Meet The 2015-2016 National All-American Miss Courtlyn Burris!
NAM: Tell us about yourself:
Courtlyn Burris: I’m really do think that when they describe the all American Woman that they are describing me. I am the kind of young women that other's can really can relate to from the littles that look up to me to the older women I meet when I visit my grandfather, who always impart some wisdom. I am very driven and goal oriented, I have a strong faith in God which guides my every footstep, I believe in giving back to the community and being a role model to other young women. I am also a fun loving person who’s made it my mission to learn how to longboard, windsurf and sail this year just so that I can meet a new group of people in college.
NAM: What activities are you involved in?
Courtlyn Burris: I've always been drawn to community service that serves the entire need of a person not just one aspect of their lives. Habitat For Humanity and Metropolitan Ministries both have a vision to helping families get on their feet during tough times. When our family dynamic changed when I was 12 or 13 years old I became aware very quickly that if God hadn't stepped in and opened doors for my mother to re-enter the workforce we could have been in need of housing and a helping hand. So I've organized food drives, backpack drives during back to school and donated funds to support those causes that keep families off of the streets. I also love children so I seek out opportunities to speak into the lives of young children.
NAM: What are your plans for the future?
Courtlyn Burris: I'll be graduating soon from the University of South Florida and embarking on a whole new set of adventures which is so exciting to me. My plan for the future is to become a psychologist, specializing in trauma counseling for children whose parents are deployed in the military. In addition to a career in psychology, I'd like to dabble in interior design and real estate. This way my creative side is being stimulated and I'll always have an alternate stream of income to fall
NAM: How would your friends describe you?
Courtlyn Burris: God fearing- my relationship with God is the most important relationship I'll ever have. Loyal- I've seen what can happen when someone isn't loyal. It hurts and builds up walls in people that are hard to break down. So I make sure I'm the person my friends and family can count on. Creative- as a kid I used to invent things all the time like contraptions to make my dolls walk and I truly believe that I invented the snuggie first but I was too young to carry it further. Finally, I'm Goofy- I love to laugh and to have fun. I like to try new things and I'm not too proud to look stupid trying them.
NAM: What motto or quote best describes you?
Courtlyn Burris: “My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” ~ Oprah Winfrey, Media Mogul and Entrepreneur
NAM: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Courtlyn Burris: This advice wasn't given to me but it was advice that I heard my sister give someone when I was about 15 years old. She told a young lady who was headed down the wrong path that “all of her life experiences didn't have to take place in her teen years.” I took that advice to heart and I cherish each stage of life that I'm in. I'm in no hurry to get to the next phase of life, I try to make the most of where I am today. I'm saving some of the best things for my later years. God forbid it all happens now, then I would peak at 20 years old and it would be alll downhill from there.
NAM: How did you prepare for the NAM National pageant?
Courtlyn Burris: The greatest thing about NAM is that they are looking for today's girl. So to prepare you really only have to know who you are and keep doing the things that make you you. While yes, there is preparation when it comes to walking on stage, delivering your introduction and getting the dress of your dreams, I hate to see girls stress out about how to present themselves to the judges in interview. The best thing that I can say is to trust that you are already an intriguing young woman and that your story is a fascinating one that the judges will want to hear.
NAM: Where is your favorite place to shop?
Courtlyn Burris: Other than my sister’s closet, my favorite pace to shop is a store that I discovered in St. Pete, Florida called Cotton On. It has hip clothes similar to H&M but at a more affordable price. I learned early from my mom and sister about how to have beauty on a budget. So I also love vintage and thrift stores for timeless pieces at an affordable price.
NAM: How have pageants shaped your life?
Courtlyn Burris: pageants have allowed me to meet young women that I'd never have crossed paths with. These women are accomplished, giving, funny on top of being poised and beautiful. We push each other to be the best that we can be. I've always been outgoing but pageants have allowed me to channel that energy. Finally, for me pageantry has been about goal setting and trying things I think are beyond my grasp. So I'd have to say that pageants have made me more brave in some areas.
