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Newly crowned Miss Arizona USA uses her past to motivate children to follow their dreams

Posted at 4:52 PM, Nov 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-24 20:25:47-05

Meet the new Miss Arizona USA, Tommy Lynn Calhoun. 

Calhoun has dreamed of walking on the Miss USA stage since she was a little girl.

She says she has tried many years to win a title, but after competing in five state pageants, she won Miss Arizona USA.

"I have been calling this the territorial crown because it's been over 20 years since someone has won from Southern Arizona," said Calhoun. 

Tommy says her past has made her who the person she is today. 

"If you seen the movie Blindside, that's basically my life," she said. "I went through a pretty hostile upbringing, suffering from a lot of child abuse, but going into a family that didn't have and children of their own, I went from borderline poverty to becoming my parent's apple of their eye and it was amazing and a hard transition."

Her message to young girls: "You don't have to be a product of your environment. You can be greater than your circumstances."

She now uses her upbringing to inspire children to pursue their dreams. 

"Everyone has a different goal and sometimes we perceive that idea that we are not going to obtain something if it is really big and I want to make sure that you can strive for anything as you work really really hard for it," she said. 

Calhoun wants to share the crown with everyone she meets so they know what it feels like to overcome difficult times. 

"I think that when I was younger I really wanted a role model that I could relate to and I didn't really have one so I learned that if I want to be that role model, I have to start each day with the right foot forward," she explained. 

With the title, she wants to be that role model and let children know they are not alone.

One of her life mottos comes from her adopted father, which is "adapt, improvise, overcome."

"I feel like those kids need to know there is help out there and they have so many opportunities in front of them and to not settle," she said. "Never settle."

For the next couple months, Calhoun will be doing charity events throughout Southern Arizona and preparing to take home the Miss USA crown next year.