My Heart is Plum Full

photo by Danny Barger
photo by Danny Barger

When I think about my Miss Arkansas experience, I think about dreaming big, finding my voice, exhibiting resilience, building friendships, and cherishing family. My heart is plum full; the love and support that I have felt during my time in this organization has been absolutely amazing.

My name is Dawn Coffman. I am currently a graduate student at Henderson State University (HSU), studying Clinical Mental Health. I started my journey in the Miss Arkansas organization in 2018. However, my journey started long before that.

In 2014, I was an incoming freshman, and my university’s titleholder was doing an event on campus. I remember leaving that day, wishing I could have the influence she had. I wanted an influence that would allow me to share my heart with my community and inspire them to listen. It would take me four years before I realized I COULD. I signed up for my very first competition at the Miss HSU prelims. 

Each preliminary competition includes four categories. Each contestant is judged based on their performance in each: interview, evening gown, talent, social impact, and on-stage question. When I think back to my first competition and especially my first interview, all I can do is laugh. I was so nervous I don’t even remember if I ever looked up from the ground. I may not have won anything at this pageant (or any of the next four) but I walked away with something even greater. The day after Miss HSU, I realized while walking to class that I felt something I had never truly experienced before-confidence. I noticed my friends and peers on the way to class. I usually walked with my head down, noticing no one I passed. That day I walked to class with my head held high. It’s a feeling I’ll never forget.

I always knew I had a story, but I never realized I also had a voice. The Miss America organization taught me I could be a voice for the voiceless. Some individuals cannot shout their trauma from the rooftops, but I can, and have made it my mission to share that child abuse is happening all around us. According to the Child Advocacy Center “only 10% of abused children ever tell anyone.” That means 90% are too afraid to share their story. Through my social impact initiative, I have intentional conversations about child abuse and strive to help break the stigma surrounding it.

I have been working towards my Miss Arkansas dreams for the last four years. I have competed in over 23 preliminary competitions for over 30 titles. I have been so honored to have received Miss Congeniality 13 times, but nothing has curbed my desire to become a title holder. In March 2020, when everything began to shut down from the COVID-19 pandemic, I was one of six girls crowned in the first virtual preliminary competition as Miss Red River Valley. That meant I was finally off to the Miss Arkansas Pageant!

Just imagine spending a week with 50 girls, playing games, late night snacking and dance parties, along with the opportunity to share our hearts regarding our social impact initiatives. It was an experience I will never forget. Getting to spend all week with such kind, loving and beautiful girls made all the anticipation worth it. Competing alongside 50 other candidates was absolutely amazing. The friendships made during competition week are great!

One thing I will never be able to thank this organization enough for is giving me a place to belong. In moments I lacked my own biological family, some amazing souls, including volunteers, executive directors and sponsors, stepped up and supported me. I am so thankful for the amazing friendships and support I received.

If you have read this month’s Talk Tuesday articles and thought, maybe I could do that, you can! There are so many things I have learned: interview skills, healthy lifestyle tips, public speaking and confidence. If you want more information, please email [email protected] or go to Maybe you too will get the chance to influence others and change someone’s life.


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