Meet Katherine Webb
Her story rivals the fairy tale of “The Ugly Duckling,” and just as magical, it was the town of her birth where she realized her dream. On the stage of the Montgomery Performing Arts Centre, competing against 46 hopefuls, Katherine Webb became Miss Alabama USA 2012.
Overcoming her own personal winter, the crowning on this January night symbolized a deeper victory for this beauty queen who spent her adolescence feeling awkward. Her father’s change in occupation moved the family around Alabama and Georgia, which found young Katherine attending several different schools. Adjusting would be hard enough for any kid, but especially for Katherine, who was anything but average.
“I was always the tallest kid in my class, and classmates teased me for being awkward and lanky,” Katherine recalled. “I had bad posture and would slump over to make myself seem shorter than I really was.”
Visibly, her height was not the only challenge mounting her insecurity. At the age of 5, she developed Vitiligo, the same skin disorder known for discoloring pop icon Michael Jackson. Between the mismatched shades on her skin and her clumsy appearance, Katherine found it hard to be accepted by others. Ever the oddball, to win over friends, she felt an inward pressure to please people, hoping that once they looked past her peculiarity, she would win them over with her personality.
Playing outdoors with her older brother and younger siblings provided respite from self-doubt as these industrious childhood ventures found her playing in the mud, building forts and even going hunting. “I considered myself a tomboy and loved to play softball.”
Things began to change as her teenage years approached with welcomed advances. The make-up and self-tanning industries offered new corrective products, and her peers began catching up with her height. Once she was able to cover the flaws on her skin, the Vitiligo went unnoticed. Recognizing her advantage over shorter girls who wanted to wear heels, she began to feel more confident about the way she looked and realized that “being tall wasn’t such a bad thing.” As her self-perception changed, it allowed her to realize that “all she ever had to do to be liked was to simply be herself; her inner beauty was the only thing that really mattered.”
What set her apart as a child now served as an asset as those around her remarked about her height and encouraged her to become a model. This steady persuasion made the fashion industry more appealing to Katherine, but it was a chance encounter at a local boutique that made her faraway dreams a reality.
It was June of 2007, while curiously trying on gowns at a local boutique, that Katherine caught the attention of prom and pageant dress designer, Sherri Hill, who just so happened to be there on that same day. Sherri immediately noticed Katherine’s stature and beauty and without hesitation, asked her to model her designs in showrooms across several markets. The very next day, Katherine was modeling in the Atlanta showroom.
During this period, Katherine was surrounded by numerous titleholders in the Miss America and Miss USA pageants. This experience sparked a fresh desire within. “I secretly thought of how much fun it would be to compete in a pageant and win and go to Miss USA,” Katherine said.
And so she did. Along with the support of Sherri, she entered the Miss Georgia USA pageant in 2008, and in her very first competition, Katherine placed top 15 and won Miss Photogenic. This level of success allowed her to see the unique platform pageants offered her to inspire others with her story. She dreamed of becoming a titleholder in the hopes of expanding her opportunities to share her personal testimony. Going to Miss USA became her dream, a goal embedded in her heart that motivated her to keep going and never give up.
After the Miss Georgia USA pageant, Katherine enrolled at Auburn University and made a decision to break from pageants in order to focus her energy on her studies. As a student, she became involved with the fashion industry and signed a contract with a modeling agency based out of Atlanta and Chicago. She traveled throughout the U.S. to cities such as New York, Miami and Las Vegas and was able to walk the catwalk for many highly respected designers. She graduated from Auburn in 2011 with a degree in Business Management and Administration and currently works as a training director at Chick-fil-A in Phenix City, Ala.
Reflecting on her accomplishments and the adversity she conquered as a young girl, Katherine further realized the important role pageants and modeling played in growing the confidence and self-assurance that eluded her as a child. A believer in Christ, she became even more secure “knowing she was created in God’s image and that alone was enough to make her perfect, no matter how different she was compared to others.” Katherine felt this was the perfect time to go for her dream.
Having won Miss East Alabama on Jan. 28, 2012, approximately eight months after graduating from college, Katherine found herself competing in the Miss Alabama USA pageant. Despite losing a shoe during the swimsuit competition and answering a difficult on-stage question, her quiet confidence showed through as the judges selected her as Miss Alabama USA 2012. Katherine will move on to compete in the nationally-televised Miss USA pageant on June 3 in hopes of becoming Miss USA 2012. Her desire throughout her journey is to encourage girls to pursue their dreams and to never let the fear of failure keep them from achieving their heart's greatest desires.
For more on Katherine, visit www.missalabamausa.com. For information on becoming a contestant, visit www.rpmproductions.com.