from the audience for the past four or five years,” said Terry, an accounting student from Leeds, Ala. “I grew from a young middle schooler who had no confidence to now a college student representing my university on this Miss Alabama stage. It’s an opportunity that I’ve wanted to have for so long.”
Terry, the 40th Miss UAB, competed in several categories at the Miss Alabama pageant last week, including an on-stage question, a talent competition, and a physical fitness competition.
“Being Miss UAB has been a literal dream come true,” she said. “I get to carry on the legacy of our program, which is incredibly special.”
She credits Collat students, faculty, and staff with supporting her during her journey to Miss Alabama.
“What I love about Collat is that even though we are a big family, we’re still a tight-knit family,” she said. “Everyone cares. Everyone wants to know how Miss UAB is going. That support has encouraged me.”
The competition isn’t Terry’s first foray into the pageant world. She was Miss Alabama’s Teen in 2021 at the same time she was starting as a freshman at UAB.
“I was juggling a lot of different things,” she said. “I was a freshman trying to understand the environment and get a sense of what my place was going to be at UAB while traveling the state on the weekends and going to different appearances in between classes.
"I am not kidding, the first week of classes, I had my official Miss Alabama's Teen photoshoot," she recalls. "It made me late for my first English class. I had to walk into class in full glam wearing jeans and a t-shirt, hair teased up, fake eyelashes and I know everyone looked at me and thought, 'What in the world?''
Terry said her life runs on a combination of lists and schedules. In addition to balancing her coursework and her Miss UAB duties, she’s also a caretaker for her grandfather who is bedridden with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
She helps her grandmother administer his medicine, monitor his feeding tube, and attend to other needs.
“Growing up, I stayed with my grandparents during the summer, and each summer my grandfather’s condition would worsen,” she said. “There was more that had to be done every single summer. The older I got, the more mature I became. I had to learn how to take care of myself at the same time I had to learn how to take care of somebody else. Learning those things in tandem was beneficial to me.”
Her first-hand experience with the disease inspired her platform for Miss Alabama, Stomping Out ALS One Step at a Time, through which she participates in ALS walks and other fundraisers. Each Miss Alabama contestant must have a community service initiative. She hopes she can raise awareness for the disease and increase research funding.
“Everyone can take small steps or actions to get involved in the movement to find a cure for ALS,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be overwhelming for people to get involved in. If you simply educate yourself, that’s having an impact on the movement. If I can increase awareness by educating people on social media and by hosting community events, then that’s a win in the ALS community.”
Terry said her experiences at Collat have helped her prepare for the Miss Alabama pageant.
“Collat has provided so many professional development opportunities,” she said. “There’s a way that the school prepares you for the professional world that has also helped prepare me for Miss Alabama. We’re talking about things that are relevant to the world in my classes. I’m thinking about ways to network with people and to create genuine connections. I feel like Collat has given me a lot of opportunities to succeed that have helped me compete in Miss Alabama and be a better Miss UAB.”