“I wake up in the morning and if my to-do list is less than 50 items, I’m excited.” Serving as Miss Columbia 2017 is a full-time job for Suzi Roberts, and her commitment to it goes far beyond wearing a sash and crown.
For Roberts, first runner-up in the 2016 Miss South Carolina pageant, the competition is an opportunity to advocate for the rights of children and work to improve their well-being, a cause she also plans to make her career.
“It all kind of started with one particular child” she was close to, Roberts said. “The system failed to protect her. Because her family looked normal on the outside, nobody got involved. Seeing the effects of child abuse in her life… I just couldn’t stand to see another child go through that.”
Roberts has made it her mission to make sure no more children do go through that. She will begin law school at the University of South Carolina in the fall (or in fall 2018 if she wins the Miss South Carolina crown), focusing on children’s law. She serves Richland County as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children and is a public relations intern for Justice 360, a legal services non-profit organization working to reform policies and practices in capital proceedings. She is a spokesperson for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through partnership with the Miss America Organization. She also works closely with Children’s Trust of SC and is a partner with them in Child Abuse Prevention Month.
In addition to all that, she has made #SuziStands4Kids her platform as a pageant contestant. “It’s full-time advocacy more than full time queening,” she said. “I try to make sure all the appearances I make are something where I can actually make an impact.”
Roberts is a professionally trained dancer, a former member of the Carolina Girls dance team at USC and former cheerleader for the Atlanta Falcons. No one would question that she has the beauty and talent to be the next person to represent South Carolina in the Miss America competition, but listening to her passion for children makes it clear she lives up to her motto, “a force not a face.”
“It’s really a reminder for me of why I’m doing what I’m doing,” Roberts said of the motto. She said her fellow Miss South Carolina contestants also live up to the motto and have helped her along the way. “I think the Miss America girls do a really great job of capturing what the point is. Especially in South Carolina, we have girls like Leslie Knight, we have girls like Sydney Ford, and we kind of push each other.”
It would be easy for someone who does not know Roberts to take a glance and say her life is perfect: blonde, beautiful, smart, cheerleader, dating a star college quarterback. Perfect it has not been. She dealt with bullying in high school, and has endured cruelty on social media since becoming a pageant contestant. She’s heard all the negative stereotypes about “beauty queens” and cheerleaders.
“What I have to say to those people is my [cheerleading] captain was a chemist. Another captain was a CPA. Another girl on my line had her Ph.D. I’m going to be a law student,” she said. “I’m so sure in who I am and what I stand for and what I believe, mostly because of being involved in the Miss America organization, that it didn’t hurt me as bad as it could have, and it didn’t have the negative ramifications it would have maybe on a high school student.”
“I’ve come a long way, and I think that’s completely tied to having a goal and standing for something bigger than yourself,” said Roberts, adding that she was very shy before getting into the world of pageants.
Roberts understands how much damage words can do, and is there to help young people dealing with bullying just as she advocates for those being abused in other ways. “I’m always available and I will answer anybody’s message,” she said. “I will talk through those issues with them and be available personally.” She invited anyone in need of her help to contact her through social media, by phone at 843-742-1389, or via email at MissColumbia2017@gmail.com.