The Beauty of the Week shared some extra moments with JET ...
By Najja Parker
This issue’s Beauty of the Week first hit the scene when she was chosen to represent the entire country as Miss America back in 2004. Now, as the founder of her own consulting firm, Ericka Dunlap is taking her charisma and poise up the ladder of entrepreneurial success.
The beauty spent some extra time with JET to reflect on her days as USA’s queen, life after and dealing with some of life’s greatest challenges.
JET: What was it like being Miss America?
DUNLAP: It was pretty amazing. To be able to dream something up when you’re a little girl and to make it an actual reality is iconic. It’s [Miss America pageant] as American as apple pie. The fact that I got to represent not only my home state and whole country but also my family and community supporters has been a major accomplishment and also a great honor for me. I was 21 at the time. In that role you are an ambassador and also a public speaker. For me, I traveled 347 days out of the year. In addition to several guest appearances, I was fortunate enough to be on the Oprah show and the Bill O’Reilly show, which I’m proud of because I was able to really hold my own and go toe to toe with him on a variety of social and political issues at such a young age. It’s an amazing role to be able to have and when it’s over you miss it.
JET: What was your most memorable moment during your reign?
DUNLAP: I had the opportunity to travel to Kuwait and Afghanistan, and I got to meet the troops. That was by far the most important and memorable moment of my year, because I was traveling over there in the midst of the war and so much turmoil. There was just a lot of question as to whether or not it was really going to be safe for me to journey that far and my family was very concerned. But I knew that it was the right thing to do. It was just a phenomenal experience to be so young and to be invited by the princess of the country of Kuwait and to really be there for the troops. Clearly they didn’t have a sort of home and to help boost morale was a major honor for me.
JET: How did you decide to start your own consulting company?
DUNLAP: I come from a family of entrepreneurs. My father was a millionaire by the time he was age 28. He‘s a roofing contractor and so that was always a goal for me to be able to work for myself and create my own rules. The name of my firm is Ericka Dunlap Consulting. It is very broad based – public relations and media engagement. It’s an exceptional challenge for me because it’s a lot of work, but it’s very rewarding. I get to help people be better and whatever their qualification of better is and that’s the goal that we work towards.
JET: You listed antiquing as one of your hobbies. What’s your best antique item?
DUNLAP: I have these amazing tabletop candelabra that I found at an antique shop. I don’t know how old they are, but they are very very old. They’re just so well crafted and one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. I’m really good at finding things on the side of the road. I found this chair recently that is probably about a – I don’t know – 40- or 50-year-old chair. It’s pretty old. I just stopped and put it in the trunk and took it home. I do little silly things like that I probably should not, but I enjoy it very much.
JET: You’re married, right?
DUNLAP: I’m happily divorce.
JET: Oh! Well, what advice would you give to others going through something similar?
DUNLAP: You have to be true to yourself and the most important thing is that you have to answer to God and you have to answer to yourself. If you can walk away from any relationship knowing that you are going to be better, you’re working on you. All you can control is how you improve yourself. It takes a great amount of courage to go through that process, and I would just advise anyone to be very mindful of the direction that they are pursuing for themselves. Not to run into another relationship. Not to hide from the truth. The truth is that this is a part of your journey. You have to learn how to be an adult with the turns of your journey and the turns of your path. Things don’t always turn out exactly as we expect it, but you can always be your best if you be yourself.
JET: Give us your best beauty tip.
DUNLAP: My first thought is no matter how beautiful you may appear on the outside, nothing is better than a great attitude and nothing is more beautiful than a great attitude. I think that reflects in relationships, romantic relationships and friendships. If you don’t have a cheerful, positive countenance about you, people could care less about how beautiful you are.