A recent Johnson C. Smith University alumna Jarin Simmons is preparing to make her state proud as she competes for Miss North Carolina. Learn more in the JCSU story below.

Photo Credit: Johnson C. Smith University

Miss Charlotte Jarin Simmons ’22 will be gracing the Miss North Carolina stage in February 2023 in hopes of taking home the crown for herself, aspiring young beauties, her community and her friend, the late Miss USA Cheslie Kyrst.

“I knew Cheslie since I was 15 or 16 years old,” she remembered fondly. “She was so stunning, and her personality was so bright and golden.”

After introducing herself, the two began a friendship that lasted into adulthood. While Simmons pursued an Interdisciplinary degree at JCSU, Kryst encouraged her to apply for pageants. Simmons promised to apply after she graduated so she could focus on school and modeling.

After transferring from UNC Greensboro to finish her college career at JCSU, Simmons found a community with her professors.

“I met the lovely Dr. Cindy Kistenberg and Dr. Erin DiCesare,” she said. “I was an online student, and they helped me move my schedule around so I could graduate on time. They really stuck their necks out for me, and I can’t thank them enough.”

“In my more than 16 years at JCSU, I have been the initial point of academic contact for hundreds of students,” said Kistenberg, professor of Communication and Theatre and academic advisor at JCSU. “After our initial 30-minute Zoom meeting, I knew Jarin would be a star student. I saw her passion and compassion in that first meeting, which made it clear to me that she would go on to make a difference in the world. Her future will reflect positively on JCSU.”

As graduation approached, Simmons made the decision to follow Kyrst’s advice. With more time on her hands, Simmons reached out to Kyrst’s coach to tell him she was interested in pageantry, and was eager to let her friend know, too. Unbeknownst to Simmons, Kyrst had passed away mere hours before she could share the news. 

Photo Credit: Drewe & Kate

“I was so shocked,” Simmons said. “The very day I decided to run was the day she passed away. I know that her legacy lives on, and I’m going to do this for me, for her and for our community.”

Simmons didn’t get a traditional start in the world of pageantry. When she was in middle school, she wanted to play basketball, but her mother LaRita convinced her to give modeling a try.

After attending modeling school for several years, Simmons was diagnosed with scoliosis, a condition which causes the spine to curve sideways. Sometimes, treatment isn’t necessary, but Simmons found herself wearing a back brace to bed for a year.

In 2015, her doctor told her the scoliosis was still progressing, and that she would have to wear a brace all the time, or get a surgery to correct her spine. The only catch was she would be unable to play contact sports after the surgery, so the switch from basketball to modeling seemed like fate.

“I had the surgery in July, and it was successful,” she said. “And a month later, I walking in a fashion show in Charlotte in heels.”

It was in 2015 that Simmons entered her first pageant: Miss Teen Charlotte. She placed fourth runner up and won Miss Photogenic. Although she didn’t walk away with the biggest crown, this pageant is where she connected with Kyrst.

In 2022, she applied to her second-ever pageant, and was named Miss Charlotte. 

“When you have a title like this, you become a representative for young ladies and the city or state you represent,” she said. “I’m excited to embark on this new journey. I have a passion for my community. It’s not only about me, but about leaving a legacy and giving back to the community.”

Simmons is not only an aspiring role model, but also a fashion model. In 2018, she signed with Directions, a talent agency, and has modeled for brands like Belk, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Champion. She also uses her modeling expertise to consult other beauty queens and models during wardrobe showings. 

Her mother is proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, and glad she trusted her advice to model.

“I taught my daughter that what God has for you is for you, and if it’s yours, it’ll be yours,” said LaRita. “Life is full of teaching and learning experiences. If you fall down, just get back up and keep going.”

Simmons said she’s looking forward to the entire experience of “being beautiful, dressing up, walking across the stage” and giving her all. Outside of participating in the February Miss North Carolina Pageant, Simmons has committed to pursue her master’s degree in Communications at Queens University in the fall.

Join JCSU in cheering on this alumna in February as she vies for the N.C. crown.