Standing on a stage at Liberty University last Saturday night, holding the hands of Miss Lynchburg Rachel Distefano, Sampson County native Emili McPhail was crowned the new Miss Virginia and will now compete for the title of Miss America.
“When they said ‘Miss Arlington Emili McPhail,’ it took me a second to process, and then it hit me,” McPhail said about the moment she heard her name announced as the winner. “I was so excited. There is a photo of me grabbing onto Cecili as she crowned me, because I was shaking so hard. In the next moment, I got to walk down the runway and see so many of the people I love, and who helped me prepare, cheering and smiling.”
McPhail, who is the daughter of Kelli and Norman McPhail and a graduate of Midway High School, was competing for the Virginia title as Miss Arlington. A graduate of Hollins University, she holds a degree in communication studies and has plans to pursue her master’s degree in communication, culture and technology.
McPhail previously held the title of Miss North Carolina Outstanding Teen and placed in the top 8 of the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant in 2014.
Coming from a small town, McPhail says she always felt she would be limited, but having achieved the title of Miss Virginia has only proven that hard work and determination brings great rewards.
As Miss Virginia, sharing her passion for ending hunger throughout the United States, McPhail says she plans to help spread the value and importance of organizations like Miss America.
“My priority for my year as Miss Virginia 2018 is for each person I meet to understand the value of the Miss America and Miss Virginia organizations,” McPhail shared. “We have experienced a lot of change in the past months, but ultimately, we are a program with a unique opportunity to offer thousands of dollars in scholarship to young women while they grow their personal skills and promote a social issue.”
Volunteering more than 500 hours, McPhail has spent time collecting over 48,000 pounds of food to be given to local food banks. Her family started the Christian Food Bank in Salemburg, serving 250 families on the first day the food bank was open.
“Since opening our food bank over seven years ago, I haven’t stopped fighting to end hunger,” McPhail said. “I’ve worked at food banks and served in soup kitchens, I’ve lead a team for an annual ‘CROP Hunger Walk,’ I’ve spoken at schools and churches, and I’ve recruited and inspired others to volunteer for this cause.”
During her reign as Miss Virginia, McPhail says she plans to continue the dialogue across the state to bring more consciousness of those who are suffering from hunger.
“I hope to inspire every person to find their passion through serving others,” McPhail shared. “For me, that is working to End Hunger in the US by raising awareness of domestic hunger and connecting people with resources to end the cycle of hunger.”
McPhail has many scholastic honors including Batten Scholar, Hollins Honors Program, member of Lambda Pi Eta, Omicron Delta and Psi Chi Honor societies, top placement at SURF 2018 Conference for senior thesis, top placement at 2016 Hollins Student Research Conference, recipient of Jane Lyell Stephens Scholarship for writing and journalism, accepted into the Hollins London program in 2017 and a recipient of dean’s list every semester from 2014-18.
Miss North Carolina results
Greater Miss Sampson County Grace Ann Carroll and Miss Spivey’s Corner Madison Bryant were among the top five finalists in the Miss North Carolina pageant.
Bryant was the first runner up in the Miss North Carolina pageant.
Bryant is a native of Cumberland County, raised in downtown Fayetteville. She graduated from Terry Sanford and went on to attend UNC-Charlotte, where she is currently a senior and double major in psychology and sociology.
This semester Bryant has been going around Sampson County Schools promoting her “What’s Poppin’?” platform in support of the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC).
Carroll was the third runner up in the pageant and the recipient of the CMN Miracle Maker, raising over $7,000 for Children’s Miracle Network, the Dana Reason Quality of Life winner, a STEM scholarship and the first recipient of the Victoria Huggins Service Award.
A native of Smithfield, Carroll is the daughter of Mike and Lynda Carroll. She received her bachelor of science in nutrition from North Carolina State University and master of science in nutrition from Meredith College. She is currently completing a dietetic internship through the University of North Carolina-Greensboro to become a registered dietitian.
This isn’t the first time Carroll has represented Sampson County in a pageant. She won the title of Miss Greater Sampson County Outstanding Teen in 2013.