NAM: What is your most prized possession?
Courtlyn Burris: I hate to say it but my phone. Today most people can get away with losing a lot of things but our phones have become a lifeline. My phone has a Bible, all of my pictures, all of my memories and with my phone nearby know that the people I hold nearest to me are just a keystroke away.
NAM: What is your favorite movie?
Courtlyn Burris: I am a movie fanatic, so it’s nearly impossible for me to pick a favorite movie, but my favorite genre would have to be action thriller because I love those parts of a movie that make me lean forward in my seat. I recently saw Star Wars with my mom. I loved it but the best part was watching her squealing and fangirling in her seat. I guess I know where I get it from now.
NAM: What is your favorite TV show?
Courtlyn Burris: my favorite tv show is Pretty Little Liars. The show came out when I was still in high school. It's a fictional drama about a group of five girls, and someone is watching their every move and exploiting them, destroying their lives in the process. This person is “A”. It took us five years to figure out who A was, so I guess you can say I am dedicated when it comes to this show!
NAM: What is your favorite book?
Courtlyn Burris: My favorite books will always be the Twilight Saga. The love connection between the two main characters really captured me, and no matter how many times I read that book it makes me feel like I’m a part of this alternate reality in some way or another.
NAM: What advice do you have for future NAM girls?
Courtlyn Burris: I hate to sound “Oprahesque” but my advice is for you to be your authentic self and live your authentic life. If you waste time trying to be what you think the world is looking for in a “winner” we all lose. You lose because you can't maintain the charade forever and we lose out because we never got to know the “real” you.
NAM: If you could be famous for anything what would it be?
Courtlyn Burris: I have hope that one day I will wake up and just have the singing voice of an angel! Aside from dancing, I think singing is the most beautiful thing we can do with our bodies. Every voice is so different, and so unique. If I were blessed with a beautiful singing voice, I would love to share that with the world. For now I’ll just stick to singing in my shower!
NAM: What is your dream job?
Courtlyn Burris: My dream job would be having a show on HGTV with my best friend as a famous Interior Designer. We watch that tv channel all the time and it gives me so many great tips on how to style my room at home, or even my dorm in college. Whenever I visit home I always find myself rearranging my mom’s furniture, or fixing the throw pillows a new way! I like to think I have a good eye for design.
NAM: How do you plan to use your title?
Courtlyn Burris: One of the reasons I began doing pageants was because I watched how my sister went from being really shy to being more outgoing. While I was never shy I know that there are girls who suffer from self-esteem issues and would benefit from having a visible role model who is comfortable with who she is, who is goal oriented, fun-loving, dedicated to her education and future. Being the All-American queen will continue to give me a broader platform to continue being a role model for other girls.
NAM: How do you volunteer in your community?
Courtlyn Burris: I've always been drawn to community service that serves the entire need of a person not just one aspect of their lives. Habitat For Humanity and Metropolitan Ministries both have a vision to helping families get on their feet during tough times. When our family dynamic changed when I was 12 or 13 years old I became aware very quickly that of God hadn't stepped in and opened doors for my mother to re-enter the workforce we could have been in need of housing and a helping hand. So I've organized food drives, backpack drives during back to school and donated funds to support those causes that keep families off of the streets.
NAM: What is your most embarrassing moment?
Courtlyn Burris: I believe I was 14 years old when I competed for the Central Florida JR. Teen title at NAM. I remember they called my name for placing in the spokesmodel competition and as soon as I hit the middle of the stage, BAM! I fell flat on my butt. One of my good friends, Elizabeth, tried to help me up and then one of her trophies fell on my head, causing me to fall down again! I was so embarrassed because the audience was full of people and there was no way anyone could’ve missed it. I still placed 3rd runner up so that goes to show you can recover from anything!
