Amanda Woods isn't your typical beauty queen. She hasn't been doing pageants since she was 3 years old. Nor has she always dream of being crowned Miss USA.
But the 24-year-old Bluffton woman holds the title of Miss Hilton Head Island and will be competing in the Miss South Carolina USA pageant today and Saturdayin Charleston.
Woods says she's doing it as a way to promote her platform -- helping at-risk children. The cause is important to her because she used to be an at-risk child, growing up mostly without her parents because they were in prison.
Instead of following in their footsteps, Woods decided to use her bad experiences to encourage others to make the right decisions. Before moving to Bluffton from the suburbs of Chicago, Woods shared her story with children at schools there. And since moving to the Lowcountry, she has spoken to the children at the Bluffton Boys & Girls Club.
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"I feel that the reason why I went through all the things I went through is for the purpose of what I'm doing now -- to be an example to younger people and anybody really that has gone through things and just are lacking that self-esteem," Woods said. "I had a lot of hard, difficult times growing up, but look at what I'm doing now. And it's not to brag. It's to say, 'If I can do this kind of stuff, what can you do in your life?'"
Favorite outfit in pageant: "My formal gown. It's absolutely gorgeous. It's so elegant. ... I just feel so elegant in it, and I feel like a movie star when I put it on, even in my living room."
Favorite thing to wear when relaxing: Yoga pants or jeans and a T-shirt
Perfect day in the Lowcountry: Beach, lunch with girlfriends and shopping
What she plans to eat after the pageant: Pizza
Tips for others who want to compete in pageants: Believe in yourself. You have to see yourself winning a crown. Do some research on pageants. Watch every Miss USA and local pageant you can. "If you believe in yourself and you can see it and you can envision yourself, you can achieve it. ... even if it's not a pageant."