On June 24, Miss Louisiana 2016 Justine Ker will crown her successor at the pageant in Monroe.
It's been quite a year for the 23-year-old Ruston native, who graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in neuroscience and plans to attend Tulane Medical School to become a neurologist. We caught up with Ker during her farewell tour stop in Baton Rouge.
What's been the most fun part of being Miss Louisiana?
I had a lot of great experiences. … I mean, who gets to wear a crown and sash to work everyday! I got to compete in the Miss America Pageant, and it was incredible. And to be in the top 15 was a huge honor to bring back to the state. I've gotten to be the emcee for a Mardi Gras ball. I got to perform at the Governor's mansion for first lady Donna Edwards.
Mental health is a part of your platform. How did you become interested in that?
I got very interested in mental health in college. I saw friends with issues, and I wanted to help them. I didn't know much about it and wanted to learn more. I joined a few outreach groups on campus and served with a national organization. It's not just about mental health, but stress management, balancing your life.
Is there anything you didn't address as Miss Louisiana that you wish you could devote more time to?
I always feel like I need more time to go and visit children. It's my favorite thing to do. I got to visit children in hospitals and elementary schools and I loved it. They think I'm the queen of Louisiana, who might actually live in a castle. I wish I could have visited more schools but there are so many. It has inspired me to want to visit them in the future and make a further impact on the children. It's really important.
How many suitcases does Miss Louisiana need to travel?
I'm a very efficient packer! I use one double-sided suitcase and a carry-on. I can actually fit a week's worth of things in a carry-on. They gave me a 2016 Mustang when I was crowned Miss Louisiana. I love driving it … it's very stylish but small.
Do you get to keep your crown?
Yes, I get to keep it. The new Miss Louisiana will get a new one. Mine is missing a stone, but I think that gives it some character — kind of symbolic of what I've been through this year.
Any advice for the next Miss Louisiana?
Have fun! You only have 365 days to be Miss Louisiana and then you're done. Hold on to every moment, take it all in and just appreciate the opportunity to make a positive impact on our state. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
When do you start medical school at Tulane?
The second week of August. My white coat ceremony is Aug. 6. I can't wait to get started on my way to becoming a doctor.