|ALEXANDRA MILLER / COURTESY MISS USA|
Alexandra Miller is no stranger to the pageant world, but because she is in her last year of age eligibility, she never thought she'd make it onto the Miss USA stage.
"I was [current Miss USA] Olivia Jordan's first runner-up when she won the title of Miss Oklahoma USA, and she actually won Miss USA on my 26th birthday, which meant I had to decide if I wanted to compete my last year or take over her title," Miller tells PEOPLE.
Miller decided to step in as Miss Oklahoma USA, meaning she would no longer be able to compete for the Miss USA crown.
However, thanks to a fan vote for a 52nd contestant, the pageant pro will be able to compete. Miller was chosen from 10 ladies vying for the final spot, after competing in a nationwide search for Miss 52, a woman who best embodies Miss USA based on originality, personality and a web interview.
"This is a chance for me to resurface a dream that I thought was long gone," says Miller, who has been competing in pageants for the past eight years – and who has been first runner-up twice for the Miss Oklahoma USA crown.
Miller first became interested in the pageant world when she saw her older sister competing in their hometown pageant, and decided to try it herself when she was a senior in high school.
"I didn't even place but I enjoyed it so much," she says. "I come from a competitive background – I was an athlete for the majority of my life – so this was just another avenue for me to push myself and my limits."
Miller has always wanted to be a part of the Miss USA competition in particular because she feels its mission is in line with her personal goals.
"The Miss Universe organization wants to promote confidence and believing in yourself and perseverance. I think that's who I am as a person, and that's why I was always interested in it," she says. "You have a unique opportunity as a title holder within the organization to inspire other people – whether it be young females or males across the world. That's why I want to be a part of the organization, and I'm so honored to have this incredible opportunity."
Source: PEOPLE Magazine, 5/18/2016