On stage, Savana Hodge thought, “It’s me, I won, I did it.”
That was going through her mind when the Maryville native was crowned 2019 Miss Tennessee USA on Oct. 13 at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville.
But Hodge explained during an interview Friday at Vienna Coffee House in Maryville that the moment she won was surreal. The reality of her victory did not catch up with her until Tuesday morning, three days after the pageant, when she saw her crown and sash on her bedside table.
“It wasn’t a dream. I really did win.”
Hodge went on to say that when she was crowned on that Saturday night she began searching the crowd for her No. 1 supporters, her mom and dad, Mary Anne and Tom Hodge.
Savana Hodge graduated from Maryville High School in 2012 and completed her secondary education at Belmont University, where she graduated in 2016. After graduating from Belmont, she decided to stay in Nashville, where she works as an operations analyst, and pursue her career.
In 2017, Hodge entered her first Miss Tennessee USA competition. She finished that competition as second runner-up. In her second Miss Tennessee USA completion, Hodge went for the gold, and that is exactly what she got.
Hodge said she knew that being Miss Tennessee was more than wearing the crown. Hodge said that when she woke up Sunday morning after the pageant, she hit the ground running by beginning to plan out the upcoming year and what she wants to accomplish.
Hodge was crowned on stage by former Miss Tennessee, and close friend, Alexandra Harper. Hodge credits Harper as one of the people who helped her win Miss Tennessee this year.
Harper told Hodge after her win last year, that she was going to do everything she could to help Hodge win Miss Tennessee USA. That included practicing interview questions and just discussing ideas in general.
The platform that Hodge won on is “Our Time is Now.” She said her platform means exactly what it says: The time is now for all people to take control of their dreams.
“There’s no time like the present, so let’s step up and be leaders.”
The experience has been fun, she said.
“It’s a great way to focus on what you’re good at and work on what you’re not good at.”
It’s also motivated Hodge to be the best version of herself that she could be.
“I’m not the same person I was when I started, and I’ve learned a lot.”
When asked what it was like to be a pageant queen in today’s society, Hodge stated that she believes “there can be a negative connotation with a beauty queen.”
She advised anyone with those beliefs to talk with anyone who competes for Miss Tennessee.
“Your opinion would change entirely, because it’s not what meets the eye,” Hodge said.
Women who compete for Miss Tennessee USA have become some of Hodge’s closest friends. They are willing to help one another, despite the competition going on around them, she said.
Hodge got the idea to compete because when growing up, she would watch Miss America pageants on television and the contestants got to wear pretty dresses. She knew that she wanted the chance to do that, even before she knew just what it meant.
As she got older, Hodge realized that being Miss Tennessee was a special opportunity that meant much more than wearing those pretty dresses she saw as a little girl.
“Miss Tennessee is an opportunity unlike any other. It really gives me an audience that I otherwise wouldn’t have,” Hodge said.
Hodge plans to use her role as a state representative to bring attention to prominent issues in Tennessee, like the opioid epidemic that is sweeping the state. Tennessee is currently ranked second in the country for highest number of opioid abusers, Hodge noted.
She also partners with the Make a Wish Foundation. She wants to become a Make a Wish Ambassador for Nashville and for the entire of the state of Tennessee, if presented with the opportunity.
Even though she is now Miss Tennessee USA, Hodge is still down to earth. After winning the pageant, she went to Burger King with her mom to get a burger, fries and a milkshake to celebrate.
Hodge also works full time at an engineering firm in Nashville and is a University of Tennessee fan, who still gets excited to watch the Vols play.
Hodge will represent Tennessee in the 2019 Miss America competition on Sept. 9, 2019.
“Miss USA, here we come!”