Tiarra Taylor, the current Miss Indiana State University, will be putting at least a portion of her senior year on hold.

The 21-year-old was selected as Miss Indiana Saturday from a field of 36 contestants at the Zionsville High School Performing Arts Center and will be competing later this year for Miss America.

“It still feels like a dream,” Taylor said Sunday.

It was the New Albany native’s third state pageant. She previously competed as Miss ISU in 2018 and in 2019 as Miss Harvest Homecoming, a program based in her hometown. She said the key to her success was simply being herself.

“I truly went into the competition 110 percent Tiarra. I think the judges saw that,” she said. “Just being me and being confident in that they were able to get to know me on a really personal level and that spoke volumes.”

Taylor is a social studies education major at Indiana State. Her Miss Indiana platform focuses on bringing advantages to disadvantaged youth.

“It’s all about empowering young people,” she said, whether they are disadvantaged due to economics, growing up in low income housing, as a minority or among the growing number of youths in child protective services.

Taylor is working to provide youth with the “tools, resources and opportunities that they need to live and thrive.”

This was the first Miss Indiana program without a swimsuit competition and Taylor said she’s “OK” with that.

“It allows women who don’t feel comfortable in a swimsuit to feel as though they can get on the Miss Indiana stage and compete. Either way … the core value and mission of the program never changed. It was just a phase of the competition that was removed.”

As she did when she won the Miss ISU title last fall, Taylor again relied on her vocal ability for the talent portion of the competition.

Instead of the Etta James classic “At Last” that wowed the Terre Haute audience in October, she performed “She Used to Be Mine” — the Sara Bareilles song from “Waitress,” the stage adaptation of the 2007 movie.

Taylor is quick to give credit to others for helping her achieve success, starting with God.

“I would not have been up there if it wasn’t for him giving me the strength and confidence to make it to [Miss] Indiana,” she said. “I would never have expected him to have placed me in the role of Miss Indiana, but he did and I’m so grateful and excited to serve the state of Indiana.”

She said Miss ISU board members Freda Luers, Al Perone and Regina Atkins pushed her to succeed.

“We are so incredibly proud of Tiarra,” said Luers, co-director of the Miss ISU Scholarship Program. “She worked very hard over the past few months preparing for the Miss Indiana week of competition. We are confident Tiarra will continue to be a positive representative of Indiana State University and now the entire state.”

Luers said others in the campus community and colleagues in Terre Haute joined the Miss ISU Board in supporting Taylor.

The new Miss Indiana also thanked her mom, Tasha Bland, for staying behind her.

“If it was not for my mom and my family members supporting me endlessly I don’t think I would have made it,” she said. “It takes a village. People say that often and it’s true … I’m most thankful for my village.”

Taylor is only the second Miss Indiana State University to become Miss Indiana and get a shot at the Miss America title. The other was Terre Haute native Kathleen Burke in 1961.

Taylor will be delaying her senior year at Indiana State by at least one semester to focus on the Miss America pageant. The date has not yet been announced for this year’s event, which will select the 2020 titleholder. It is traditionally held in September.

Dave Taylor can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dave.taylor@tribstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarDave.

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