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Wearing the crown: Wesleyan grad is Miss Georgia USA

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Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Jasmyn Wilkins, a Wesleyan grad, was crowned Miss Georgia and recently placed fifth in the Miss USA Pageant.

NORCROSS -- There were bright lights, screaming spectators and thousands of strangers watching her. The night of Nov. 19 changed Jasmyn Wilkins' life forever.

"I prepared to win, but in my mind, I wasn't mentally thinking I'm going to win this," she said of winning the title of Miss Georgia USA 2012.

The former Wesleyan student was surprised with the outcome because this was her first pageant -- ever.

Wilkins, 21, decided to enter for the Miss Georgia USA pageant with a little persuasion from her friends and the need to find her niche in life. She never fit in as an athlete in her famous basketball family (her dad Gerald, uncle Dominique and brother Damien all played in the NBA), so she looked for another avenue.

"I didn't feel like the pageant type. I felt tall, awkward and gawky," she said. "I was in the marching band in my high school and I was really into science, so I didn't feel like I fit the 'queen' persona. I started thinking about it and realized I didn't have my own niche that I felt like I was falling into, so I thought if I did a beauty pageant, it would open more doors for me discover what I wanted to do."

For three months, Wilkins trained with Atlanta coach Randall Smith and learned the tricks of the trade, including walking in high heels -- something the aspiring beauty queen had rarely done.

"I live in jeans and sneakers, so to go from that to six-inch heels was a major jump," she said with a laugh. "The first day that I met (Smith), he made me put on some high heels, told me to walk and do a turn ... and I looked like a confused giraffe."

But with hours of practice and an abundance of determination, Wilkins learned how to walk in heels, stand in her evening gown and answer questions thoughtfully and precise.

On Nov. 18, Wilkins and 70 other contestants travelled to Cartersville for the weekend pageant. The girls participated in a preliminary pageant with evening gown, swimsuit and interview segments in order to make it to the top 15, which was Wilkins' ultimate goal.

The next day, the girls opened the show with a dance number and the judges picked their top 15 -- which Wilkins made.

"They called me in the top 15, and I thought, 'Wow -- this is amazing. I hit my goal.' Then they announced the top five, but I was the last person to get called. I was freaking out because I couldn't believe I was in the top five."

She moved on to the interview phase of the pageant.

"It was a super easy question, but at that point I was in shock to be in the top five that answering that question was the last thing on my mind," she said.

The judges asked, "What qualities do you think you have that Miss USA should possess?"

With that, in front of thousands of viewers, Wilkins answered, "She had to be confident, eloquent, a leader, a good role model -- not only to people who want to be in pageants, but girls from a lot of different backgrounds. She needs to realize that this is a job and not just photo shoots and clothes."

That answer won her the coveted crown.

Since taking home first prize, Wilkins has been training weekly for the Miss USA Pageant with her director, Kim Greenwood, in Nashville. She's made appearances at the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Egleston and Scottish Rite, read books to children the Atlanta Youth Academy and spoke to girls about bullying and other teenage issues at the Walker School in Marietta. She's also planning to host an event with the Georgia Transplant Association with former Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine in the future.

At the same time, she is a full-time nursing student at Georgia State University. School was one thing that she wasn't going to give up for the crown.

"It hasn't hit me yet that I'm going to be juggling anatomy, English -- all these classes, plus driving back and forth to Nashville where my director lives. It's going to be hard, but I'm ready to do it," Wilkins said. "I think it will be a good thing because it will show (the public) that you don't just go around being pretty; you need to go to school and get your education. I didn't want to put my education on the back burner just because of this (pageant)."

She knows this is a lot to tackle, but Wilkins is glad to be a part of Donald Trump's organization and what it stands for around the world.

"I think that the pageants send a positive message to younger girls, and I didn't even think that before entering the pageant. I thought it was going to be all glitz and glam and who looks like Malibu Barbie, but I did my research on it. The organization does so much to help different foundations. They're big platform is helping with ovarian and breast cancer. If you go to Miss Universe, the platform is HIV/AIDS," Wilkins said.

It also helps out with your self-confidence. I would have never been able to stand in from of thousands of people on stage and be myself to answer questions. It teaches you a lot, but when you experience it, that's when you get to learn about rather than just seeing it on TV."

Wilkins represents the state of Georgia in the Miss USA Pageant. The date and venue for Miss USA haven't been announced yet, but it's slated for June. For more information about Wilkins or the pageant, visit www.missgeorgiausa.com.