'Now that I've done it, I wouldn't turn back'

'Now that I've done it, I wouldn't turn back'

Six years ago, ASHLEY MATTINGLY stepped out of her comfort zone by trading in her cozy clothes for sparkly dresses in hopes of winning the Junior Miss Tuscola title.

"My mom was so surprised I wanted to do pageants," the 20-year-old said. "I never wore dresses, but now I absolutely love dressing up. I've learned to dress for success."

Now a pageant veteran, Mattingly last week added 2018 Miss Moultrie-Douglas County Fair to her competition resume, as well as other impressive qualifications.

"Pageants have given me so much help in interviews, public speaking and an extreme amount of confidence," she said. "I wasn't going to compete, but now that I've done it, I wouldn't turn back."

The News-Gazette's Therese Pokorney caught up with the newly crowned queen for a chat about the past, present, future and more.

How did you go from not liking to dress up to it becoming a big part of your life?

I always really enjoyed working with the worship team at my church. Being on stage came natural to me. Now, I'm a vocal education and theater performance major at the College of Ozarks in Missouri. When I first started competing, I wasn't very girly. Now, it's just something I really enjoy.

Do you feel like you have to act on stage?

Definitely not in pageants, since that's the exact opposite of what the judges want. Many people believe pageants are a time to show how pretty you are, but the times you win are the times that you are yourself. They want a real genuine person.

You have a long history with pageants. What brings you back every year?

Since 2012, I actually held two of the titles in Tuscola — Junior Miss in 2013 and Miss Tuscola 2017. I competed last year in the Moultrie-Douglas pageant and got third runner-up. I felt pretty accomplished after that, and I wasn't going to compete again. Then, I went to Alaska with my school, which made me rethink that. I knew I wanted to compete when the pageant directors reached out to me.

How did your trip to Alaska change your mind?

I went to Alaska with my school choir. That really put my heart in the right place. I met a bunch of different veterans and saw not only how amazing that place is, but how amazing our counties are. They were part of my personal speech.

What did you talk about?

I spoke about the veterans for the speech portion of the pageant because they're a huge part of my life now. I got to meet so many of them, so I spoke about their stories and interactions. I told my story of going to Alaska as just a way to see another personal part of my life.

So what's with the watermelon at the auction?

I was told I had to auction off a watermelon, but I didn't know I had to be the auctioneer. I had never done that before, so I said 'OK,' then they handed me a watermelon. I actually auctioned that one off for $375, and there were four others that went for around $500.