The Royal Treatment

Miss Georgia 2013, Carly Mathis, of Leesburg

Miss Georgia 2013, Carly Mathis, of Leesburg

ALBANY, Ga. -- Literally speaking, the Miss Georgia crown isn't very heavy.

It's just a few ounces of polished metal and yet, figuratively, the weight borne by the newly-crowned Miss Georgia --Leesburg native Carly Mathis -- is formidable.

"I haven't had a lot of time to let it sink in," Mathis said during an interview with The Albany Herald following her coronation last weekend. "There have been a lot of interviews and photos and now I'm headed off to Miami for a catalogue shoot, so there is a lot going on right now."

So goes the life of a pageant winner.

Mathis, who entered the 2013 Miss Georgia pageant as the reigning Miss Atlanta, is no stranger to pageant life but, as far as pageants go, isn't exactly an long-timer either. In an era where some would-be "misses" start donning gowns before they can walk, Mathis is a relative rookie, having started in the pageant circuit when she was 13.

That being said, it hasn't taken her long to climb the ranks.

In 2008, she was crowned Miss Albany's Outstanding Teen. In 2011, it was Miss Historic Southern Plains and a slot as one of the top 12 finalists for the 2011 Miss Georgia pageant. Last year, she picked up Miss Georgia Cotton and finished as the first runner-up, and heading into the Miss Georgia 2013 pageant she carried with her the title of Miss Atlanta.

Now with an eye to the future, Mathis is preparing for a September date with destiny as she competes against the nation's other rising stars for a shot at being crowned Miss America in Atlantic City.

"It's a little overwhelming," Mathis said. "Especially now given that so much is happening right now in preparation for September. After the Miss America pageant, things will slow down a little bit and I can really start traveling across the state and doing the things that Miss Georgia does."

While the crown may be small, it carries with it a big check. For winning the Miss Georgia pageant, Mathis earned a $15,000 college scholarship, which will likely go toward paying her law school bills.

The daughter of a Albany attorney, Mathis -- who has already graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in broadcast journalism -- wants to get a law degree in the hopes of one day combining the two and serving as a legal correspondent.

While Mathis relied on many talents to earn the title -- her voice earned her the overall talent prize at the 2012 Miss Georgia pageant while she took home the swimsuit prize for the 2013 Miss Atlanta pageant -- Mathis hopes that its her advocacy for the American Heart Association and its Project SAVE that is the ultimate winner through her good fortune.

"In the South, we see a lot of heart-related illnesses and death; things that ultimately can be prevented with the right combination of diet and exercise combined with routine medical screenings," Mathis said. "It's my hope that we can cut those numbers and really make a difference in people's lives and improve their lives through education."

Mathis, who says she was overweight as a child, got fit and trim "the hard way," as she puts it, and believes that others can, too.

Right with Mathis each step of the way is her family -- her mother, Wendy, is her unofficial guide and attendant who also competed in pageants, while her father, Billy, is the head cheerleader of the group.

When asked what toll the pageant life takes on the family of a participant, Wendy Mathis says that it's a price easily paid.

"It's mentally exhausting and exciting all at the same time," Wendy Mathis says. "I think her father gets more nervous then we do, but you have to understand that there are five judges and five different opinions on things."

Mathis will represent Georgia at the Miss America Pageant on Sept. 15.