Michel'le Jackson, 22, currently reigns as Miss Aiken, and will soon represent the county in the Miss South Carolina USA 2014 pageant next month.


A recent Louisiana State University graduate who studied communications, Jackson is no newcomer to the pageant business.


“I began pageants when I was in high school,” Jackson said. “Basically, some of my friends just told me that I would be a great candidate to enter into pageants, saying I'm very confident and pretty. So I said, 'OK. I'll try it out.'”


At South Aiken High School, Jackson won Most Spirited and continued participating in pageants, placing in the first one, winning the second and then winning Miss Congeniality at LSU.


“It was very rewarding to win a title of that nature,” Jackson said. “Congeniality means you're polite; you're personable. Out of maybe 30 to 40 girls, they chose me to be the most personable, friendly or helpful. It was a great honor to be named Miss Congeniality LSU.”


Since graduating college, Jackson stays busy preparing for the upcoming Miss South Carolina.


Jackson juggles finding wardrobe pieces for the competition, working out and continuing her work for M.E.T., a media etiquette training program she founded.


“It came about because I have a cousin who is 13, and she was having an issue understanding that everyone can see what she posts, including me,” Jackson said. “I also talk about privacy and how you should keep things to yourself because you don't want to over flood people on your social networks with nonsense.”


To fund the pageant process, Jackson uses sponsors and donations from friends, family and businesses.


Post-pageant, Jackson's ultimate dream is to become a talk-show host, but first own a communications corporation.


“That'd be great, owning a business in America and being a young woman. Some of the challenges would be great to talk about on a talk show,” Jackson said. “In about five years, I want to travel more. I've been all over the United States, but I'd like to learn more languages, and I think it would be better to go live in a country, learn the language and then utilize the language and build upon it and become fluent.”


While pageant life may not be for everyone, Jackson said she encourages young women to use such opportunities to sharpen their communication skills, elegance and involvement.


“Pageants are a great way to grow,” Jackson said. “For me, the communication aspect of it, I feel very confident in that part. The bathing suit portion, I feel very confident about that. But when you get to grace and poise, those types of traits I'm just not as confident. It forces me to get on stage in a gown where I have to be graceful. It helps sharpen those tools, so I can transfer them through life.”


To follow and support Jackson, visit www.facebook.com/MissSC2014 or follow her Instagram under MISSAIKENUSA2014.


Individuals who would like to sponsor Jackson can visit www.misssouthcarolinausa.com and click Make An Online Payment.


Maayan Schechter is the city beat reporter with Aiken Standard. An Atlanta native, she has a mass communications-journalism degree from the University of North Carolina Asheville.