CITRUS COUNTY, Fla — From politics to pageantry, Miss Florida USA 2023 is not shying away from showing that women can do all things they set their hearts on.
Caroline Dixon was crowned Miss Florida USA on May 14. The Citrus County native graduated from Crystal River High School and went on to complete her education at Florida State University. She recently moved to Palm Harbor where she works as a senior legislative aide.
"Growing up in the Tampa Bay area was something that was always super special to me," she said. "I loved going out on the water. I loved that small-town feeling that I had back in Homosassa."
Dixon, 25, succeeded last year's winner, Taylor Fulford. The new Miss Florida USA has been competing in pageants since she was 13 years old. Dixon said the confidence and self-esteem boost it gives is what attracted her to the stage. A friend of hers was competing in pageants and she shared her experience with her, pushing Dixon to compete.
"For me, I really needed something that was going to help provide that positive self-esteem and boost my self-confidence, so I started competing," she explained.
This was Dixon's third try at the crown. While a typical year of preparation would look like interview coaching, fitness training and walking practice for most, including herself, this year, she took a different approach.
"This year, I had decided going into it that I wasn't going to try to fit a mold," Dixon explained. "I wasn't going to try to be this perfect title holder that I felt like the judging panel would want. I really wanted to go in and authentically be myself."
And it worked. As she was handed her flowers and had the crown placed atop her head, her mother and fiancé were in the crowd cheering.
A recent rule change at the Miss Universe level allows women who are married or have children to compete in the pageant. That allows women like Dixon, who is engaged to her high school sweetheart, to follow through with the competition with a weight off her shoulders.
"Now with this rule change, we're all allowed to live our lives freely and feel comfortable doing that," she said.
Winning the Miss Florida USA competition also happened to fall on Mother's Day. Dixon said she has a reaction video of her fiancé and mom the moment her name was called.
"Looking back on that video and seeing how proud I made them, it just it got me super emotional, too," she added.
As far as what's to come as Dixon prepares to fulfill her role as Miss Florida USA and for the Miss USA pageant in the fall, she said she's thrilled. Between making plans with professional sports teams and an upcoming food pantry event in St. Pete, Dixon said she can't wait to get out and serve the community.
"My message for young girls all across the state of Florida and even beyond the borders of this state is that you're capable of doing anything you set your mind to as long as you're willing to put forth the hard work and effort," Dixon said.
Want to keep up with Miss Florida USA 2023, follow her on Instagram to track the journey to Miss USA.