Funny story. The day I was set to sit down and write this blog post, I was hit with a bad tooth infection. The pain was (of course) was not much fun and overnight my mouth had swelled up like a chipmunk’s full of acorns. I was not looking too hot. I made the dreaded journey to the dentist and let the professional’s drill, cut, and drain out all the gross stuff from my mouth. Thankfully, to be a writer, nobody technically has to see your face. So I was grateful for the fact that I could hide behind a hoodie and a laptop and leave the pageantry scene to other people.
People like Ruby B. Johnson.
Normally, I like to sit down in person with my interviewees and have face to face conversations with them about their stories and experiences. However, due to both of our wild weekly schedules, Ruby and I had to chat over the phone. And the first words out of her mouth, after we said hello, were “I’m exhausted.” I would soon find out why. Not only is Ruby a mining engineer for the US Forest Service, but she is also gearing up to compete as Miss Elko USA in the Miss Nevada USA pageant in January, with goals of being Miss USA and then Miss Universe! Yeah, I would be exhausted with all of that going on too! Nonetheless, Ruby still made the time to share a little bit about how she came to be Elko’s very own Wonder Woman.
“Confidently Beautiful” is the official motto for the Miss Universe competition and Ruby explained to me how this phrase could not sum up her life any better. “I was born in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Sierra Leone had a civil war so my family ended up moving to Nigeria and I remember going to school there. The teachers would ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up and one of the girls in the class wrote on how she wanted to be an engineer. I remember sitting there (I was probably around seven or eight) looking at her like, what? Only boys do that! Fast forward to the age of twelve, that’s when I moved to the United States. I grew up in Maryland and I was always such a talkative person. People would tell me I should be a lawyer. But when I was in 9th grade I took a foundation of tech class and I really enjoyed it! It was fun and I was really good at it but I figured I would still end up being a lawyer. However, my teacher really encouraged me to think about being an engineer as I was excelling in all the classes. So, I decided to finally to go for it (engineering) but I had to find the right school; I didn’t know where to go.After some looking around, I ended up in Virginia attending Virginia Tech; I was the first person in my family to go to school here in the States. There, I had a friend who was in the mining department and she talked about such great things when it came to that department. Being from Sierra Leone, I had always heard about mining because their economy depends greatly on it. Sierra Leone is one of the top ten diamond producing countries in the world. So, I was like “why not, I’ll switch my major to mining!” And I didn’t regret it!” Along with schooling, Ruby also completed co-op internships in both South Carolina and at a diamond mining company back in Sierra Leone. “It was a proud moment for a lot of the locals to see one of their own in mining, especially a female miner.” Once she graduated, Ruby landed a job with Washington and the government (US Forest Service) and was sent to Elko, her “duty station,” in 2016 to work as a mining engineer, one of four in the Forest Service.
Pretty impressive stuff! But how did she get into pageantry? You don’t see a lot of mining engineers in tiaras! “I loved Sierra Leone but my mom wanted that American dream for me and my brother. So when we came here, it was all about school. Maryland has a good Sierra Leonean community, but we were all about school. As we got older, I realized I really was all about school and didn’t even really know many Sierra Leonean people in my area. So, I wanted to get more involved with that community and live out my passion for service. My friend suggested I try out for the Miss Sierra Leone pageant. They were all about girls who wanted to do stuff for the community and be role models. So I applied for it and practiced my best, with the help of Youtube and other things, and I won! It was great to represent the community I was born in. My reign was for two years and I got to travel and speak at schools. I got to talk a lot about mining, engineering etc. (Throughput her pageantry career) my platform title was bridging the gap: miners and environmentalist must work together for Mother Earth. My goal was to educate people on the truth behind mining, to let people know about all the reclamation processes and regulations the mines have in place today. ” Currently, Ruby is getting ready to compete in Miss Nevada USA as Miss Elko USA, January 7th in Las Vegas. ” This upcoming pageant is a little outside of my comfort zone because they don’t require you to have a personal platform to speak extensively on and this pageant does not include a talent portion. So, I’m a little nervous because I don’t have my go-to “crutches” being public speaking and my talent (belly dancing).” But she’s working hard to represent Elko well and bring the crown home! “Nevada has only had one Miss USA (2014) and Elko has never won Miss Nevada USA..so it would be pretty sweet!”
Ruby is excited to honor the name of our town because she has a genuine love for our area. “I love living in a state that’s mining friendly. You can see the influence of mining in Elko through things such the Newmont legacy fund. I love being a part of a field that does well for the community. And one of the things I have so much joy about is Elko’s feel for community. Whether it’s my co-workers, my friends or through my local church, my faith is very important to me, the hospitality of Elko is really wonderful. Even you (Anthony) I’m sure if you were just hanging out with your wife at a restaurant and someone came up and told you they had read your blog, you’d be down to sit them and talk, not respond with “well, here’s my card schedule something with my secretary.” That’s why I’m excited to get on that stage and represent Elko and tell people about our city!” Being a world traveler and all, I had to ask Ruby if she thinks this will be her home for awhile. ” I would like it to be! I see no reason to leave unless God tells me I’m outta here! But for now, I’m loving it.”
Well, we’re glad to have you here Ruby! Anything you want us to know before heading off to Vegas in January? “I’m excited to represent Elko! Hopefully, I bring home the crown!”
Directed by the winner of Miss USA 1995, Shanna Moakler, Miss Nevada 2018 will be held on January 7th, 2018 at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. Stay locked into the event’s website http://missnevadapageant.com to find out how you can root for Ruby B. Johnson as she competes as Miss Elko USA.
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See you around! Stay “confidently beautiful!”