Arts & Culture

Cameo: Ciera Nicole Butts

Our full interview with Miss Maryland United States 2013

So where are you from?

I am from Baltimore City, on the Westside of the city, Edmondson Village.

And the fact that you are from Baltimore is unusual, right?
There’s never been a Miss Maryland from Baltimore City. They’re always from PG County and Montgomery County. They’re never from the inner city. So I’m really excited about that.

Whooo! Baltimore pride!
Yeah, exactly.

Is there anything about your talent or platform that relates to Baltimore?
Kinda, sorta. We don’t have a talent in my system but we do have a platform. Each of us has to pick a platform that’s special to us, and we have to promote it throughout the year. My platform is youth mentoring with a focus on inner-city youth. And the reason that I chose that is because I am a product of the inner city myself, and I understand how easy it is to fall victim to the negative situations around us. So, what I’m trying to do is make the young people aware of that and try to avoid it be all means.

So how did you avoid that growing up?
I pretty much had good people in my life to keep my on the right path. I went to a really great high school [City College] and the faculty really cared about us. And even when I went up to college, I was able to be around different people. Marymount [University in Arlington, VA] is so diverse, therefore I learned so many different things from all those different people, and that’s pretty much how I got into pageantry. I was volunteering and I saw one of the titleholders and what she was doing it . . . it meant something to me. I thought, ‘This is something I want to do.’ And I know how the people in my city have never seen it. We don’t see too many Miss Marylands in Baltimore City doing anything in our community but this is something I could do to help them. So that’s pretty much what I’m trying to do.

You were crowned in February. When’s the Miss United States Pageant?
It’s July 4-7 in Washington, D.C.

How are you prepping?
My main focus is a lot of physical training. You have to be really physically fit when you’re on stage considering we compete in interview, swimsuit, evening gown, and on stage questions. So my biggest thing right now is being physically fit so I’ll look my best on stage in swimsuit, as well as evening gown. So, basically, I’m in the gym everyday. I changed my eating habits completely—and that’s one thing I love about pageantry—it really taught me to have a healthy lifestyle as far as my eating habits. I’m completely healthy now instead of just eating burgers every single day. And then I’m doing a lot of training with my on stage question and interviewing skills. That’s a really big thing because if you make Top 5 then you have to compete in on stage question, you never know what they’re going to ask you, so it’s good to always be on your toes.

How similar is backstage pageant life to Miss Congeniality?
The crazy thing is, the Miss United States system is the same pageant that was in Miss Congeniality, the movie. So that’s a really cool question. It’s pretty much the same. I mean, some of the girls can get pretty catty and stuff like that, but those are the types of girls who tend to not do so well in the pageant because, honestly, we all become friends. Some of my really good friends who I talk to every single day are girls that I met when I started competing. You have your sour apples in the bunch but they tend to not do as well. We get a lot of good friendships out of it. It’s fun. A lot of stuff can go wrong the day of the pageant but you just gotta keep it moving. It’s a lot fun.

But you aren’t, like, investigating crime backstage or anything?
[Laughs] No! That would be cool, but no.

So if you win the Miss United States title, what happens then?
Then I would be Miss United States for a whole year from this July to next July. I’ll be working with Relay for Life in conjunction with the American Cancer Society and going around the country to different states raising funds, raising awareness for the organization, and promoting my platform which is youth mentoring. My focus will be the inner city because it’s tough in the city. People in the inner city get ignored. I definitely don’t want to do that. I want to put my focus on that.

So what are you going to do once the pageant is over and you can relax?
Oh my god, I want to go to Dominos or Pizza Hut and I’m gonna get me a large pepperoni pizza, and I’m not going to share with anyone. I miss pizza so much! That’s one of the things that I had to give up that, whenever I see it, it like hurts my heart. [Laughs]

Your family is still in Baltimore. Are they supportive of your pageantry?
The funny thing is my family wasn’t the most supportive when it came to pageantry. I first started competing when I had just turned 21. I did Miss Maryland USA in 2011 and it was new to them. They just saw the girls on TV but they never really knew anyone from Baltimore City who would do it and do well. So, you know, they weren’t the most supportive. I had to do everything on my own. I didn’t really do that well that year. I only got best interview. I didn’t place at all. So then, considering I went to school out in Arlington and lived in D.C., I competed for Miss District of Columbia USA this past December and I actually got second runner up. So that kind of turned them around a little bit. They said, ‘Oh! She’s actually doing pretty well. Maybe this is her calling. Maybe this is something for her.’ It got a little bit better, as far as support level. And then when I got out of college and came back home with my mom, that’s when I did Miss Maryland United States in February and I won. So now that I won, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, this is awesome! She’s competing in a national beauty pageant’ My mom, she tells everyone immediately. So it’s really cool. They pretty much brag about it now, but it took me to do some convincing to them to really get them on the bandwagon and to show them it is something that I definitely can be successful in, and it’s very attainable. That’s pretty much what got them to start supporting me.

Were they just skeptical about the whole world of it?
Well, my mom and my aunt, they thought it was a waste of money. My aunt is always the one saying, ‘You shouldn’t just be judged on your outer beauty.’ And I had to keep telling her you’re not just judging on outer beauty. I mean, yeah, it’s a beauty pageant but honestly, your job starts the day after your crowned. We are out in the community do things. We’re not just taking pictures and waving all the time. You’re actually serving your community, which she didn’t really understand. Now that my aunt sees that, she’s super like, ‘I’m so proud of you, you’re doing the right thing.’