You lost 110 pounds over three years prior to your Miss South Carolina title. What inspired that change?
I was 17 years old and weighted 234 pounds. I would come home from school, sit on the couch, and eat all evening. I knew I needed a lifestyle change. I began replacing that down time with an activity like taking short walks around my neighborhood. And I consulted a nutritionist who helped me make sense of what I was eating and see food as a fuel source and not just a way to pass time.
Weight loss is a common New Year's resolution. What's your advice for sticking with it?
Set small goals for yourself. When I was focused on losing 100 pounds, it seemed like a huge, unattainable target, and I would give up. But once I set goals one month or 5 pounds at a time I became motivated by my small victories.
What's surprised you about being Miss South Carolina?
How heavy the crown is. The first time I put it on I thought, "Oh my goodness. How am I going to do this?" But now it just sort of feels like a permanent, sparkly attachment.
Did you grow up watching the Miss America pageant?
We always watched it as a family. In fact, my grandparents have an ongoing wager: If my grandmother picks the winner, my grandfather gives her $100. At one point she had a 12-year winning streak. I was flattered when she said that this year she's going to put her bet on me.
Do Southern contestants stand out?
There's a saying,"The bigger the hair, the closer to God." Here in the South we love our big hair. Since becoming Miss South Carolina I've probably gone through more than 50 bottles of hairspray.
What's your most-used Southern expression?
I say "y'all." A lot. And not just "y'all" but "y'aaaaaaalll" with lots and lots of twang to it. I'm sometimes criticized on the pageant circuit for my Southern accent. But I'm never going to try to disguise it. That's who I am.
What brings out your inner Southern belle?
Pearls. No one understands the importance of pearls better than a Southern girl. I feel my most Southern when I have on my pearl earrings and necklace, a cute dress, and flip-flops at a Carolina Gamecocks football game.
What's your hidden talent?
I'm really great at impersonating other singers–Reba, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and most of all, Cher.
What's the last thing you scribbled on a paper napkin?
I find it totally strange that people ask for my autograph, so I am always doodling my signature, trying to perfect it. The last time I jotted it down, it read "Bree Boyce (hopefully) Miss America 2012."