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Panhandle to America: Hardy credits local roots in Miss West Virginia win, looks to national victory

By Staff | Jul 7, 2017

Tamia Hardy

The Miss America Organization has been breaking down barriers for more than 95 years, advocating for women’s education. From the local to national levels, each contestant has been an inspiration to other young women aspiring to greatness.

This sentiment is especially true for Martinsburg native, and Shepherd University graduate, Tamia Hardy, who was recently crowned Miss West Virginia 2017.

According to Hardy, it is taking some time to adjust to her newfound recognition.

“It is so surreal. When I hear ‘Miss West Virginia Tamia Hardy,’ it hasn’t settled in yet. It has been a great experience already,” Hardy said.

However, Hardy’s honor comes with more than just a title, it also breaks a barrier in West Virginia’s history.

“I just think it’s great that other people who are different can look at me and say ‘she is different and she did it.’ I want to inspire people to do what they want,” Hardy said. “I’m the first black Miss West Virginia. I’m breaking stereotypes, and I hope it shows others that you don’t have to follow the status quo – no matter what society tells you.”

In preparing for Miss America, Hardy said she is excited to share her platform with the rest of the nation. Hardy’s platform is called “Stand up, don’t stand by,” which is an organization she first came across while attending Shepherd University.

“It is a group on Shepherd’s campus, that’s how I got involved. They work to educate people on ways to detect and prevent sexual assault. It is what I’ll be spreading awareness for,” Hardy said.

However, sharing her platform is not the only thing she is excited to promote through her influence as Miss West Virginia – and hopefully as Miss America.

“Other than promoting my platform and this great state, I’m excited to get to travel the state and go to areas I’ve never been before,” Hardy said. “I want to give back to the community and help the state that has made me who I am. It will be an amazing opportunity to do community service all over the state.”

While Hardy will be afforded the opportunity to serve her state, she said staying true to her hometown is dear to her heart.

“I was born and raised in Martinsburg and I am really grateful to have the love and support from this area. To not just represent West Virginia, but our area,” Hardy said. “(Martinsburg) is a small town compared to other places in America. We have to get these small towns known.”

According to Hardy, her talent in the competition will afford another opportunity to bring attention to the Eastern Panhandle.

“I did contemporary dance for Miss West Virginia, but I don’t know what dance style I’m going to do yet for Miss America,” Hardy said. “I dance at Extreme Dance in Martinsburg – they are my extended family. Their support has been great.”

While Miss America has encouraged girls of all races, religions and socio-economic backgrounds to strive for greatness, self-confidence can still hold many young women back from competing. Hardy said that, regardless of the situation a young woman might find herself in, she can always work toward greatness – in whatever form that takes.

“I didn’t expect to win or lose, I was just going to try my best and that’s all the best I could ask for. People should try their absolute best, and whatever the outcome is, the experience will be great,” Hardy said.

However, win or lose, Hardy said there is a bigger motivation for taking the stage.

“Every time I go out on stage, I continue to pray for God to have me perform and to let His light shine through me. I give all the praise, honor and glory to Him,” Hardy said. “His will for me will come, if I trust in Him and have faith, everything is going to be OK.”

Whether she comes how with the Miss America crown or not, Hardy is sure to make the state of West Virginia – and the Eastern Panhandle – proud.

“I’m so grateful to have this opportunity. I can’t wait to represent West Virginia on that stage, and afterwards,” Hardy concluded.

The 2018 Miss America Competition will broadcast live from Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 9 p.m. on ABC.