While many little girls dream of being a princess, some dream of becoming Miss Alabama. That dream came true this weekend for 24-year-old Auburn University graduate Courtney Porter.
“It was a little hazy and I kept saying, ‘I don’t know what’s going on.’ I knew that it was my name and I was wearing a crown and sash. But it’s just starting to set in now,” she said.
Saturday night after being crowned Miss Alabama 2011, Porter was moved from the dorms at Samford University, where she stayed during pageant competition, to the presidential suite at the Tutwiler Hotel in Birmingham.
As Miss Alabama, Porter will travel around the state for appearances and prepare to compete in the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas in January. The title also includes many perks, such as a rent-free apartment, a fitness trainer, a gown designer, and clothing and jewelry sponsors.
The AU alumna, who studied communications, is still staying at the Tutwiler and plans to move into the Miss Alabama apartment Tuesday.
“It seems like a little bit of a dream, to know that we’ve all worked so hard. On Saturday, all you really want is your name to be called so you can compete again (as a finalist),” Porter said. “So I went to the top ten and I was perfectly content with that. Then top five came and, of course, I was excited about that. I was absolutely thrilled, and it was a dream come true.”
Porter’s mother, Michelle Drake Porter, passed away in April after a two-year battle with liver cancer. Porter credits her success to her mother who first encouraged her to compete in pageants.
“My high school, Clay-Chalkville in Birmingham, is the only high school pageant that is a preliminary for Miss Alabama. She convinced me to do that,” Porter said. “She knew that I had the talent and the potential, and I just listened to her because Mom knows best.”
Porter said despite her mother’s absence, she was still an influence in her daughter’s win.
“She was definitely my biggest cheerleader, my biggest fan,” she said. “This year, it was different not having her here to physically help me out, but I still feel like she had her hands in it the whole time, probably in a more profound way than ever before.”
Latisha Durroh, coordinator for Auburn Spirit, said that Porter showed she was a leader in and out of the spotlight during her four years as a Tiger Paw at Auburn University.
“This is just so exciting for her and her family to be able to have some joy,” Durroh said.
Porter considers her time on the Plains an experience that she would always cherish.
“I loved it. I remember the day that I came to Auburn and my parents left me at the dorm, I cried,” she said. “But when I had my car packed up to come back to Birmingham, I cried a lot harder.”
Porter says she has been an Auburn fan from birth and also credits that to her mother.
“I think my mom brainwashed me. But I’m completely OK with that, and I’ll probably do the same to my children,” Porter said with a laugh. “I knew from day one that that was the place that I was going to go to school.”
Porter, who represents the Boys & Girls Clubs of America as her platform, said her time in the Miss Alabama pageant system gave her an opportunity for self-discovery and to be the best version of herself.
“It is a very competitive atmosphere and you really want to be your best self, and a lot of us worked so hard to do that,” she said. “You really learn a lot about what you’re made of. A lot of us faced really adverse moments this year, but at the end we all really learned how to be our best selves.”