Julia Bachison's set of tiaras and sashes may set her apart from the average Utahn. But the beauty queen also holds a unique place in the state's pageant history as the only woman to ever be crowned both Miss Utah America and, as of last October, Miss Utah USA.
The 24-year-old from North Ogden leaves for Las Vegas on Tuesday, where, along with 50 other women from across the nation, she'll prepare and train for the Donald Trump-owned Miss USA pageant on April 11.
Bachison competed in her first pageant when she was 19 and said performing is what she has wanted to do ever since.
"I have a very direct, guided goal," she said, and she likes that the competition presents new challenges and areas for progression.
"There's so much growth that comes from trying to make yourself better."
When she returned home from the 2006 Miss America pageant as the preliminary round's swimsuit competition winner, Bachison said she planned on going back to Weber State University, where she's working on a degree in broadcasting.
"After Miss America, I thought I was done with pageantry," she said. "(But) I missed it."
As the Miss America rules dictate, a woman can only be a state title holder once. Since Bachison wanted to keep competing, she needed to find another pageant circuit, though she didn't always think the Miss USA pageant was for her. Unlike Miss America, it doesn't have a talent portion and gives equal scoring weight to the swimsuit portion and answer portion. The more she researched it, though, the more she realized it was another great avenue to pursue her ambitions.
"There was just something inside me that said, 'If you love it, you need to pursue it,"' she said.
Performing on television and in front of large crowds is what Bachison said she really loves, but she wasn't always so confident.
"There was always that self-doubt," she said.
Because pageantry is a world of judgment and competition, Bachison said she had to deal with her insecurities. Through gaining experience and spending a lot of time thinking about how she wanted to represent herself, she's learned to trust in her abilities.
"I've definitely had to do a lot of soul-searching," she said. Now, when the judges' verdicts are read, she thinks to herself "No matter what you say or what you decide, I know who I am, and I'm OK with that."
While many people seem to think pageants are full of cattiness, Bachison said she's made a lot of friends and has discovered that she and her competitors are "all girls who are trying to be better."
They may all come from different places and have different beliefs, but all the women are similar in that they can't be certain if they'll be crowned winner and take on all the responsibilities that come with it, or if they'll go home and start over.
"(Because) the process is so unknown ... I think there are a lot of girls who have to rely on faith," Bachison said.
As for her own membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bachison said everyone has always been very accepting, and she hasn't run into any challenges being true to herself.
"When you're solid ... people are respectful," she said.
Should Bachison win the April contest, which she calls Plan A, she'll move in with the current Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe and will essentially work for Donald Trump, traveling and representing the Miss USA organization. That would be a dream come true, she said, and she even thinks working with The Donald is something she'll enjoy.
"The more I learn about him, the more I like him," she said, adding that he clearly wants to help young women like herself succeed.
In preparation for Plan A, she has moved out of her office at the Deseret Morning News, where she works in the marketing department, and is packing up her belongings at home to take to New York in the event she wins.
If things don't go according to Plan A, though, she has a Plan B in the works.
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