The pageant will air live at 9 p.m. from the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino on ABC.
Lackey’s pageant journey to Miss America has been something of a fairy tale. Growing up in east Cobb, she said her family didn’t have a lot of money; a situation that was aggravated by the recession.
Her father, Doug Lackey, who is retired, and mother, Sherri, a church staffer, at one point didn’t have health insurance when she said one of her two younger brothers became sick. But it only made the family more resourceful and grow closer together, she said.
“I’ve done so many things that I thought I wouldn’t be able to do,” said Lackey, a 2008 Walton High School graduate.
“I think that’s the beautiful thing about the pageant system for Miss America. I never had a car or computer. I’d always borrow wardrobe and people now are like, ‘please let me help you’ … that just really humbles me that there are so many people out there supporting me. And they don’t look down on me for my background of not having money.”
Competing in local pageants, including Miss Cherokee Rose and Miss Heart of Lakes, offered Lackey opportunities to win scholarship money for college. She earned $15,000 for winning the 2011 Miss Georgia pageant on June 18. She plans to graduate with a contemporary dance degree from the University of North Carolina’s School of Arts.
Lackey has had a passion for dancing since age 3. Her platform issue is P.A.S.S.I.O.N, or Performing Artists Serving Society in Our Neighborhoods, a dance outreach program she created. Eventually, she wants to become a professional dancer and perhaps earn an MBA.
In addition to attending traditional events such as state fairs and parades as Miss Georgia, Lackey has represented the Georgia Council for the Arts, a state agency that supports arts programming. After speaking at a Savannah school, Lackey said a student contacted her about how much she inspired her to write poetry.
“Through the Miss America program I’ve shifted my dream just a little bit,” Lackey said. “Instead of being just a professional dancer, I want to also continue to stay involved with the corporate world of performing arts, because I realize what a difference I’ve made as Miss Georgia in performing arts.”
Lackey will attempt to become just the second Miss America from Georgia since Neva Langley Fickling of Macon wore the crown in 1953.
In Las Vegas, she will be showcasing a red swimsuit in competition and then a black lace over nude evening gown with ruffles that she hopes will impress the judges. For the talent competition, she will again perform a ballet en pointe to Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s “Tournament Galop,” as she did as Miss Georgia in Columbus.
Lackey began 2012 celebrating her 22nd birthday on New Year’s Day. She now hopes one of her birthday wishes comes true by being crowned Miss America tonight. She’s the third consecutive Cobb County resident to represent the state.
“I’m really looking forward to being on that big stage with all of the applause and everything else,” said Lackey.
“I’ve definitely been in withdrawals over the fact that I couldn’t be on stage. That’s home for me, like a second home.”
Chuck Fallis, a Miss Cobb pageant spokesman, said he believes Lackey has what it takes to make the third time a charm for Cobb residents competing in Miss America. Christina McCauley and Emily Cook were the two previous Miss Georgia winners.
“They’re all good in their own areas and in their own right,” Fallis said.
“Michaela is right at the top in every category. She’s prepared in every category and is consistent.”
The 2012 Miss America national judges are: Mark Ballas of “Dancing With The Stars”; Raul de Molina of Univision’s El Gordo y La Flaca; Mike Fleiss, executive producer of “The Bachelor”; Kris Jenner of E!’s “Keeping Up With The Kardashians”; Teri Polo of ABC’s “Man Up”; Chris Powell of “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition”; and Lara Spencer of “Good Morning America.”