We are going Behind The Brand with reigning Miss New Jersey USA, Derby Chukwudi, as she prepares to compete in Miss USA on the week of September 25th, 2023!
In the age of social media, we ourselves are becoming living, breathing brands.
How we represent ourselves online, what platforms we support, and how we choose to conduct ourselves in society contribute to this idea. Ultimately, we have the power to create and curate our own “brand” for ourselves and the world.
With 10,000 women competing annually for the prestigious title of Miss USA, women are empowered by this prestigious pageant to elicit change through the platforms they support. Each woman, beautiful inside and out, creates their own brand based on philanthropic goals.
Through a series of categories including swimwear, eveningwear, and interview, they compete to win scholarships towards their chosen charity and a chance at a national tour to spread the word about their platforms.
The goal: to inspire a better world.
With the Miss USA 2023 pageant occurring next month on the week of September 25th at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada, who better to discuss this with than a pageant queen herself?
The reigning Miss New Jersey USA, Derby Chukwudi, and I corresponded online about this concept. Through her own brand, Derby strives to foster financial literacy and leadership skills among young people and inspire them to follow their dreams.
We are excited to give you a sneak peek into who this wonderful woman is. Keep reading below for our exclusive interview with reigning Miss New Jersey USA, Derby Chukwudi!
- Featured Guest: Derby Chukwudi (Miss New Jersey USA)
- Blog Series: Behind The Brand
Who is Derby Chukwudi?
I was born in Dallas, Texas, and raised by my two parents in Nigeria for 17 years before returning to the United States to pursue my college education in 2015.
I have four siblings, and growing up we were raised to respect people, treat people well, and work hard at everything we found ourselves doing. Life was simple, and gratitude was at the core of everything.
I was an inquisitive young girl who could not do without asking questions. This curiosity has informed my approach to life.
We are always searching and exploring life; the more open we become, the more we get out of it.– Derby Chukwudi (Miss New Jersey USA)
I am also from the Igbo tribe, and we grew up close to culture; it was essential for us to embrace where we came from and remember where we were coming from. The Igbo tribe is one of the main tribes in Nigeria. We care for one another, work hard, and embrace family.
How did your journey in the pageant world ultimately lead you to compete (and win!) Miss New Jersey, USA?
In 2019, I knew someone who had competed, and I watched her journey – it looked like it would be a fun adventure. I applied because I wanted to give it a shot.
Fast forward to 2021, I competed for the first time – it was definitely life-changing to get a firsthand experience in competition while making lifelong friends. I didn’t place the first time, and that was probably a good reason not to return, but for me, it was more than a crown. I believed I was there for a purpose to inspire and show the world that dreams are valid and worth fighting for.
In 2022, I took a break to refocus and also implemented some lessons from 2021. In 2023, I came with one goal – to do my absolute best and leave the rest. It was a pleasure to see old friends and make new friends while staying focused on the journey.
What were some of the first thoughts that went through your mind when you won Miss New Jersey USA?
Honestly, I can’t remember it was like a state of good shock, like “I am going to Miss USA!” I didn’t even feel the confetti – it was surreal. A moment I will forever cherish.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed in your role, and how do you overcome any thoughts of self-doubt or imposter syndrome?
I currently work full-time and I am a titleholder, so managing both requires time, energy, and focus.
Being overwhelmed is bound to happen, but it’s more about how one manages everything. I always try to take a step back when I feel overwhelmed and write out what I think is overwhelming, and most times, once I am done writing, I realize that it is all in my head.
Imposter syndrome sticks its ugly head from time to time, and that is the perfect moment to revisit my WHY and lean on my truth-tellers to remind me how far I have come and where I am going.– Derby Chukwudi (Miss New Jersey USA)
What do you hope to accomplish as Miss New Jersey USA? Explain your platform and some of the initiatives you have been a part of so far.
As Miss New Jersey USA, I am on a mission to inspire people that they should pursue their dreams. Also, financial literacy is such an essential cause to me because money plays a massive role in our lives, and it is a critical time to plant these core foundations of money knowledge in the lives of young people.
In the past four months as Miss New Jersey USA, I have made 40+ appearances across 25 cities in New Jersey, spreading the message of being a resilient leader and sharing the importance of money education. I hosted a financial literacy event in April to kick off a conversation about money. There is so much to do, and it is only beginning.
I care about the welfare of people, and the title of Miss New Jersey USA is a platform to champion the work I already did on a personal note. I am open to connecting with different organizations that would love to bring money workshops to their audience.
As a brand yourself, how would you advise other young women to build their careers while navigating the media and being in the public eye?
I will remind them they are enough and must maintain authenticity as they grow their brand. Sometimes it may seem easy to follow the status quo, but in a world of ordinary people, dare to be extraordinary.
Do not be in a hurry to be “popular”, but focus on building a solid foundation of values, focus on understanding your identity, and constantly show up for yourself. I always remind myself of this because it is so easy to forget while being in the public eye.
I love this quote by Tracee Ellis Ross in your e-signature: “I am learning every day to allow the space between where I am and where I want to be to inspire me and not terrify me.” Why is this quote meaningful to you?
Big dreams are scary, and sometimes instead of using our future as a source of inspiration, we run away. This quote reminds me, especially in moments of doubt, to run in the direction of my big dreams and not away from them. These big dreams are not a mistake but a signal to the path of life I should be on.
As you move forward and compete in Miss USA, how are you preparing and what are you looking forward to most?
I look forward to meeting all the amazing women who have this opportunity of a lifetime alongside me. The preparation involves fitness training, interview prep, putting my competition wardrobe together, and much more! There are so many moving parts that make it all exciting!
What does the future hold for you?
The next big thing is the competition this fall and I am so excited to represent New Jersey on the big stage. I have been partnering with several organizations to promote awareness about financial literacy. I am always looking to partner with organizations that are interested in empowering people about their relationship with money.
Looking to support Derby in her journey to Miss USA?
Follow her on Instagram for more updates!
- Miss New Jersey USA 2023: Derby Chukwudi
- Orange outfit: Photo by Georgina Vaughan | Makeup by Olivia Rose
- Crown Photo: Photo by Jessielyn Kennedy | Makeup by Nicolette Dalesandro
- Images (Winning Miss NJ USA): Photo by Jessielyn Kennedy | Makeup by Nicolette Dalesandro | Gown by Jamez Eli
- White feather look, sash & crown portrait, pink “Barbie” look, and sequin dress photo: Photos by Georgina Vaughan | Makeup by Olivia Rose
- Pink Barbie outfit: Corset & Jacket by Mint Market
- Sequin dress & black sparkle gown: Gowns by Johnathan Kayne