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Nursing major preps for national pageant

Natalie Newbill builds her beauty from the inside out.

Relaxed, but not sloppy. Poised, but never pretentious. She’s calm and collected, and there’s a controlled spirit about her that most college students couldn’t maintain with such a packed schedule.

After all, Newbill balances her course load as a nursing major with various duties as a resident assistant in Patton Hall, secretary of the Black Student Association and second vice president of Delta Sigma Theta. Of course, she fits that in between tutoring kindergarteners for up to three hours every weekday afternoon and speaking for her nonprofit of choice, Be at RISK.

But she’s a pageant girl. And they’re used to dealing with chaos.

In December 2011, Natalie Newbill earned the title of Miss Black Tennessee USA, a title she will carry to the Miss Black USA competition in August.

A native of Milan, Tenn., Newbill has walked the runway in pageants since before she could walk on her own.

“I don’t remember not doing pageants,” she said. She began when she was “a little baby in frilly dresses and frou frou socks.”

Toward the end of high school she moved into the “Miss” category of pageantry and earned the title of Miss Belmont USA 2010, allowing her to compete for Miss Tennessee USA 2010. She didn’t secure the state title, but she gained experience she’ll use at Miss Black USA 2012.

Newbill, now a junior, had never competed in an exclusively black pageant before. While there wasn’t a state pageant this year, Newbill’s phone interview with the recruitment chair was apparently more than enough to secure the title.

“I guess she liked what she heard,” Newbill said, “because I’m Miss Black Tennessee USA 2012.”

The Miss Black USA organization is a nonprofit “to provide educational opportunities to outstanding young women of color, and to develop the whole woman: mind, body, and spirit.”

Right now, Newbill only works on pageant prep on weekends, but in the coming months, she’ll pick up the pace until it’s an everyday process.

“Eat, breathe, sleep pageant life,” she said. “I wake up and fall asleep thinking of interview questions. I walk in heels all week long just to make sure that my feet get used to it. A lot goes into pageant life, like eating well and exercising, but it comes together to really make you healthy.”

To Newbill, though, health is physical as well as it is emotional. “If we don’t respect and value ourselves,” she said, “we’re all at risk for basically self-destruction.”

So, as the spokesperson for the movement Be at RISK, she strives to foster respect, intelligence, self-worth and knowledge in adolescents. So far, she’s speaking to middle and high schools in Nashville and across Tennessee.

“I specifically chose Be at RISK,” she said, “because everyone says we should help the ‘at risk population,’ but really I think it’s really important for black, white, Mexican, Chinese, for everyone to know how to love themselves.”

In the coming months, Newbill will be rehearsing and shopping with her lifelong support system: her mom and her sister. She’ll be singing Beyoncé songs to practice for the talent portion. She’ll be on the elliptical to stay in shape.

At the same time, she will also look at grad schools to get a masters in nursing and a midwifery degree. She’ll be hitting the books hard to hold onto her spot on the Dean’s List, and she’ll be as available as much as possible to her floor residents in Patton Hall, no matter how crazy things get. She’ll keep serving others through tutoring, through Be at RISK, and, of course, in her position as Miss Black Tennessee USA. Even with all of her commitments, it’s her service that she gets the most out of.

“When you realize that your title and your reign is not about you, it’s about the lives that you touch, I think you can reach a whole other destination,” said Newbill.

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