Senior Adrianna David spent her first two years of college at the University of Alabama with hopes of joining the school's cheerleading team. But when she suffered an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, she was forced to change her plans after 13 years of cheering.
David said she "thought [her] world was over" when she learned cheering was no longer an option, but she soon found a new hobby: competing in beauty pageants.
Now, the communication and theatre major is preparing to take the stage in this summer's Miss USA pageant after being crowned Miss Maryland USA on Nov. 6.
"Cheerleading was all I knew, it was where I found my identity … but now that I'm here, where I am just proves that it's all in God's timing and that this was supposed to happen," David said.
David competed in Miss Maryland USA 2016 — her first pageant — before she decided to compete for the title again this year, she said. To prepare for the pageant, she spent ten months getting into better physical shape, taking walking classes, and "finding out where to put your hand on your hip,"she added.
In 2011, David and her mother also founded Charities Angels, an organization that helps raise money and throw events for other local charities. The two were inspired by David's cousin, who was diagnosed with lupus and kidney failure about 11 years ago. Because of her cousin's kidney failure, David said she is very supportive of The Kidney Project, a national research project that is developing a bio-artificial kidney that would replace dialysis.
"[My cousin] has been on dialysis for 11 years, so she is literally our living miracle, my best friend," David said.
David's pageant mentor and friend, Cassandra Roper, said she could not have imagined anyone else but David winning Miss Maryland USA 2017, as she had been there when David earned the second runner up in the 2016 pageant.
"Unless you have ever competed in a pageant, it kind of seems like it's not that big of deal until you are in those shoes and preparing yourself," said Roper, a legislative assistant. "She was so responsive to everything that I had her do and she did so well for her first time ever … it's just incredible to see her already go this far."
Roxanne David, Adrianna's mother, said it was heartbreaking to see her daughter give up cheerleading after her injury, but it has been amazing to see what she has accomplished.
"It's almost like a do-over for a mom," Roxanne said. "She has no limitations on her ability to do anything."
Adrianna said she was nervous to tell the people in her life when she first started competing in pageants because of "the stigma that people have about them."
Having the support of her community has been humbling, she said.
"When I won, I was literally in such shock," she said. "When you win, you're supposed to do the walk and wave, but all I really wanted to do was run to [my friends and family] because those were the people that mattered to me."
As she starts to prepare for the Miss USA pageant, which will take place in Las Vegas this summer, she said she always remembers one piece of advice her father tells her whenever she is getting ready for major events in her life.
"My dad always told me 'You never lose, you learn,'" she said. "You can do whatever you want to do and he always told me that 'no' was never an option."
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story identified Adrianna David as Arianna David. This article has been updated.