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Miss Oklahoma wants to spend year sharing faith with youth

GRANDFIELD, Okla. (BP)–Moments after Virginia’s Nicole Johnson was crowned Miss America Sept. 19 in Atlantic City, N.J., Miss Oklahoma and Miss Maryland joined hands in prayer for the pageant winner, all three committed Christians.
Julie Payne, Oklahoma’s representative in the national contest, is a member of First Baptist Church, Grandfield, where her father is a deacon and her mother is church pianist. Her brother-in-law, Tony Nickel, is pastor of First Baptist Church, Walters, Okla.
“Miss Maryland and I agreed that we would pray for the winner when she was announced,” said Payne, who was among the top 10 finalists.
Payne, who won the Miss Oklahoma contest June 6 in Tulsa, said she met a lot of “wonderful Christian girls” at the pageant.
A veteran of pageants, Payne won her first contest as a sophomore in high school when she was named Miss Grandfield. She went on to be Miss T.E.E.N. Oklahoma and was among the finalists in the national Miss T.E.E.N. contest. She was also Oklahoma’s Junior Miss and competed in the Miss Oklahoma contest as Miss Shawnee, Miss Stroud and Miss Tulsa State Fair before winning the pageant this year as Miss Collinsville.
She said she was excited to win the Miss Oklahoma title because it will enable her to speak to youth across the state, not only about her platform — birth defects prevention — but also about her faith.
She recently returned from Washington where she spoke to the National Youth Leadership Conference. A volunteer for the March of Dimes, Payne is urging students to help raise money for research development and educational programs on birth defects.
Payne spent two weeks in Atlantic City, the first rehearsing for pageant productions, and the second in preliminary competition, where she was named talent winner for her tap dancing.
“I felt good about winning the talent award,” but didn’t know if it would help me get to the finals,” Payne admitted.
She said she prayed all summer about the Miss America pageant, that no matter what happened, God would use her to glorify him.
Saved at the age of 7, Payne noted “it takes a lot of the pressure off when you know God is in control.”
“I knew I had to turn my fears and anxieties over to God,” she said, “and when I went on stage, I had complete peace.”
Payne’s family, who traveled to Atlantic City for the pageant, all had peace too, said Julie’s mother.
“We wanted the Lord’s will for Julie,” she said. “We knew she had prepared well, and if it wasn’t his will for her to be Miss America, we know there is something else for her.”
Payne said her family prayed together before the pageant, and read a fax from her home church and a prayergram from First Baptist Church, Woodward, Okla..
Payne, a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a degree in mathematics, will take a year off from her master’s degree program at the University of Central Oklahoma and move to Tulsa where the Miss Oklahoma pageant business manager will set up speaking engagements for her. Upon graduation she hopes to teach math at the college level.
The Oklahoma beauty said the Miss America pageant was a wonderful experience “just to meet 51 girls, who all had different accents, but were on the same team.”
Not only did she come away from the pageant with $10,500 in scholarships ($8,000 for reaching the top 10 and $2,500 as the talent winner), but she also left something.
“I had opportunity to share with some girls who aren’t Christians. I hope there were some seeds planted there.”

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  • Dana Williamson