COQUILLE – Saying she was “just so grateful,” Coquille resident Toneata Morgan was chosen Sunday afternoon to represent Oregon at the Miss USA pageant.
Competing as Miss Sunset Bay, Morgan was crowned out of 19 contestants from around the state. at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.
At the same pageant, Jaycie Forrester, 16, of Tualatin was crowned Miss Oregon Teen USA 2018, with 11 other girls competing.
“I’m on Cloud 9,” Morgan said Monday. “Today has been quite the whirlwind and it still hasn’t quite hit me. When it happened, I couldn’t stop crying. You hear the phrase, ‘don’t give up on your dream.’ I’ve always wanted to go to the Miss USA pageant, but was about to give up.”
Morgan is in her senior year at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, but has family ties to Coquille and has lived there off and on this past year with her grandmother.
She can trace her family roots to Oregon's original settlers in the 1850s, from proud dairy farmers, loggers and fishermen. Many of the family lived in the Coos Bay area.
Her favorite place to go in Coos County is Sunset Bay in Charleston, where she and her aunt used to spend time at the beach, kayaking and hiking.
Sadly, her aunt, Estella Morgan, who worked for the Bureau of Land Management in Coos Bay, was killed in 2014 in a tragic logging accident while on the job.
“I’d like to pay tribute to my Aunt Estella,” Morgan said. “I kind of felt like she was there on Sunday.”
A former Miss Malibu Teen USA 2014, Morgan, 21, will graduate in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in communications, and a minor in film and television studies.
Morgan has many awards and honors, including being on the dean’s list at her university, in the top 15 percent of her high school class and winner of the 2014 VFW Voice of Democracy Speech Competition in Ventura County.
A busy actress and model, she can be seen in several popular reality TV series, including "Beauty and the Geek Australia," "Growing Up Hip Hop," and "Master P’s Family Empire."
She also has a passion for helping others. Her platform for the Miss Oregon USA competition was close to her heart – Wounded Warriors and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Her father, a Korean War veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart for his service, passed away when she was a 1-year-old.
"I never knew my dad," she said.
Another issue she is passionate about is cyberbullying. Read her blog about cyberbulling here.
“I dealt with it at a young age and I think that’s an issue that should be more out there,” Morgan said.
Morgan works with the Cyber Smile Foundation and the Be Kind Campaign.
“Almost every girl has experienced bullying,” Morgan said. “One thing I love about the pageant is that it’s not catty or superficial at all. I’ve made so many friends and they’ve all been so kind and supportive. It’s extremely refreshing and I’m so thankful.”
As a high school student, Morgan was a victim of cyberbullying. When she worked on a TV show called “Growing Up Hip Hop,” she started receiving messages that she described as “so mean.”
“It affected my self-esteem for a while then I realized there will always be critical people who will make you want to feel bad about yourself and I want to remind people to be kinder to each other and before they send something, to really think about it and ask, ‘Would you say that in person?’”
Morgan is also an entrepreneur, as CEO and designer for All Legs, her active wear company on a mission to empower women by helping them feel beautiful while getting stronger and more confident.
“I’ve been super focused on my business,” she said. “I started it eight months to a year ago and I have really cute styles. My mom helped me out with it a lot and it really got cool when I saw girls wearing my clothes. I’m really excited to see where it grows and expands.”
Morgan’s creations can be seen at www.alllegsshop.net.
Another dream of the new Miss Oregon USA is to one day have her own talk show, Oprah style.
“I think it would be great to be able to influence and be a voice for people,” she said.
But right now, she is studying for mid-terms next week and planning to finish her last two semesters of college before she and Forrester compete in the Miss USA and Miss USA Teen pageant.
The Miss Oregon USA is part of the Miss Universe Organization. The winner of Miss Oregon USA goes on to compete at Miss USA, which is televised on FOX.
The Miss Oregon USA is not related to the Miss Coos County Scholarship Pageant or the Miss Oregon Scholarship Pageant, although many contestants have competed in both, according to Miss Oregon USA organizers.
The date and location of the pageants still are to be announced. The pageant was owned by President Donald Trump from 1996 to 2015, when it was broadcast by NBC. The pageant was sold to WME/IMG and Fox Broadcasting now owns the broadcast rights.
Between now and next May, Morgan will make several appearances locally and around Oregon as Miss Oregon USA.
“It’s really such an honor to represent Oregon,” Morgan said. “I’m really excited for this opportunity to represent our state, to hopefully be the first Miss Oregon USA to be crowned Miss USA and compete for the title of Miss Universe.”