By Cary Shuman
As a young girl growing up in Lynn, Sonyaa Ward always wanted to compete in beauty pageants. But citing “a lack of confidence,” she backed out of Miss Massachusetts Teen USA and Miss Massachusetts USA competitions.
Proving it’s never too late to pursue one’s dreams, Ward entered her first pageant, Miss Mass. USA, at the age of 26.
“I did pretty well – it was my first pageant so I was a little nervous,” said Ward.
Bouyed by her positive experience at the Miss. Mass. USA competition, the 5-foot-7-inch former model returned to the runway in May, 2016, winning the Miss Massachusetts United States title in May in Boxford.
“It felt amazing winning the state pageant,” said Ward. “I feel like my life is just beginning.”
The 28-year-old is heading to the Palms Casino Hotel in Las Vegas in August to vie for the title of Miss United States. She will participate in bathing suit and evening gown competitions while a personal interview by a panel of five judges will also count toward each contestant’s score. She hopes to visit the nearby Grand Canyon during her visit to Las Vegas.
Ward views herself as a role model for girls and young women who have faced obstacles in their lives but were able to persevere to achieve their goals.
“I grew up with my grandmother [Sharon Smith] and she got sick when I was 14 and a freshman in high school,” said Ward. “I had to help take care of her. My grandmother passed away when I was 20. I’ve overcome a lot. When I started working out at the gym and becoming physically active, that’s when I gained more confidence in myself. I encourage people to follow their dreams no matter what. It’s never too late.”
A 2005 graduate of Lynn Classical High School, Ward attended North Shore Community College and received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Salem State University. She works at First Marblehead, a student loan company.
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy wished Ward well in her quest for the national title.
“I know Sonyaa will represent the city of Lynn and the state of Massachusetts very well,” said Kennedy. “I wish her a great deal of luck. I’m sure she’s as smart as she is pretty and I know both count in the pageant.”