› Age: 23
› Title: Miss Tennessee
› Education: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga MBA student
› Career aspiration: Lobbyist
Miss Tennessee Christine Williamson knows what it takes to run a family business.
As a child, Williamson, now 23 and a graduate student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, watched her parents run a three-generation family demolition business, Memphis Wrecking Company.
"I grew up working in a scrap-yard," she says. "There are a lot of pictures of me standing on wrecking balls when I was little."
Williamson remembers hiding under coats in the back seat of her father's truck as he traveled from one demolition site to another. Sometimes her giggling gave her away. As she grew older, she worked in the office at Memphis Wrecking. Among her tasks was writing receipts for salvaged bricks.
She said her dad missed his college graduation ceremony because of a demolition job — a story that has helped her appreciate her opportunities. She has won almost $50,000 in college scholarships through pageants, she said.
Her parents also brought a businesslike approach to parenting. Williamson said she had to sign a contract for a host of teen privileges; promising to never let her car get less than half full of gas, for example, and pledging not to text at public events or after 10 p.m.
"For me, everything is earned, not given," she says.
It's that work ethic that contributed to her current reign as Miss Tennessee, after finishing in the top five for several years prior. At the Miss America pageant earlier this year, Willliamson was the only contestant to finish second in two contest categories including one called "Women and Business."
After high school in Memphis, Williamson attended the University of Mississippi where she studied to be a broadcast journalist. She says being Miss Tennessee and talking to state and national lawmakers convinced her that her true calling is to become a lobbyist.
She determined that the best path would be to get a master's of business administration degree at UTC and then pursue a doctorate in leadership and public policy.
While in enrolled at UTC she discovered that she had previously-unidentified learning disabilities that were holding her back, including attention deficit disorder and discalcula — think dyslexia involving numbers.
Working with professors at UTC she learned that by using audio recordings, for example, she could compensate for her learning challenges by pausing and rewinding her way through study materials.
As Miss Tennessee, Williamson is an advocate for Alzheimer's Disease research and children's health issues. She says she has lost four family members to Alzheimer's.
Williamson often lobbies lawmakers for increased funding for research — a fusion of policy and passion that she finds exhilarating.