Miss Oklahoma has Tinker roots

  • Published
  • By Brandice J. O'Brien
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Sept. 16, 1995, is a day that resonates with Alicia Clifton. At 3 years old, she sat on her mother's lap in their south Oklahoma City home and watched the Miss America pageant. As Miss Oklahoma Shawntel Smith accepted the prize-winning crown, Alicia decided she wanted to be Miss America one day. She's halfway to her goal. Now 20 years old, Ms. Clifton won the Miss Oklahoma title in June and will compete for Miss America in January.

Though she's long removed from Tinker, she does have ties here. Her father, Ron, is a retired master sergeant who later worked in the TF-33 turbofan, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit programs until his civil service retirement in 2008. Ms. Clifton also volunteered at the Tinker Youth Center teaching dance for the Boys and Girls Club and competed in several Tinker and Air Force talent shows from 2006 to 2008, showing of her tap-dance skills. She won at both levels several times.

Looking back on what's she's accomplished, Ms. Clifton said there's no quick fix for achieving her dream. It's just a matter of hard work and perseverance.

"I never thought I'd be Miss Oklahoma when I was 13. I thought, I'm not pretty enough, I'm not tall enough, I don't talk well enough; but deep down it was something I wanted, so I worked at it," said Ms. Clifton, who on a "good" day is 5'3." "I'm a little nervous, but I'm really excited for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I heard someone say, 'It's more likely your son will play in the NFL than your daughter will become Miss America. Hopefully the judges think I'm right for the job."

Ms. Clifton's journey toward Miss America began in 2001, at 10 years old, when she won her first title, Little Miss Korea. Three years later, she competed again and in the next four years, she won five titles: Oklahoma Junior National Teenager, Miss Eastern Oklahoma County Outstanding Teen, Miss South Oklahoma City Outstanding Teen, Miss Oklahoma City University Outstanding Teen and Miss Tulsa Outstanding Teen.

In addition to the glitz and glam of pageantry, she is an accomplished tap dancer with two dance-related Guinness World records, numerous medals, trophies and titles. She has also been active in her school's extra-curricular activities.

In 2008, she competed and won the Miss Oklahoma's Outstanding Teen pageant with her "TAP - Time, Action and Passion - into Lifelong Volunteerism" platform. The 16-year-old Moore High School student used tap dancing as her talent, but boasted many other activities including school council, French club, superintendent's honor roll, Relay for Life, Boys and Girls Club, and Children's Miracle Run. She had also been on "Live with Regis and Kelly" attempting to break her own Guinness Book record for the most consecutive pirouettes.

After her year-long reign as Miss Oklahoma's Outstanding Teen, Ms. Clifton resigned her crown and began pursuing the preliminary steps to achieving the Miss America crown. First, she needed to win a local pageant; then compete at the state level. At 18, she won Miss Moore/Norman, but lost at the Miss Oklahoma arena. She finished as second runner-up. A year later, she tried again, as Miss University of Oklahoma. Again, she finished as second runner-up.

"Alicia is definitely goal-oriented," her father said. "Ever since I can remember, Alicia has always set goals and worked and practiced tirelessly to achieve them. On those rare occasions when she came up short, she used it as a learning tool, asking herself 'What could I have done better?'"

Mindy Whittington, director of Tinker Youth Programs at the Tinker Youth Center, agreed.
"She has always been driven. She has worked very hard and is very dedicated to her career and helping other people," said Ms. Whittington who has known Ms. Clifton for roughly six years. "She was always the most pleasant young lady with the best manners and friendliest smile. She is truly a great role model for young girls to follow."

This past June, Ms. Clifton tried a third time as Miss Edmond Liberty Fest and was crowned Miss Oklahoma. The pageant was held at Tulsa's Oral Roberts University and Ms. Clifton competed against 44 other young women.

"This year was the 40th anniversary and 37 of the former Miss Oklahomas were there," Ms. Clifton said. "This is also a reminder that I represent 44 other girls from around the state and I only get to be Miss Oklahoma one time. I have to make the right decisions and be the best Miss Oklahoma I can be. I don't want to look back and wish I could have done more. I don't get another shot."

Ms. Clifton said she tries to live by example. Even though she said she's just another young woman who had been studying broadcast and electronic media at OU, she knows she has an important role to play. As part of her Miss Oklahoma obligations, Ms. Clifton is required to take off a year of school.

While her close family and friends may know her as an only child who loves the colors yellow and red, and loves comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, and mashed potatoes and gravy, she has an image to maintain.

"Everyone thinks we all have fake tans, fake teeth and fake pageant moms, but we're just regular girls who want to make a difference in the community and live a good life," Ms. Clifton said. "I work hard in school and try to make the right decisions."

She continues to volunteer, often going into elementary schools and showing students how their actions can make a difference. Through her efforts, one group of students collected soda can tops to donate to the Ronald McDonald House, a charity that offers room and boarding for families of hospitalized children. Another group wrote and sent letters to deployed Soldiers in Afghanistan.

"I truly enjoy working my program," Ms. Clifton said. "I enjoy seeing it from beginning to finish. The kids see they can make a difference as long as they follow through. It's really exciting for me."

Ms. Clifton also maintains a healthy image ensuring she exercises and makes healthy choices.

"The swimsuit portion is about lifestyle and fitness and showing off your best shape," she said. "It's not about being skinny. It's about having tone and being proportionally right."

Miss America 2013 is scheduled to be held Jan. 12 at the Theatre for Performing Arts in Paradise, Nev. If Ms. Clifton wins, she will be the seventh young woman representing Oklahoma to be crowned. Her father said she's up for the challenge.

"When she first decided she wanted to be Miss America, I thought that's certainly a lofty ambition. I never really gave it much thought about her someday competing in the Miss America pageant, but that began to change in 2008 when she was crowned Miss Oklahoma's Outstanding Teen," Mr. Clifton said. "In spite of her incredible talent and all of her successes and achievements, Alicia is one of the most humble and unassuming individuals you will ever meet. That to me is one of her greatest attributes."

Ms. Whittington said on the day of the pageant, the youth center will host a watch party.
"Oklahoma is truly represented well this year, with one of Tinker's finest," Ms. Whittington said. "Go Miss Oklahoma!"