By Eiman Zuberi– 

The Miss USA pageant is known for glitz and glamour. It’s a nationally broadcast event  consisting of women from every state competing for the crown. For the second year in a row, Kentucky will be represented by a U of L student.

The newly-crowned Miss Kentucky USA is sophomore Kyle Hornback, a die-hard Cardinal fan born and raised in Louisville. Hornback has been competing in pageants since the age of 11 and has won several titles, including the Miss Kentucky County Fair in 2014. She said this pageant was her favorite and her biggest accomplishment.

“Honestly, it still hasn’t hit me. Whenever I think that in a few months I’ll be going to Miss USA, I’m like that’s crazy,” Hornback said.

This isn’t Hornback’s first time in the spotlight. She recently made news when she sued Katina Powell, the author of the book “Breaking Cardinal Rules,” for degrading the value of her U of L degree. But now, Hornback has something more positive to look forward to: a shot at winning the Miss USA pageant.

“You get so much adrenaline before you go on stage and the crowd is so energetic,” Hornback said. “It’s a very fun production.”

She did not realize she had a goal of becoming Miss USA until her first pageant. After that, she was hooked.

The Miss USA pageant includes an interview with five judges, the swimsuit competition, the evening gown portion and the questions for the top five candidates. Hornback said her favorite part was the swimsuit competition.

“It’s very upbeat and fun because you can strut on stage,” Hornback said.

Her least favorite part, however, is the lack of sleep. Having to look glamorous at 7 a.m. on Sunday is not an easy task. Luckily, Hornback enjoys doing her own hair and makeup.

When she realized she won the title of Miss Kentucky, Hornback said she was in complete shock, unable to stop shaking. But the most emotional one was her father, who wasn’t able to come on stage for a family picture because he was crying. He, along with her mom, sister and two brothers, are her built-in support system. They, and her close-knit group of friends, are her biggest encouragers.

When asked where she gets her inspiration from, Hornback was quick to mention her older brother, who was in a car accident when she was nine. He suffered from a traumatic brain injury but has recovered. Inspired by her brother, Hornback’s platform is brain injury awareness. She’s an ambassador for the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky. She said she hopes to spread awareness on campus now that she’s Miss Kentucky.

“He is the most joyful person,” Hornback said. “He cherishes his life because he almost lost it. He is so happy all the time, and it’s beautiful.”

Aside from being an ambassador and a pageant queen, Hornback is also involved with SGA, student council and a ministry group called The Gathering. She is an Honors Scholar, aspiring to attend law school and become a criminal attorney. Balancing everything from student activities to pageant duties and a part-time job as a lifeguard, Hornback admitted it isn’t easy. She likes to write her schedule down in several places, to ensure she doesn’t forget something.

Hornback has some advice for young girls who want to be Miss USA one day.

“Follow your dreams. Pursue whatever you want with confidence and you can win the crown,” Hornback said. “It’s not just the typical girl who always wins pageants.”

But she also knows that a lot of people have negative connotations about pageant girls.

“I understand why. I think people see girls that pursue that sort of position as conceited,” Hornback said. “But once you actually try it out, you see it’s more than just a pretty face. You gain more as your personal identity and people need to see a different side of it.”

Hornback said she has known girls who had a negative view of it, but after competing, they developed a different perspective.

“If I hadn’t been involved in pageants when I was younger, I wouldn’t be as confident,” Hornback said. Being in a pageant has also given her speaking skills, interview techniques and made her more comfortable around people.

As a crowned pageant queen, Hornback hopes to get a few messages across to our generation, specifically those involving technology.

“What scares me the most about our generation is how the internet has changed our brains and the way we think. If we’re not careful with all this new technology, it can be detrimental to our relationships to people and how we act with others,” Hornback said. “Obviously technology can be beneficial with all this info available at our fingertips, but you can’t let it control you. You need to control it.”

Finally, she had a special message for U of L.

“The university is the only school I applied to, and it was without a doubt where I knew I wanted to go,” she said. “It’s more than just a school. It’s a community of people who support and care about each other. It is one of the most diverse campuses.”

Some of Hornback’s future duties as a pageant queen include visiting hospitals, meeting new people and attending the Kentucky Derby. She even gets to be honored in front of Kentucky’s Congress, something she says will be exciting. The Miss USA date and location has not been announced yet.