ELKO — Although the Miss Nevada USA title was not bestowed upon Ruby B. Johnson, a competitor representing Elko County during the Las Vegas pageant Jan. 7, the local mining engineer said she still feels like a winner.

“With or without the crown, I still have a community that supports me,” said Johnson, who won the “Miss Photogenic” award. “In the end, I still win because I get to come back to Elko, and I live here.”

The 2018 Miss Nevada USA winner was Carolina Urrea from Paradise.

“The disappointment or sadness of not winning wasn’t for me,” Johnson said, describing the outpouring of community financial and moral support she received throughout the process. “It was that I wanted to do it for Elko.”

Johnson is a U.S. Forest Service mining engineer stationed in Elko and former Miss Sierra Leone USA titleholder. She said she entered the Miss Nevada USA pageant to represent the state’s mining industry while advocating for women in careers that focus on science, technology, engineering and math.

“I chose that because that is who I am and what I am living,” she said.

For the Miss Nevada USA pageant, contestants were judged on an interview, and swimsuit and evening gown competitions. Other pageants in which Johnson has participated also emphasize résumé experience, talent and platform.

She says this pageant was “quite the learning experience for me.”

Throughout the event, Johnson said she remained true to her beliefs and what she as a mentor teaches young girls about natural beauty and individuality.

“I was honest with myself, and I was myself all the way through,” she said, explaining that she maintained a healthy diet and exercise routine rather than changing her body for the competition, and wore her hair naturally curly instead of straightening it for the pageant. “If I would have done that, I would have been so hypocritical.”

Despite “retiring” from pageants once before, Johnson said this year’s event might be her last. That does not mean that she has abdicated her cause, however, as she plans to continue advocating for women in STEM by continuing to reach out to children in Nevada.

“The future is bright,” she said. “That gives me peace and joy.”