FLORENCE — Third time is the charm or at least it was for Jill Dudley who competed as Miss Hartsville in the 85th Miss South Carolina Pageant on Saturday night and was crowned the new Miss South Carolina.
She will now participate in the Miss America pageant.
“It’s been a dream of mine,” Dudley said in a Monday phone interview with the Morning News.
As the final two top-five contenders, Miss Florence, Berkley Bryant and Dudley waited to hear who would be crowned Miss South Carolina 2022.
What was going through his head at that moment? Dudley said, “I just prayed, thanking God for putting me here and keeping me calm.”
When she was announced the winner, Dudley fell to her knees.
As the first runner-up, if Dudley became Miss America, Bryant would take over as Miss South Carolina.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Dudley said.
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She said she fell to the ground a second time before the crown was placed on her head and she waved to the crowd as the new Miss South Carolina.
Tuesday night’s preliminary talent winner and Saturday night’s overall talent award winner, Dudley was also named for the third year in a row by other contestants as Miss Congeniality.
It’s something Dudley said she’s very proud of, as it means each time a different group of contestants thought of her enough to name her Miss Congeniality.
She also received the Chaz Ellis Style Award and the Joel Connable Memorial Scholarship for her work with the Diabetes Awareness Award.
Dudley’s social impact is Luke’s Legacy – Advocacy for Diabetes Awareness, Education and Prevention.
In addition to all the awards, Dudley said he received $65,250.00 in scholarships.
She said it would pay off her student loans and give her money for law school.
She hopes to earn her Juris Doctor degree from the University of South Carolina Law School in the future.
Dudley, 22, is from Socastée. Her first competition for the title of Miss South Carolina was as Miss Teal and Bronze in 2019. She made the top 15.
“I needed money to buy books,” she says.
An English student at Coastal Carolina, Dudley said she has a lot of books to buy. The scholarship money she won helped pay for the books.
The second time she competed, Dudley said she placed in the top 10.
She said she encourages all young women to never give up on their dreams,
“It took me three locals to get to statehood victory,” she said. “If I had given up on the first try, I wouldn’t have become Miss South Carolina.”
Dudley said with each competition she gained confidence. She said the first time she competed she was intimidated. The second year, she was a little more confident, but she didn’t really know what it meant to be Miss South Carolina. She said she went to the contest this year to be authentic, to show her confidence and composure and her passion for her diabetes social impact topic.
When the judges asked her onstage why she should be Miss South Carolina, Dudley opened up about her plans to work with diabetes.
“I’m going to treat it like a job,” she said.
Dudley credits the Hartsville Preliminary Competition and its local managers, Tilethia Lane and Brittany Douglas, for guiding her this year and helping her grow as a person.
“I spent a lot of time in Hartsville and got to know the community,” she said.
She said it can be difficult if you are not from the community you represent.
During her first days as Miss South Carolina, Dudley said she started off on track. They are already working on appearances and interview requests.
She wants to start touring schools in September to deliver her diabetes message to children. She also wants to work with local hospitals on a diabetes prevention program.
Dudley said as Miss Hartsville she had more than 1,000 business cards printed with QR codes on the back of the American Diabetes Association website for more information.
Although passionate about her social impact program, Dudley said her favorite part of the pageant was the talent, because it’s what sets the Miss American pageant apart from other pageant systems. Dudley said she started singing in high school and went on to Coastal in the concert choir.
Onstage Saturday night, she performed a vocal rendition of “Never Enough.”
She does not know if she will sing the same song for the Miss American pageant in December or if she will change the song.
The finalists for the title of Miss South Carolina were: Miss Florence, Berkley Bryant, first runner-up; Miss Columbia, Jada Samuel, second runner-up; Miss Clemson, Tara Moore, third runner-up; and Miss Greenville County, Sarah Kay Wrenn, fourth runner-up. Rounding out the top 10 were Miss Darlington, Catherine Smith; Miss Greater Greer, Rachel Carter; Miss Inman, Maria Julianne Phillips; Miss Myrtle Beach, Brooke Saw; and Miss River City, Catie Rawl.
Miss Clemson Teen, Piper Holt, has been crowned Miss South Carolina Teen 2022.
Dudley graduated with honors from Coastal Carolina University with a degree in English and a minor in political science in May 2021. A student at the University of South Carolina, Dudley completed his paralegal program in March to become a certified paralegal SC.
She is the daughter of Debi Guernsey and Mark Dudley. She is a record holder in high school athletics and cross country. She has a younger brother and an older brother.