With her crowning on Saturday as Miss South Carolina, Daja Dial pledged to lead the state into a new era of progress starting with support of the Confederate flag’s removal from Statehouse grounds, and in turn received approval from viewers and fellow competitors alike.
Throughout the Miss South Carolina pageant, Dial dazzled audience members and judges in each event but reached a new level of support when she answered her question during the interview portion of the pageant. Being the last to answer out of the five finalists, Dial didn’t allow pressure or nerves to phase her, even when interviewed on a major point of contention in the state currently — the status of the Confederate flag.
“South Carolina is a new South Carolina. We have made so much progress and we are so diverse and it’s time to take it down,” Dial said to eruptive applause. “As Miss South Carolina, I could lead this state into a new era of progress and I think this flag is very representative of that.”
Viewers celebrated Miss SC from Twitter
With this, Dial received a great amount of support from watchers. Several pageant fans took to Twitter to share their excitement over her answer.
An account which appeals to young southern women called “The Rules” tweeted “DAJA MIGHT HAVE WON WITH THAT ANSWER Y’ALL. I HAVE CHILLS ON MY ARMS AND TEARS IN MY EYES.” Five minutes later, the same user added in a second tweet, “I want Daja to represent my South Carolina.”
After Dial’s answer, another user, @greyson_lake, wrote “If Daja Dial doesn’t win #MissSC2015 this is rigged.”
Miss USC happy with new Miss SC
Miss USC Leslie Knight, who also competed for the Miss SC title and has been competing in pageants since she was three months old, was ecstatic to see Dial take the crown.
“Not only is she beautiful both inside and out, she has worked incredibly hard to make this dream happen,” Knight said.
As a fellow competitor for Miss SC, Knight also got an inside look at Dial’s performance during pageant week. “Daja was very consistent in competition and definitely has the ability to light up any room she walks in … [she] was always so kind to all contestants and I often saw her giving pep talks to both teen and Miss contestants,” Knight said, who described her own first impression of the newly crowned Miss SC as such a moment—with Dial comforting her to loosen up her nerves before the 2013 Miss SC pageant.
Dial, Clemson grad, still wows USC students
Despite being a graduate of Clemson, Dial managed to impress several USC students with her articulate response.
Winifer Mercado, a third-year early childhood education major, agrees with Dial’s reasoning but thinks she won Miss South Carolina based on the delivery of her response rather than the content.
“She’s right; I definitely think it should be taken down,” Mercado said. “But she’s being judged based on her performance and answer of the question, not on her personal beliefs.”
Third-year accounting major Cara Mistretta was equally as supportive. “People are starting to realize how hateful [the flag] can actually be,” Mistretta said. “For her to say that shows where she’s coming from and could make a difference with taking it down.”
Dial, who is only the third African American to be crowned in the Miss South Carolina pageant over the course of 78 years, further backed up her answer in a press conference Sunday.
“I wouldn’t change my answer,” she said. “Why have that [Confederate flag] still there when we’ve made so much progress? Let’s put it in a museum where it belongs.”
In addition to winning the coveted Miss SC crown, Dial was crowned as Miss Talent during the week leading up to the actual pageant, where she sang a heartfelt and powerful “I Believe” as her talent.
The 22-year-old Spartanburg native arrived at the pageant as Miss Greenville County and is a recent graduate of Clemson University, where she was a cheerleader. Besides accommodating the progressive changes South Carolina may see in the future, Dial’s platform as Miss SC centers on type 1 and type 2 diabetes in response to her older brother’s diagnosis with type 1 diabetes in December 2009.
As Miss South Carolina 2015, Dial will advance to compete in the Miss America pageant to be held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at 8 p.m. on Sept. 14. Historically, Miss South Carolina has been crowned as Miss America twice, in 1957 and 1994.