This is the fourth in a Midlands Anchor series on Miss South Carolina contestants with local ties, focusing on the hard work, academic achievements, community contributions and passion for good causes which make the young women who compete in the pageant far more than just pretty faces. Click here for the first in the series , here for the second, and here for the third.
A year ago, Meera Bhonsle´ did not expect to be a Miss South Carolina 2016 contestant. After competing in pageants as a teen, Meera thought being crowned Miss Lexington High School would be the end of her days on stage.
“I figured since I was going to go into college I didn’t want to do it anymore,” she said. Circumstances kept calling her back, however. Opportunities appeared, friends and pageant veterans gave encouragement, and finally Meera said “I think this is a calling. I need to do it.”
Still, after competing several times in 2015, Meera almost chose not to take part in the Miss Lexington pageant. Her mother advised her to do it, saying just one more couldn’t hurt, and Meera agreed. Buying a dress just three days before the pageant, she came out on top, and has not looked back since. “It’s been such a great experience,” she said. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Meera is a journalism major at the University of South Carolina, and has made it her mission as Miss Lexington to share with children the importance of literacy. “Reading creates opportunities,” she said. “Just being literate is one of the most important things a person can be.”
Like other contestants, Meera has found that wearing the crown and sash can get the attention of many people, particularly children. She has visited many schools, reading stories to kids and telling them how important it is to learn to read and write. “Every single one of the teachers I’ve reached out to, I haven’t gotten a no,” she said.
The lesson was one she learned early on herself. “I was pushed to read, and education was something that was very important,” she said of her own childhood. Meera herself is literate not just in English, but also in four other languages. A rising junior at USC, Meera will take a year off from school if she wins the Miss South Carolina crown, giving her even more time to spread her message that literacy matters.
Meera, who recently performed the national anthem at a Lexington County Blowfish game, will sing for the talent portion of the competition. As a journalism major, she said the interview portion, an intimidating one for some contestants, is her favorite part. “I’m a news junkie,” she said. “I love the questions they throw at me.”
She said one thing off stage has been even better than the interview, however. Getting to know the kids she’s visited to talk about literacy has been “my favorite part of the entire job. ”