NAM: What is your favorite subject in school?
Courtlyn Burris: I am a psychology major, most of my classes have to do with psychology. Last semester I took Spanish 2 and 3 and I absolutely loved that class. I was so proud of myself for how well i was able to pick up the language after studying every night. The class only had 10 people in it which really made it more hands on, because we were able to have more personal conversations with the teacher, also I wasn’t as nervous when it came to speaking in Spanish in front of my peers.
NAM: If you had three wishes what would you wish for?
Courtlyn Burris: First I'd wish for unlimited wishes! Then I'd wish and pray for wisdom to make the right wishes. After that, the unlimited wishes thing would cancel out the need of the third wish. LOL!
NAM: What is your biggest fear? Courtly Burris; My biggest fear was change. Growing up there were a lot of changes in my life, good and bad. While I’ve always been able to cope with change, there are times when I loved my life the way it was and wanted it to stay that way, but then life happens. Sometimes, I’ll find myself resisting change, but it is inevitable and the outcome of any change is uncertain. That's why I'm glad I continued to do pageants. Competing helps me cope with uncertainty and being flexible. Things don't always work out the way we planned but learn to we trust God’s plan and carry on.
NAM: What is the biggest misconception about your generation?
Courtlyn Burris: The biggest misconception is that we are all self absorbed. Yes, we can be called the “selfie” generation but most of us have very interesting things going on in our lives. We are also very philanthropic, motivated toward success and creative.
NAM: Who is your rolemodel?
Courtlyn Burris: My sister, Cameron, is my role model. As a little girl I was the annoying sister that wanted to do whatever she was doing, have whatever she had and be wherever she was at any given moment. Now, I see her as a goal oriented, driven young woman. She worked hard and made her dreams come true. I watched her forge her own path, develop her own opinions and stay true to her values in everything she did. So in true Courtlyn style I constantly follow the breadcrumbs that she leaves for me. But I put my own twist in the path.
NAM: If you could go back in time to any historical event what would it be?
Courtlyn Burris: I'd go back to the time when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus. That took so much strength and determination for her to break an unfair law. I'd like to sit next to her and draw from her strength. I'd like to be a rule breaker and shakeup the world right along with her.
NAM: Who is to most influential person in the world?
Courtlyn Burris: That's tough because in the past to be an influential person in the world you had to have reach and finances. For example, Oprah had a book on her nightstand and did a tour of her house all of the sudden, the book was in such demand that the printer couldn't keep up with the orders. Now, with high quality videos that can be made from your phone and social media platforms, anyone can be influential in any given moment. Such as this past holiday season, there was the guy who gave the video review for Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pies. His simple video cause a nationwide pie shortage in 2 days that lasted three weeks! So I think if you have something to say, say it. Get your message out there and you never know, you can be the most influential person in the world for at least a moment.
NAM: If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?
Courtlyn Burris: Ellen Degeneres would be the perfect person to have dinner with. I’ve watched her show on Tv and she is so personable, funny, and she is always open to giving back to the world because of how blessed she is. She's comfortable with who she is and doesn't let anyone decide how she should be portrayed. Her main goal in life is just to make people smile and laugh, and I think I can learn a lot from her. At the end of diner, I'd show her my dance moves and maybe learn a few from her.
NAM: What is your favorite part about National American Miss?
Courtlyn Burris: My absolute favorite part of NAM are the interviews! I love that one on one time with the judges where I can really be myself. My main goal in interview is to get each judge to know at least three core values about myself, and to make them laugh! I try not to gives the judges the answers that I think they want me to hear, instead I speak from the heart and everything else flows.
NAM: How did you get started with NAM? How long have you been involved?
