An Alabama native, Shai Wilkins attended high school in Harvest, where she spent a lot of her time participating in school clubs, and sports, like basketball. She continued on to Belmont University in Tennessee, where she made her way through nursing school. But don’t let this seemingly ‘average, American girl story’ fool you, because Wilkins is far from average.
As if getting through nursing school isn’t enough of a feat in itself, Wilkins has pursued a career as a travel nurse, and was crowned a pageant queen, becoming Miss Black Alabama USA So, we sat down with Miss Black Alabama USA and gained insight on her lifestyle, her career as a travel nurse, and her future endeavors.
Travel Nurse by Day, Pageant Queen by Night
It may have been her travels as a nurse that encouraged Wilkins to become involved in the pageant world. So far, her career as a travel nurse brought her to Grand Rapids, MI, Scottsdale, AZ, San Antonio, TX, Oklahoma City, and Washington D.C. So, how did her travels influence her new-found passion for pageants?
While working as a nurse intern in 2010, a patient recommended that Wilkins participate in the Miss Black Tennessee USA pageant. Being unfamiliar with the pageant world, Wilkins did further research, and decided to wait for the perfect time in her life to participate.
“The idea was seriously put in my head when I was in Washington D.C. in November of 2014,” explains Wilkins. “I saw Miss Black D.C there, so I really wanted to try it (pageants) out, and this has been the best decision of my life. I’ve been doing a lot of great things and meeting great people.”
Since acquiring her title as Miss Black Alabama USA 2016, Wilkins has been featured in many new articles, and even appeared on a talk show in California called “The Real”. But don’t worry, this pageant queen hasn’t thrown in the towel when it comes to nursing. Actually, Wilkins plans to head to graduate school and pursue a career as a nurse anesthetist.
The Heart of the Matter
Nothing is better than gaining the ability to merge two great passions, and that’s exactly what Wilkins did with her ‘The Heart of the Matter’ campaign. Wilkins uses her prominence within the community to speak out about pressing issues, especially obesity and cardiovascular disease.
“With The Heart of the Matter, I’m trying to to reach out about heart disease and educate others on the ways that they can better their health and make healthy eating choices,” explains Wilkins. “I also feel strongly about preventing diabetes and other issues that could cause heart complications. This could even mean mental and emotional disorders, like depression.”
These disorders truly hit home for Wilkins. Alabama, Wilkins’ home state, was ranked 5th for the highest obesity rates in America, preceded by neighboring states, Louisiana and Mississippi. On a more personal level, her father passed away due to complications of diabetes and heart disease, further influencing her passion to lower the obesity and heart disease rates in Alabama and the surrounding areas.
“So far, I’ve volunteered at the Alabama Heart Association Heart Walk, participated in health fairs, and visited hospitals to speak to small groups about the many factors of heart disease,” says Wilkins. She’s even working on a coloring book for children to help instill the importance of having a healthy heart!
Although her passion for influencing the youth doesn’t stop there! “I’ve been invited to speak at schools about issues of confidence, bullying, and the importance of getting an education,” she explains.
Not only is Shai Wilkins a nurse, one of the most trusted and admired professions in the country, she’s also a pageant queen, AND she speaks out against the leading cause of death in our nation, heart disease… we’ve come to the conclusion that she might be a super hero.
Happy Nurses Week to Shai Wilkins, and to all of the other nurses that are busy saving lives!