During the Miss South Carolina pageant finals Saturday, Daja Dial was asked the hot button issue that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue: whether Confederate memorabilia should be removed from the State House grounds.
“It’s a new South Carolina,” she said as the audience applauded. “We have made so much progress and it’s time to take it down. As Miss South Carolina I can lead this state into a new era. And that flag being taken down is representative of that. I’m in this moment right now for a reason. God has made this happen for a reason. I think it’s time for us to show what South Carolina is really like.”
And during the news conference held on Sunday, Dial, the new Miss South Carolina, stood behind her answer.
“I wouldn’t change my answer,” she said. “Why have that [Confederate flag] still there when we’ve made so much progress? Lets put it in a museum where it belongs.”
Dial, a 22-year-old Clemson student from Spartanburg, was a Clemson cheerleader and was named Miss Clemson University in 2013. She was the second runner-up to Miss South Carolina in 2014, Lanie Hudson, also a Clemson graduate. She is the third African American to hold the title of Miss South Carolina.
Attendees agreed that this was her year to walk away with the crown.
“They were all so deserving but I was rooting for Daja,” said Glenda Robinson, who competed last year as Miss Hartsville. “She’s ready to change the state. She’s the perfect one for the job.”
Miss SC pageant media award chairwoman Margie Watkins said the Confederate flag question was meant for Dial.
“She nailed it,” she said. “Was that meant to be? I think maybe so. So that we could make our statement as a pageant.”
Her mother, Annette, was just as overwhelmed by her daughter’s win.
“I’m so proud of her,” she said. “I’m numb. It’s so surreal. But I knew she was ready. This was a culmination of everything she had learned from the program. During the preliminaries I felt it but when she sang “I Believe,” I believed.”
Dial and newly crowned Miss SC Teen, Miss Hilton Head Island Teen, Sarah Hamrick, 17, from Cowpens, both expressed their appreciation, not only for the win but also for the opportunity to be representatives for the Children’s Miracle Network and to share their personal platforms.
Hamrick’s platform is built around her issues with being adopted and the insecurities that come from that. She hopes to inspire others who feel they can’t overcome their situation or circumstances by sharing her story and struggles. Dial’s platform is type 1 and type 2 diabetes after her older brother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in December 2009.
Hamrick will compete for the title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in Orlando, on Aug. 1, 2015. Dial will compete in the Miss America Pageant on Sunday Sept. 14, 2015, at 8 p.m. in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
South Carolina has won the Miss America crown two times – 1957 and 1994. The Miss America Pageant will air live on the ABC network.