When Emily Cook entered the Miss UM pageant as a sophomore at the University of Miami, all she really wanted was to meet UM President Donna E. Shalala. Little did she know that this very decision would eventually lead her to be crowned Miss Georgia in the Miss America Pageant.
“It all started at UM,” Cook said; the Miss UM pageant was the first pageant in which she ever competed.
It wasn’t until her junior year that Cook’s initial goal was finally realized and she was crowned Miss UM. And, yes, she got to meet President Shalala. From there, she went on to represent UM in the Miss Florida pageant in July of 2008.
This past June, Cook saw the opportunity to enter another pageant, Miss Cobb County. “I just happened to be home in Georgia when the pageant was being held, so I thought, ‘why not enter?’ ” she said. Cook won the title and along with it the largest scholarship offered by any Georgia county in their corresponding pageants.
Cook continued on to represent Cobb County in the Miss Georgia competition August 2009. She was originally awarded First Runner Up, but assumed the Miss Georgia title the next day when the winner resigned.
“When I found out I was Miss Georgia, I was so incredibly elated,” Cook said. “Not only do I get to represent my home state for a year, but I also get to go to Miss America!”
Her friends at UM shared the same excitement. Kaley Barbera, who was Cook’s little sister in the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority, followed her “big” through the entire process. “I always knew she was a star,” Barbera said, who is now in her first year at New York Law School. “I knew she’d win before it started.”
Although the pageant scene is relatively new to her, Cook says her time at UM prepared her for the rigors of pageants such as Miss America.
“The pageants embrace what I was already doing beforehand at UM,” she said.
Her four years in the Gables were filled with numerous academic and extracurricular activities.
“”Emily was super involved at UM–not only was she a member of Zeta Tau Alpha, but she also held very important positions within the sorority which enhanced our organization so much,” Barbera said.
Additionally, Cook found that her experience as a member of Model UN and Mock Trial at UM adequately prepared her for the interview portion of pageants, while her four years playing oboe in the School of Music aided in the talent portion.
For the year that she is the reigning Miss Georgia, Cook looks forward to concentrating on philanthropy.
“I have the whole year to devote to myself and my platform,” she said. Cook is actively involved in supporting breast cancer research and awareness, as well as the Children’s Miracle Network. She is currently teaming up with the Young Survivors Coalition to create a website to support young women who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is also close to reaching her goal of raising $1,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network.
The title of Miss Georgia has provided other perks for Cook besides a platform for philanthropy. She has had the opportunity to yell “Play Ball!” at an Atlanta Braves’ game and to swim with whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium. Still, she says she’ll never forget the friends she made and the experiences she had at UM.
“Many of my friends from UM remind me that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for them,” Cook said. “These relationships gave me the confidence to succeed before and give me the strength to continue on today.”