Shiann Harper embraces hard work. She thrives on it. She is majoring in biology and minoring in chemistry at UAB, with a pre-dental concentration, and her post-graduation plans not surprisingly include applying to dental school. When she’s not studying, she’s likely working on her social impact initiative. We talked to Shiann about being crowned the new Miss Shelby County—and about a few of her favorite things, too.

What pageants and programs have you been involved in over the years?

I have done Miss Shelby County, and this is my sixth year at Miss Alabama. In 2016 and 2017, I made the top 12; in 2017 and 2018, I received Miss Congeniality; in 2019, I received the preliminary evening gown and social impact initiative award; and most recently, I received honorable mention for my social impact initiative.

What have you gained from these experiences?

I started this program because I knew I was going to have to find a way to pay for my college education on my own. I knew scholarships from the Miss America Organization would help me tremendously, and they did; I’m about to graduate from UAB debt-free. Also, I didn’t have a talent before this, so now I love to dance. I’m healthier because of this organization. It influences me to go to the gym and make those efforts to keep personal fitness at the forefront of my life. I think it’s really cool that I get to surround myself with more than 50 girls every year. It has allowed to meet people from different backgrounds, different families and different parts of the state.

Who are your role models?

I want to keep my goals in mind, so I try to think of myself as my own role model and where I see myself in five or 10 years. My mom is obviously a huge influence in my life, and my family. They’ve always been a huge part of where I come from and how I was raised.

What are your goals as Miss Shelby County?

My main goal is to connect with whoever I can through appearances, social media posts and through sponsorships we’ve received through the community. My social impact initiative for Miss Alabama is “Smile,” which provides toothpaste and toothbrushes to kids. It’s not just about me, it’s not just about going to Miss Alabama; it’s about representing the area.

What influence do you want to have on young girls who look up to you?

I hope to make people comfortable in their own skin, because I know in today’s society, it’s so easy to get consumed with social media posts and celebrities. We’re surrounded by these models and people telling you that you need to be this way. We need to celebrate all shapes and sizes and diversity. Regardless of your situation, you are unique and special to the world.

What are your goals after graduation?

Hopefully, I’ll be going to dental school somewhere. My teeth were awful when I was a child. I looked forward to going to the dentist so they could fix the problem I had. Some people are afraid of going to the dentist, but I want to make the dentist a warm and welcoming environment that I always felt, rather than a judgmental place.

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend?

I really love concerts. I’m always trying to go see my favorite bands. I think my favorite weekend is go to a concert with a friend in Nashville, hang out in Nashville and go to the best places to eat (I’m a foodie). I love doing that and adventuring.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I would go to Greece. I’ve always loved the white buildings and the ocean.

What do you love about Shelby County?

I love the Oak Mountain Amphitheater. I have been there a few times for the state fair. I love carnivals and fairs and amusement parks.