Gallatin’s own Annie Sandelovich’s triumph in securing the prestigious title of Miss America’s United States 2023 rings with community pride. Her journey, a testament to dedication and grace, embodies the spirit of our area. Each step to wearing the crown also carries the hopes and dreams of those who cheered her on and encouraged her along the way. Beyond personal success, Annie’s achievement has become a beacon of inspiration in our community and beyond - an embodiment of resilience and the incredible potential within our local talent.
Annie Sandelovich recently took a seat with Gallatin Lifestyle to chronicle her pageant journeys and to express her gratitude during this season of thankfulness.
GL: Tell us about growing up in Gallatin!
AS: I was born and raised in Gallatin and until college it had been the only home I had ever known. Almost every childhood memory I have took place in Gallatin, from attending Square Fest every year with my dad to Sumner County’s annual family fitness festivals, to watching every holiday parade in the Food Lion parking lot, never missing a year when attending the Sumner County Fair and the yearly Bubble Bash courtesy of the Gallatin Fire Department each Fourth of July. Gallatin provided me with the most magical childhood experiences!
GL: How did you get involved in the pageant world?
AS: When I was in elementary school I played softball, was less of a girly-girl, never wore shoes and hated wearing dresses! Once I was in middle school that changed a little. In 7th grade, I competed in my first pageant at the Sumner County Fair. I remember thinking the fair pageant was the equivalent to Miss America in our little town. I spent hours practicing in the living room, looking at magazines filled with dresses and oohing and awing when Roxanna would change the dresses in the window of her store. I would make my dad drive really slow every day on our way home just to take a look at the dresses in the [Roxanna’s Closet] window. I am very thankful for the Sumner County Fair Pageant because I probably wouldn’t be here without it!
GL: In what ways do you engage with the community while participating in competitions?
AS: I am always looking for a way to support business owners in the community so I am always taking inquiries and requests to make appearances at events, galas, ribbon cuttings, charity events and more! So far since winning the title I have traveled to Atlanta to support stroke victims at the Shepherd Center, held free dance classes for children in Winston-Salem, I have traveled to Philadelphia to tour the Constitution Center and to see the Liberty Bell and in October I was able to emcee the Miss Nashville Volunteer Scholarship Pageant that was held at my sweet alma mater of Gallatin High School! Throughout my time in pageantry, I have raised over $5,000 for the National Association for Children of Addiction, started a counseling program for children, advocated for red ribbon and drug-free curriculum to be taught in all schools in East Tennessee and held blanket drives to support the department of Child Protective Services for Children who are removed from unsafe environments.
GL: Which individuals in your life serve as role models and for whom are you most grateful?
AS: The list of people in this community is endless. I had a lot of really amazing educators in my life who continued to mentor me long after I was their student. My neighbor and childhood best friend, Abby Wynn, has always played a huge role in my life and taught me to be the sunshine. My older brother Andrew is my biggest cheerleader and mentored me so much as we’ve gotten older. My dad, who works at the Gallatin Rock Quarry, has always called me his little rock and reminded me I am tough enough to survive anything life throws at me. My mom could make anyone feel like they were safe, loved, valued and that they could move mountains. This is the most important trait I hope I gained from her. But my Aunt Gina and Uncle Ben taught me the most important life lessons of all: my circumstances growing up do not define who I get to become as an adult, education is my ticket out, this too shall pass and that I am in control of my future! I would not be me without these people, this city or the lessons it has taught me!
"I am most thankful for the people that I have in my life. After losing my mom and my Uncle Ben, and living through a pandemic, I understand that time is absolutely invaluable."