Courtlyn Burris: Our family came to NAM for practice for another pageant not expecting my sister to win the state preteen title. My sister had so much fun she said, even before she won, that she'd come back to NAM again and again. When she came back the following year to crown, the staff was so kind to me and I wasn't even their queen. They let me help out, gave me a blanket that I still have and took an interest in not just what my sister was doing but what I was doing as well. I've competed on and off in pageants since I was 8 and competed at NAM state three times and Nationals twice. The first time I competed was at the state preteen pageant and I made top 15. The second time, I competed for state junior teen and I earned 3rd runner up. The last time I competed at the state pageant I was 1st runner up in the teen division and went to Nationals and was in the top 10 for the All-American Teen division. This year, I decided that since I'd be graduating soon and my life would be changing I'd take this last opportunity to compete for the All-American Title as a Miss. I'm so glad that I made that choice. It's one that I know will change my life forever.
NAM: What is your definition of a All-American NAM girl?
Courtlyn Burris: I think the true definition of the All-American title is a girl with perseverance and determination. All of the AA contestants who come to nationals have competed for their state titles and though we didn’t win the state title we were still accomplished young women either placing in the queen's court or winning an optional competition. We could’ve given up then but instead we still feel like we have something to offer the National American Miss organization. Through perseverance we tried a little harder and come back to compete, but this time at the national level, and I think that says a lot about every All-American contestant.
NAM: What do you like to do for fun?
Courtlyn Burris: For as long as I can remember I love to dance hip hop. A friend of mine teaches a hip-hop cardio class on my college campus and I help him with a lot of the choreography for the class. I play piano by ear and love to learn new songs with my boyfriend. Since he's a marine stationed in another state, we have virtual dates teaching each other songs sometimes long distance. I also love riding my bike. In Florida we get so many days of beautiful beach weather, so why wouldn’t you want to spend that day outside? Lastly I am proud to say that I am a true video gamer. I love playing games like Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty, and I think it’s so funny when guys realize they got beaten by me because my screen name is “fl_sweetheart”!
NAM: What makes your state unique?
Courtlyn Burris: This is a trick question. Lol! We are all unique and created for a specific purpose. I think what makes me unique is that I embrace my uniqueness. So many young women try so hard to fit into places and situations that they were not designed for instead of being who they are and creating their own space in the world. So my uniqueness is that I don't mind standing out!
NAM: What is your favorite food?
Courtlyn Burris: Lasagna is my favorite food right now, but my go to food item would be pizza. I will never get tired of pizza!
NAM: What makes you laugh?
What makes me laugh is just being surrounded by funny people. Life can be hard sometimes and some people make it harder by taking themselves too seriously. One of the reasons I fell in love with my boyfriend of over 4 years was because of his sense of humor. He says that, one of the reasons he fell in love with me is because he saw a goofy girl skipping down the hall in school, not caring what anyone else thought about her. Our ability to laugh and find the joy in just living keeps us all living an abundant life.
NAM: What was your first thought you had when you captured your national title?
Courtlyn Burris: Honestly, my first thought was “stop crying because if you get makeup on your dress your mom will kill you.” Lol! Seriously I was in such shock I don't think I could form a coherent thought. Then when Michaela won too I was ecstatic. We have known each other since I was 13 and our families have gotten close. We even live about 15 minutes away from each other. So finding out I'd get to end my NAM career with one of my best friends was amazing.
NAM: People would be surprised to know what about you?
Courtlyn Burris: I think people would be surprised to know that I’m not as girly as everyone thinks I am. I remember growing up, I would get teased because I “spoke too proper” or “dressed too well”. I was only seen as a girly girl who does beauty pageants, acting and modeling. In reality, the first time I was allowed to wear makeup at a natural pageant, I almost refused to wear it. Even up to a few years ago, my mom would have to beg me not to rip off the false eyelashes until I got back into the hotel room because I'd take them off as soon as I got off of the stage. I also like to do a lot of activities that you probably wouldn’t guess I’d do. I love paintball, playing video games, and basketball. I learned how to longboard just so I could meet a new group of friends when I first went to college. People always think they know me and are shocked when they realise how completely off their impression of me is.