Miss Charlotte USA reigns as her compassionate, authentic self
By Angela Lindsay
Miss Charlotte USA 2023 Jarin Simmons isn’t your typical beauty queen. She’s something more. The 22-year-old Charlotte native has already overcome life-altering obstacles and shattered previously long-held norms of professional competition. Simmons, for instance, didn’t even begin competing until 2015, when she participated in Miss Teen Charlotte, winning Miss Photogenic and placing 4th runner-up. While it was just her first pageant, her lightening trajectory through the world of pageantry has launched numerous opportunities — giving her a platform to inspire other young women and empower her own journey.
Pride: How did you first get started competing in pageants?
Jarin Simmons: I was contacted by a pageant recruiter in 2015 wanting me to run for Miss Teen Charlotte. During that time, I met Cheslie Kryst (the late Miss USA 2019 who tragically passed away in 2022). We would have conversations from time to time about pageantry, and she would always encourage me to run, but I told her that I needed to finish school and that I was modeling full-time for Directions USA. In May 2022, I finished college. In June 2022, I won Miss Charlotte USA. Now I’m preparing for Miss North Carolina USA 2023!
P: Why do you want to compete in pageants and what do you enjoy most about pageantry?
JS: I want to be an agent for change. I want to set an example for young girls to see they can do anything they want. I plan to start an organization called “Lead By Example” where I can mentor young women and adults worldwide, and teach them about leadership, success and maintaining a positive mindset; also, to bring awareness to scoliosis patients and provide them with words of encouragement. I enjoy meeting new people and building relationships with successful, inspirational women. Also, I enjoy being on stage, showcasing fashion and creating a platform where I can help and give back to the community.
P: What obstacles have you had to overcome on your journey?
JS: I was diagnosed with scoliosis in 2011. Scoliosis is where the spine twists and curves to the side. I had a curve of 23.5 degrees, and my rib cage was twisted. I wore a back brace for two years, and in 2015, I had spinal surgery, and my curve was corrected. When I was young, I wanted to play basketball. I enjoyed watching Candace Parker and Lisa Leslie growing up and wanted to become a professional basketball player. My surgery ended my dream of playing basketball because I couldn’t play contact sports due to the titanium rods in my back. That’s when my life shifted to modeling and pageantry. Now, I’m creating a platform to mentor young adults about success, leadership and maintaining a positive mindset. Also, I plan to share my story and words of encouragement with other scoliosis patients.
P: What are some lessons learned and skills you’ve picked up along the way?
JS: Pageantry has helped me strengthen my public speaking and communication skills. I have built strong relationships with professional people who have given me advice on being a leader and striving for success.
P: What is some of the best advice given to you by Cheslie Kryst?
JS: She encouraged me to run for Miss North Carolina USA. She also helped me with my natural hair by telling me which products to use and always sending words of encouragement for my modeling career.
P: Did you ever have reservations about wearing your hair naturally? How do you feel pageants are becoming more inclusive?
JS: I have always embraced my natural hair, especially in the modeling industry. I have
covered six magazines and walked in several fashion shows with my natural hair, and I have inspired so many young women to wear and embrace their natural hair. In the pageant industry, more girls are competing and winning titles with their natural hair, which inspired me to compete with mine.
P: What lessons have you (or could anyone have) learned from the tragedy of Kryst’s death?
JS: One thing I learned is that it’s essential to check on your family and friends to make sure that they’re OK.
P: What would you say are some benefits to young women competing in pageants?
JS: Pageantry opens the opportunity for scholarships and meeting professional people who can help and guide them to success, and become influential leaders. Also, it helps with confidence and improves public speaking and communication skills. Overall, it helps with self-discipline, determination and motivation to achieve their goals for the future.
P: You graduated from Johnson C. Smith University with an interdisciplinary studies degree, so what professions are you interested in pursuing?
JS: I graduated cum laude from JSCU, and now I’m pursuing my masters studying
Communications at Queens University. I plan to be a lifestyle and news journalist, and a worldwide fashion model.
P: Do you think attending an HBCU gives you a unique perspective when it comes to
JS: I am a proud graduate of JCSU! My experiences there have prepared me well for my future endeavors. I want to put JCSU on the map and “Hold high the Gold and Blue.”
P: What are some platforms dearest to you for which you plan to raise awareness?
JS: I plan to promote awareness about scoliosis in my platform as Miss North Carolina.
Without my diagnosis, I wouldn’t be here modeling and running for Miss North Carolina today. I want to use my story to testify to other scoliosis patients anxious about the surgery. Mental health is another platform that I want to acknowledge because young adults need to maintain a positive mindset. I plan to promote ways to care for yourself mentally, psychologically and physically! Mental health is critical during childhood and adolescence, so we must bring awareness and offer support to those struggling with mental illness.
P: How do you like to spend your down-time? Do you have any guilty pleasures?
JS: I love going for a walk in the park and working out at least three times a week at the gym. I take a Pilates class at least once a week. Spending time with family is very important to me as well. I also like listening to roundtable podcasts. My favorite podcast is “Mensimah’s Round Table with Women of Power.” She features women of power and grace who share their expertise in leadership and success. My guilty pleasure is eating cookies and cream ice cream!