When Ashleigh Robinson was crowned as Miss Oklahoma in June, she didn’t react the way she expected. “I’ve always watched pageants, and I thought, ‘If I’m ever crowned, I won’t act like them; I’ll smile, and wave prettily, and be gracious.’ Then, it happened, and I mentally blacked out! There was so much going on. They were moving me here and there. It was an out-of-body experience.”
Ashleigh, who attended Santa Fe High School in Edmond, decided to become a competitor while attending Oklahoma City University. She began entering contests and losing. “I wasn’t placing, but I was gaining many things: meeting people, advocating for causes, and representing people of color. After one pageant, a man approached me and said, ‘Hey, I see potential in you. You should keep working at it,’” Ashleigh said. It turned out that man was Joe Chappell, the producer of Miss America.
Ashleigh is hearing the phrase “lucky number seven” bandied about, since she could become the seventh Oklahoman to achieve Miss America. For Ashleigh, a different number – the number four – resonates, because she’s the fourth black woman to win Miss Oklahoma and she’d be the fourth woman from Oklahoma City University to win Miss America.
Not having grown up in the pageantry world, Ashleigh had a late start to many aspects of competing – especially interviewing, which is now a large portion of the judging. “It’s a lot of talking, but it’s talking about things I care about,” Ashleigh said. “My platform is inclusion, and not just for the black culture, but for those with different intellectual or developmental disabilities. My sister has Down syndrome, but she has so many goals in life. She’s capable of many things.” Ashleigh is advocating for a cultural shift, in which individuals make the decision to make space for all people, regardless of their culture or abilities.
For Ashleigh, the bittersweet aspect of training for the Miss America pageant is that she will miss her students next year. Ashleigh just completed her first year as a Language Arts teacher at F. D. Moon Middle School in Oklahoma City. Navigating the technology curve during the pandemic was fairly easy, and she enjoyed getting to know the students, even if it was via a screen. “When we got into the classroom, I could only see the kids’ eyeballs—but still they lit up at seeing
me in person. I knew we’d connected.”
As Ashleigh moves forward, she carries her love for Oklahoma with her. She easily brags about Oklahoma’s scenery, the LibertyFest parade, Mitch Park and those Oklahoma sunsets. Most importantly, she brags about the Oklahoma Standard, in which people do overcome their differences to help those in need during tragedies. “I love Oklahoma with my whole heart. I’m very proud to represent our state and serve our community,” Ashleigh said.