By Marguerite Cleveland
Photo by Samantha Elise Tillman
Cierra Nalani Richards is one busy gal. After completing her reign as the 2018 International Junior Miss Washington she competed and won the 2019 USA National Miss Washington title. She also volunteers as the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACSCAN) Washington ambassador.
Q. How long have you been involved in the pageant world? What drew you to compete in pageants? Any future pageant plans?
A. Only five years! I started when I was 17 for the scholarships but I soon realized I was able to reach out to and empower countless people to never give up on their goals and to find ways to give back to their communities. The sisterhood is also an absolutely wonderful gift of pageantry! The girls I have met are not like the stereotypes at all. They are kind, helpful, intelligent, community focused and highly accomplished. Pageants have given me the platform to truly make a difference.
After my year of reign ends with USA National Miss I plan to compete for National American Miss and then return to Miss America for their 100th year anniversary. After that I plan to run for Miss Collegiate again (I was first runner up this past summer) and end my pageant journey with Miss USA and hopefully Miss Universe.
Q. Tell me about helping to get a bill passed to get tobacco out of Washington schools?
A. Yes! Tobacco 21, or Washington 21, was a bill ACSCAN has lobbied for extensively the past five years, so we were thrilled to attend the bill signing with Jay Inslee on April 5! Through endless activism, a passion for protecting kids in Washington from a lifetime of addiction to tobacco, emails, in-person meetings, phone calls, to social media posts, together we ensured our representatives in Olympia clearly understood the lifesaving impact of this bill. It wasn’t easy. We met a lot of adversity but we pushed through it all for the health of Washingtonians as we became the seventh state out of 12 so far to pass this bill. With this bill also comes the effort to move money we receive from the Master Settlement Agreement from the General Fund to cessation and prevention programs—what it was initially meant for.
Q. Tell me about your work with the Cancer Action Network.
A. Being an ACSCAN Washington Ambassador is actually my focus with my current title, and through ACSCAN I met with legislators and congress people, responded to and distributed Action Alerts to constituents, attended State Lobby Day (where we lobbied for T21), and provided community support for local, state and federal advocacy activity. We also are campaigning to eliminate cervical cancer globally through greater access to the HPV vaccine and to close the Medicare colorectal cancer loophole seniors face when they go in for a checkup and do have polyps.
Q. Many little girls dream of becoming a princess. Does wearing a tiara ever get old?
A. Absolutely not! My crown is a symbol for all I do and everyone I serve as a representative of Washington. Many people think of “Toddlers and Tiaras” when it comes to pageantry but in reality the women who compete in pageants strive for titles not for themselves but for how much of a difference they can make when they are crowned. Do you genuinely have a passion you will stop at nothing to work toward? For example, because the National platform of USA National Miss is Crown CARES (Creating A Respectful Environment in Schools) I have also been able to expand my presence in schools by teaching anti-bullying lessons. My focus is on creating a healthier Washington through service, connection and care.
Q. What are your dreams for the future?
A. Definitely earning my masters! I’m the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree and I hope to be the first to attend grad school as well! I’ve always said I want to be Barbie, not because of what she looks like, but because she’s had every job! I love learning and traveling so I hope to do a lot more in the near future.