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ERICA SPILLMAN

GLASGOW — Rarely can one say they were the first to accomplish something, but Barren County resident Erica Spillman has that opportunity this week in Las Vegas.

The Miss for America Pageant is taking place in Las Vegas with the finals scheduled for Friday. The winner will be the first Miss for America to be crowned as this is the inaugural year for the competition.

"To be the first Miss for America would be a pretty incredible thing," Spillman said recently before heading to Las Vegas to prepare for the competition.

While she's determined to represent Kentucky in a positive way and compete for the crown, Spillman's opportunity came due to tragedy. The winner of the Kentucky Miss for America competition cancelled her plans to compete in the national pageant after her father died. Spillman was the first runner-up for the Kentucky slot, so she agreed to represent the state in the national competition.

"It's exciting, but I hate the situation for her and would definitely not wish that on anybody or want to win in that way," Spillman said.

The format for the competition follows the setup of the Miss America and Mrs. America pageants. While there's an age cutoff for Miss America, the Miss for America competition doesn't have an age limit, but the competitors can't be married, which is a qualification of the Mrs. America event.

The Miss for America pageant gives an opportunity for women who aren't married but who are older than the cutoff age for Miss America to compete for a national crown.

Spillman anticipates the competition will be strong during the event. She would have normally trained for months to prepare for such an event, but Spillman won't have that opportunity this time.

"I always like to bring my best to any competition and I hope I can pull that together quickly," she said. "With having my body-building background, I kind of know what to do, I just wish that I would have had more time."

There will be 52 women vying for the title of Miss for America. Spillman said the interview portion of the competition is among her favorite parts of the event.

"It's a great way to connect with the judges. They get to know you better and they naturally follow their favorites after making that human connection," she said.

Spillman began competing in pageants as a child. She was crowned Ms. Barren County during the 2018 Barren County Fair, and that inspired her to continue competing in pageants where she's enjoyed success in other counties in Kentucky.

Spillman also competes in body-building, but said she enjoys the difference between that sport and competing in pageants.

"In pageants, you're still competing, but there's a sense of unity. There's definitely a sisterhood there," she said.

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