Brittinay Nicolette, 26, of Fallston, was crowned Miss Maryland USA for 2018 Sunday evening during the Miss Maryland USA pageant at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in Montgomery County.
The title is the culmination of a 10-year pageant journey for Nicolette, who also competed for the Miss Maryland Teen USA title.
"Perseverance is really the message that I want to embody for my year, that hard work and dedication does pay off," she said in an interview Tuesday.
Nicolette, the daughter of Kathleen and Jon Nicolette, of Fallston, is a 2009 graduate of Fallston High School. She earned a degree in public health from Lynchburg College in Virginia in 2015, and she works as a hospital services coordinator for the Living Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit that facilitates eye, organ and tissue donation.
Her pageant platform included raising awareness of the need for organ donation and combatting sexual assault and domestic violence.
Nicolette said she has been a victim of sexual assault and domestic violence, and being in pageants was a "creative outflow" and a "driving force" as she recovered from the trauma.
"To surround myself with other strong women, to give myself a goal to work for while I was going through that negative experience is what saved me," she said.
Nicolette expressed appreciation for people who have come forward in recent weeks to tell their stories of sexual assault and harassment by powerful figures in the entertainment industry and news media.
"I think there is strength in numbers, and the more women begin talking about it, the closer we're going to come to seeing an end to this type of culture," she said.