Two years ago, Djuan Keila Trent watched the Miss America pageant from the basement of her dorm at Berea College and dreamed of walking across the stage as the representative of her Kentucky home. This January, her dream will come true as she heads to the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas with hopes of bringing home Kentucky's second Miss America title and giving a voice to the thousands of people affected by homelessness across the Commonwealth.
KM: Please tell us a little about your platform for Miss America.
DKT: My platform is homelessness prevention and awareness-giving a hand up, not a handout. Homelessness is something that I have been blessed to work with since I was a very small child. Growing up, we would feed the homeless from the chapel in my grandmother's house. We did that every major holiday, so as soon as I was able to start walking, I was serving. I continued my work with the homeless all throughout my childhood, into my adolescent years, and now as an adult I have taken on a different perspective in working with the homeless: prevention.
Upon graduating from Berea College, I moved to Lexington and began volunteering at the Lexington Rescue Mission, where I saw a different face of homelessness, and that is the face that looks very much like mine, yours, your neighbor, your co-worker-everyday faces. And those faces are the faces that make up the larger percentage of our homeless here in Kentucky.
Homelessness is no respecter of persons, and it can happen to anyone on any given day, given the wrong or worst set of circumstances. Homelessness prevention focuses on giving people the tools they need to avoid homelessness, or if they are already homeless, giving them the tools they need to escape that situation and sustain themselves in society.
I always like to associate my platform with the saying, "If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime." I am very honored and humbled to have been able to do the work that I have done, because I know this is something so much greater than me, and I am thankful to be able to make a difference every day.
KM: What was your motivation to compete for the title of Miss Kentucky?
DKT: Two years ago, I sat in the basement of Seabury Residence Hall at Berea College and watched the Miss America pageant with my best friend. I looked at her and said, "I feel like I could do that." She looked at me and said, "Just do it." And two years later, I have this neat crown and wonderful title to go with it. I am Miss Kentucky.
When I first began competing, I was trying so hard to learn how to do a pageant. I later realized I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had to realize that when the pageant is over and the lights have faded away, there is still a job to be done.
This year, I was inspired by the opportunities that come with being Miss Kentucky-the opportunity to promote my platform, the opportunity to touch the lives of children and adults alike, every day. It's like Christmas every day for me. Serving is truly at the core of who I am, and to be able to serve people every day has been such a blessing to me and all the motivation I need.
KM: What are your goals during your tenure as Miss Kentucky?
DKT: I definitely want to be able to do as much work with my platform as possible. I have been able to do a lot of work with the Kentucky Interagency Council on Homelessness as well as with some of the local organizations in the Lexington area, such as the Lexington Rescue Mission and the Catholic Action Center. I have a couple of major projects on the table right now that will serve as great assets in the movement against homelessness, and I am very excited about them!
I hope to be able to travel to as many schools as possible during my year. I've already traveled to quite a few; I've only had my car for four months, and I'm coming up on 11,000 miles-thank you, Lexus of Lexington.
As Miss Kentucky, I hope to inspire and leave a legacy of hope, hard work and endurance because "the race is not given to the swift or the strong, but to he who endureth till the end."
KM: Since taking the crown in June, what has surprised you most about being the title holder?
DKT: I have been most surprised at how open and receptive people have been to me. In working with my platform, people on the streets, people in schools-just everywhere-people have been so warm and welcoming, and I love that. I suppose a lot of what's unexpected with me is being in the mindset of: "I'm just Djuan Keila Trent." I don't ever go anywhere and walk in like, "The queen is here; all hail Miss Kentucky!" No! Neeevvveeerrr!!! I never do that. So I just love the kindness that I have received from the beautiful people all over the Bluegrass.
KM: What is the best thing about being Miss Kentucky?
DKT: The best thing about being Miss Kentucky is being able to inspire by simply being who I am. The best compliment that I have received anywhere I go, is: "You are so down to earth, just really calm and collected." I absolutely love that. I feel that it is very important that I am myself at all times.
The girl that you see in the cereal aisle at Kroger wearing old sweatpants, a T-shirt, glasses and a ponytail is the same girl that you meet in the crown and sash at the Children's Miracle Network fundraiser.
I love going to the elementary, middle and high schools and being able to relate to our youth on each level. I have done everything from the chicken dance to rapping at the schools, and the kids love it. And I love it, too, because I'm just having fun, just being Djuan.
KM: Are there any downsides to being Miss Kentucky?
DKT: There are no real downsides to being Miss Kentucky. I don't get to see my family as often as I would like, as all of my family lives down in Georgia. But I think that is something that comes with any job in your adult life. My family is very supportive of me, and that is very comforting.
KM: In light of your predecessor [Mallory Ervin] being on The Amazing Race, do you have any post-title aspirations locked down? If so, what are they?
DKT: I plan to go back to school and get my master's degree in business. I've earned more than $11,000 in scholarship money through the Miss Kentucky Scholarship Organization and plan to earn a lot more come January [in the Miss America pageant]. I have most recently been looking into broadcast journalism, and long term I would like to have my own talk show. Oprah's retiring; so hey, somebody's gotta take her spot!