Arlie Honeycutt of Garner is training for the Super Bowl … in heels.
Crowned the 2012 Miss North Carolina in June, Honeycutt is now preparing for the Las Vegas stage, where she will compete in January for the title of Miss America.
“Miss America has always been the Super Bowl for me. I’d settle in to watch the pageant every year,” Honeycutt said from her posh home at pageant sponsor Manor Six Forks in Raleigh, where she’ll live throughout her reign as state queen.
Working with sponsors across the Carolinas on everything from fitness to finding the perfect pageant gown, Honeycutt hasn’t lost her awe of the title.
When reigning Miss America Laura Kaeppeler phoned her recently to offer advice, “I turned into a 4-year-old girl with excitement!” Honeycutt said. “I looked up to Miss North Carolina and Miss America as role models. Now it’s kind of mind-blowing to think there might be little girls looking up to me.”
In the midst of her statewide travels and appearances, Honeycutt retains her fun side, slipping often into the comedic voice and wide-eyed expressions she honed onstage with the Towne Players of Garner theater company.
Honeycutt is the daughter of Scott and Beth Honeycutt, known for their work with the award-winning Towne Players, where Beth serves as artistic director. Family folklore has it that Arlie first took to the Garner stage at age 3, stepping in for an absent actor with lines memorized by attending rehearsals with her mom.
(Interestingly, Beth also competed in the Miss North Carolina pageant, 30 years to the day before her daughter’s crowning.)
Since her debut, Honeycutt has performed in many local productions, and shared the stage with Scotty McCreery in Garner’s annual variety show.
“There’s just something about being onstage, that feeling of putting a lot of hard work into something then seeing all the little pieces come together,” Honeycutt said. “It’s thrilling.”
She’s quick to credit the Miss Garner organization for launching her pageant journey, at age 14.
“The Miss Garner committee sent me in a different direction than I ever expected to go,” Honeycutt said. “Its board and volunteers are wonderful, on and offstage. The mock interviews helped me get a feel for what I was getting into, and the program is very supportive.”
She now studies classical music as a vocal performance major at East Carolina University, and as such competed for the Miss North Carolina title as Miss Kinston-Lenoir County.
She’ll resume her ECU studies post-reign.
“It’s a challenge to give up a year of school; I’m very involved on campus, and a die-hard Pirate,” Honeycutt said. “But I’ll go back with the rest of my tuition paid (via Miss North Carolina scholarship funds), and having had all these experiences.”
Recipient of the Miss North Carolina Overall Talent award in the June pageant, Honeycutt has performed everywhere from the Carolina Mudcats field to Carnegie Hall.
“Other than that it’s audition, audition and practice, practice,” she said. “I hope to spend my life making music.”
The “whirlwind” of her role will help, Honeycutt says.
“Miss North Carolina is required to be very level headed,” she said. “I’m a type-A perfectionist who likes to know what’s on the schedule. It’s an interesting transition to ‘roll with it,’ but this will make me a better performer on stage.”
Honeycutt also loves to write, particularly essays and nonfiction, and to read local mystery author Margaret Maron, among others.
“I’m also a big social network person,” Honeycutt said. “It’s relaxing to me to sip coffee and work on the Miss North Carolina blog and Facebook page.”
As she fulfills her duties, ongoing support from Garner means a lot. The town has even hosted a reception in her honor.
“I’m very fortunate to have all these people who have my back. The biggest thing Garner has given me is that I can always come home and be welcome,” she said. “The town is always growing and changing as a community, but the people stay the same: wonderful and welcoming. The mayor (Ronnie Williams) called to wish me happy birthday — where else does that happen?
“Scotty is right — we’re a ‘Water Tower Town.’ We have great ways to cultivate youth to be the best they can be. Parks and rec, Garner Baseball, the Towne Players — you learn more at those summer camps than how to act or sing. You learn discipline, teamwork and things about yourself. It all makes the citizens of Garner the great people they are.”
To those who would criticize the pageant system, Honeycutt said, “Walk in my high-heeled shoes! This is more than hairspray and rhinestones. The four points of the crown stand for scholarship, service, success and style. Trying to hold these up, and hopefully touch other people’s lives — I’m a better person for it. Many contestants have made huge differences in their communities. It’s a great program.”
Honeycutt’s platform is Domino Effect: Inspiring volunteerism one person at a time.
Founder of the Towne Players’ Henry Sanchez Memorial Theater Scholarship Fund, named for a Towne Player and Marine who lost his life in Iraq, she’s also part of ECU’s ambassador service organization, and helps lead its annual Special Populations Prom.
“The prom was life-changing for me,” she said. “Seeing smiles on faces — I love to volunteer. I see so many ways to give back, if you engage yourself, and want others to get that fuzzy feeling that only comes from helping another person.”
With her focus on volunteerism, Honeycutt plans to make the most of her reign, encouraging others to join in.
“I’ve done a lot of philosophical thinking, of stroking my proverbial beard, while traveling,” she joked. “I’m wide-eyed all the time, and speechless on a regular basis — and I could talk to a wall, so that’s something!
“What an opportunity! I have this year to make a difference, and the opportunity to inspire others the way they have inspired me.”