We apologize for the lack of blogging lately. We’ve been willingly wrapped up in all the Miss America excitement bursting throughout town! Beautiful, intelligent, accomplished ladies, kindness and state pride everywhere you turn! What could be better?
We are extremely prideful this year because our very own Miss New Jersey, Cierra Kaler Jones, grew up just a few mere miles away from Atlantic City and her parents have been employed at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City for many years. What we’re trying to say is that we’re family. And if you are a fan of Caesars Entertainment Atlantic City properties, you’re right there with us.
We had the opportunity to sit down with this amazing young lady earlier today and ask her all of our burning questions! See the interview, below.
TAC: Not only are you Miss New Jersey, you grew up close by in Galloway! What does it mean for you to be going through this once-in-a-lifetime experience in your own backyard?
Cierra Kaler Jones: It means everything for me. The reason that I started competing for the Miss America program in the first place is because it is in my backyard and because my parents work at Harrah’s Casino, so the Miss America program was always a huge part of our family culture. Being on the other side of things and being the local hometown girl provides a source of hope and inspiration for the people of Atlantic City and for casino workers because it’s so deeply rooted and personal to me.
TAC: Do you have memories of perhaps attending Miss America events while growing up nearby or just the excitement of it all around this time of year?
Cierra Kaler Jones: The funny thing is that I’ve never been to the Miss America pageant or the parade because my parents worked a lot so they could never afford to take off the time to bring me to the pageant, but what I do remember is that because we were so close, the Miss Americas and Miss New Jerseys would always come to my elementary school and they would sign autographs and read to us. They were such role models for me. I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me, but I wanted to be that role model for other girls when I grew up and now I’m here so it’s really coming full circle.
TAC: What are your memories from coming to Atlantic City in general during your childhood?
Cierra Kaler Jones: My grandparents would always take my brother and I to shows here and I just remember it being so magical to me. It still is a very magical place with the historical roots to the Miss America Pageant, but you have those lights of the city and of course the beach. I am a huge beach goer because I am a Jersey girl through and through and I think that what I love about Atlantic City is that it’s so diverse. You can go to any of the casinos, you can go to some kind of entertainment or do some recreational activities and you can go to the beach. It’s so many different things all in one place. It’s so versatile and that’s what I love about it.
TAC: What has been your favorite experience so far this time around in Atlantic City with the other contestants?
Cierra Kaler Jones: There’s been so many, but I think that what’s been most prominent to me is the friendship and camaraderie that’s formed. My roommate is Miss Nebraska. She’s 6’0 without heels and I’m 5’3 without heels so I’m one of the shortest and she’s the tallest! Everyone calls us the tall and the small and we just have the most beautiful relationship. Being able to open up to people who really understand and value what you’re doing is so great. Something that I’ve learned being Miss New Jersey is that it’s a lonely job. Even though you’re always around people, no one truly understands what it’s like to wake up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym, and then have to put on a lot of makeup and do your hair, go to appearances all day and study all night. It’s very hard, but just knowing that there’s other people also doing it provides a source of inspiration that I can also get through it.
TAC: What has your preparation been like leading up to your arrival here in Atlantic City?
Cierra Kaler Jones: I’ve always felt that if I made it to Miss America, my mindset and my thought process would be that it’s something I’ve been preparing for my entire life. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide that you’re going to dance. You don’t wake up one morning and decide that you’re going to read all the current events that day. It’s something that you have to constantly work on throughout your entire life. It’s not just something that happens once you win the title.
TAC: Does something like the gym kick up a little notch?! (We couldn’t help ourselves, we had to know).
Cierra Kaler Jones: I had been competing for four years before I won the title of Miss New Jersey and before that I was very overweight. I lost a total of 50 lbs. in about six years, so I was just working on toning rather than losing weight because I wanted to look like myself and I wanted to be healthy. Most of my preparation was focused on that, but more so my preparation was focused on living my everyday life as if I was Miss America.
TAC: Good for you!! What have been the goals that have guided you so far in your role of Miss New Jersey and continue to drive you through this competition?
Cierra Kaler Jones: Something that I’ve always struggled with is not having role models that looked like me. Being a multiracial woman, it’s been very difficult to look at other young women and think that I could see myself in a position of power, and I wanted to be that for other young girls. I’m the second woman of color to ever win Miss New Jersey in the history of the Miss America Pageant. That in and of itself was such fuel and motivation because a few people told me I couldn’t do it and now I’m here and that’s what continues to fuel me is all the people that said I couldn’t be here.
TAC: What advice do you have for other young women who feel as though they are stuck or confined to a particular role/category in life for whatever the reason?
Cierra Kaler Jones: I think that as cliché as it sounds, it’s to be yourself. I’m a first generation college student in addition to everything else going on in my life and something that my parents have always instilled in me is that you have to hustle and that no one is ever going to hand anything to you. If you want something bad enough, you have to go out and get it, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else says. If you have a passion for something, if you’re kind to people, and if you love what you’re doing, that will show through more so than any other factors.
TAC: What was the process like choosing your platform – Empowering Today’s Youth Through Arts Education – and what made it the right choice for you?
Cierra Kaler Jones: It was very easy. I was born with a physical disability called developmental dysplasia of the hip and that’s where the hip socket didn’t properly form together. I had to wear a pavlik harness and without dancing, I wouldn’t be able to lead a more physically capable life. Being in the dance classroom with other young girls who were passionate about the same thing that I was gave me a sense of normalcy. It made me feel like I was a part of something. Then when I was a junior in high school, they cut all of the arts programs from my school district so I continually advocated through legislation and also at the school board level made multiple speeches and was successful in the reinstatement of the arts programs. When I went to compete for Miss New Jersey, I wanted to make sure that all children had that opportunity to have that passion that made them feel like they could defy the odds and made them feel like they could do anything that they wanted to do. That’s really where the empowerment piece comes from is that feeling that you have a sense of agency, a sense of entitlement and a sense of voice because it’s not just something that spans through the arts, it’s something that you can take throughout your entire lifetime.
TAC: Do you ever have any time to be the average 21 year-old or do you not want to be?
Cierra Kaler Jones: I’m a very busy person! Aside from being Miss New Jersey, I’m a senior at Rutgers University. I’m a social work major and have a triple minor and a certificate degree, so I study a lot. I’m the president of two organizations at school, I was a member of the Rutgers University dance team, so I was always on the go, but I do have time to sit and reflect on my experiences. I love to read, I love to write, I love to hang out with the kids that I work with and I also love spending time with friends!
We love it! Big thanks to Miss New Jersey, Cierra Kaler Jones, for being so down to earth and inspiring! Your fam is behind you!
Grab tickets to the last Miss America preliminary competition tonight or the final competition on Sunday, here. Also be sure to hit up the Boardwalk Hall box office for #ShowUsYourShoes Parade tickets! We’re closing in on a very exciting week!