Whitney Sharpe, born and raised in Burlington, is beautiful, intelligent and a high achiever. She’s also a "hometown girl" who credits the LABBB preschool and Burlington Pop Warner Cheerleading as programs that have influenced the young woman she has become.
She won the Miss Massachusetts 2016 pageant in November and will go on to compete in the Miss USA pageant later this year.
Her success has been hard won. She was crowned with the state title on her third try in as many years and is no stranger to overcoming adversity.
Sharpe sat down with the Union for an interview to talk about her life as Miss Massachusetts, full-time college student, model, fashion blogger and Best Buddies advocate; her future career aspirations, and philosophy on the importance of health - and never taking it for granted.
What are some of your experiences and impressions of growing up in Burlington?
I have lived in Burlington in the same home my whole life until college.
Something [that is] very special to my family and me is the LABBB preschool. My brother and I attended the school and I strongly believe it is why I have such a soft spot for children and adults with special needs. By being in an integrated classroom, I saw how incredible my peers were. I loved going to school and playing with everyone.
Now, I volunteer with the Best Buddies organization and have worked with the children at New England Pediatric Care. More advocacy needs to be done. My family loved it so much that my father, who is a firefighter, became a substitute teacher there for a few years.
Another positive that I took away from growing up in Burlington is the Pop Warner program. I begged my mom to let me sign up when I was little, and I grew to love the sport [of cheerleading]. We made it to nationals every year. There is a group of six of us who have become best friends because we met through Pop Warner. They were all there at the [Miss Massachusetts] pageant supporting me.
As a teenager, I suffered from chronic and debilitating migraine headaches for years until I found out I had an allergy to gluten. Missing over 60 days of school my senior year at Burlington High School, I was at an all-time low. I have always been a perfectionist and this was something I did not have control over. There were countless visits to well-respected neurologists at some of the best hospitals in the world, yet I could not get better.
You’ve competed for the Miss Massachusetts three times, with the third time being the charm. What does this tenacity represent in terms of your character and values and where does it come from?
Through cheerleading for East Celebrity Elite [ECE], which is a competitive cheer gym based out of Tewksbury, and my Pop Warner days, I was a member of teams that won a lot of competitions, but we did face loss in the sport. If I had won every single time, I would be a very different person. I embrace the loss because it was the coaches at ECE who taught me perseverance.
The importance of working hard was instilled in me through cheerleading. One of my favorite quotes is, “Teams don’t work, unless you do.”
Of course my first time competing in the pageant I was disappointed with not making finals. I had worked very hard but had room to grow. The next year I gave it my all. My goal was to make the “Top 15.” Well I not only earned that, but I placed first runner-up. I was able to hold hands with Miss Massachusetts USA 2015, Polikseni Manxhari, while it was announced she won. By seeing the joy and genuine tears of happiness that she felt, there was nothing I wanted more than to have her pass on her crown to me the following year.
I am the type of person who puts her heart and soul into all of life’s endeavors. Now, I am off to Miss USA, and there are no second chances. This will be the hardest and most rewarding challenge I have ever taken on and I am so excited to have to opportunity to compete.
What is your event schedule like as Miss Massachusetts 2016 and what is your platform that you are promoting?
All of a sudden I have all of these incredible events and volunteer opportunities. I enjoy being busy and giving back whenever I can. Volunteering has been an important part of my life since I was young.
I have helped raise thousands of dollars to benefit the American Cancer Society, a cause particularly important to me because I lost my aunt to cancer almost five years ago.
One thing people may not know about me is that I am social media savvy. I am a fashion blogger where I get to share my style with my subscribers from all over the globe. Connecting with them and learning about the fashion in their cultures has been one of the most rewarding parts of my job.
Is there an exercise or food regime you follow?
You get one body in life. I am not going to ruin it with the latest fad diet or fitness rage. Health is my first priority in life because without it, there is no life.
I have been a vegetarian since middle school, although I used to eat whatever I wanted, not understanding the consequences that can have. As mentioned earlier, I was diagnosed with chronic migraine syndrome, which is now much more manageable due to a gluten-free diet. I love yoga, which helps me find my balance and peace at the same time as getting a workout. With a healthy mind and healthy body, you can accomplish anything.
When will you be competing in the Miss USA pageant and how does one prepare for this?
Countless hours will be spent preparing for the interview, walking, makeup, hair, fitness and styling. I am so excited to be going to the New York City showrooms in the fashion district in a few weeks to pick out my Miss USA gown! It’s really about the woman in the gown, rather than the gown itself, although with fashion being one of my college majors, this is super fun for me.
Have you competed in other pageants?
Before competing in the Miss Massachusetts USA pageant, all of my energy was focused on cheerleading. There was no time to add anything else in the mix. Miss Massachusetts USA 2014 was my first pageant. I had just turned 19 five days before the pageant.
Everyone is always shocked to hear I haven’t been a pageant girl my whole life, because this is something I love to do. I can only speak highly of my experiences throughout the years of competing in my USA state pageant.
Why is the Miss Massachusetts competition and title important to you?
I am able to further my community service, which is close to my heart, with the title of Miss Massachusetts USA. It is also opening up doors for my career in the fashion and entertainment industry as an on-air host.
When I graduate from college, my dream job is to be on the E Network, although just being on TV where I can speak about what is going on would be incredible. Not enough of my generation is aware of what’s going on in the world, country, state, and even their community. By being a news anchor, I would be the one to share that news. Whether it’s entertainment news or life-saving information, I want to be the one to deliver it.
In addition to being Miss Massachusetts 2016, you are a full-time college student at Lynn University in Florida, a fashion blogger and a model. How are you able to juggle all of these accomplishments and initiatives?
I sometime just sit down and laugh at myself for taking all of this on. I haven’t always been the most organized person, but over the years I have learned to be.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given is that clutter will clutter the mind, whether it’s a physical mess, a person who has negative energy, or just too many things going on that aren’t of importance to me. Knowing what and who to invest my time with has been of utmost importance to balance my life.
I love being in college, working toward a degree and career. I love connecting with people from all over the world through being a fashion blogger. I love volunteering and making a difference, no matter the size. But most importantly, I love being Miss Massachusetts USA, which allows for the opportunity to do all of these things on a larger scale.
When there are things in your life that you feel as passionate about as I do, accomplishing a lot of things at the same time isn’t an obstacle. The bigger obstacles are about staying organized, healthy, happy and most importantly, staying true to yourself.