"Showing horses definitely helped me prepare for Miss USA. It taught me that when you want something, you have to invest your heart and soul into it," Abby told us. Photos courtesy Abby Floyd.

Abby Floyd Reflects on Top 10 Finish in Miss USA 2016 Competition

Sunday night, AQHYA World Champion, 2013 Miss Teen Arkansas and 2016 Miss Arkansas, Abby Floyd competed for the title of Miss USA 2016 broadcast live from Las Vegas on FOX. Abby has taken a few years off from showing horses to focus on her pageant career and all of her hard work paid off. Abby made it to the Top 10 and was the first Miss Arkansas in 34 years to accomplish that difficult achievement.

During the preliminary contest, which was held on Wednesday, the Miss USA panel of judges scored the ladies in three separate events: evening gown, swimsuit, and interview. All 52 girls competed to make it back to the finals where they selected the top 15. During the finals competition on Sunday, the top 15 competed again in swimsuit and the judges narrowed it down to the top 10. Those 10 were scored in the evening gown competition and that’s where Abby’s amazing journey ended. Ultimately, Miss USA was crowned to Miss District of Columbia.

I had the opportunity to visit with the Arkansas native about her experience competing in Miss USA.

Paige: Congratulations, Abby! Top 10 Miss USA, that’s definitely something to be proud of.

Abby: Thank you, Paige.  I am extremely honored and grateful to have participated in this amazing opportunity!

Abby_DreamyP: You’ve had incredible success in the show pen. You were the 2012 AQHYA World Champion and 2013 and 2014 AQHYA Reserve World Champion with your halter mare, Candy’s Mirror Image and you have been Top-15 at the Congress in Western Pleasure with Hot And Dreamy (pictured right from Miss USA promotional video). In what ways do you think showing horses has benefitted you towards your journey to becoming Miss USA?

A: Showing horses definitely helped me prepare for Miss USA. It taught me that when you want something, you have to invest your heart and soul into it. You also have to know how to lose before you can win. It took me two times to win Miss Arkansas and I wanted to quit after the first time. But I stuck with it because I knew it was what I wanted. It’s safe to say I’m so glad I did! Showing also taught me that the outcome is based on the judges’ opinions. If there were other judges, the outcome may be different, which is the same with pageants. You can’t let those opinions get to you and define your success.

P: Before they announced the Top 15, did you have any indication that you were in that top group?

A: During the announcement of Top 15, I was extremely nervous because I’ve usually been called early. I wasn’t called until number 13 (and 8th in the top 10) spot. However, I did know by about number 10 I was getting in because the camera crew has to find the girl to get a TV angle when she’s called out and I heard them say “Arkansas!” Then they found me!”

Abby Floyd Miss USA 2016 swim suit sarongP: You looked absolutely amazing in all of your outfits. How does the process work for how you select your swimsuit and evening gowns?

Thank you! Our swimsuits are sponsored and we select them the day we arrive at Miss USA. We were given several choices and we picked our favorites. My gown (pictured in main image above) was also sponsored and designed by Arkansas’ very own Laine Berry of Laine Berry Designs by Mon Cheri. It was extra special because she designed my very first pageant dress five years ago and every other one since. My dress was the first dress I tried on and I instantly fell in love! I decided to wear another gown on prelim night so I could save my favorite for finals.”

P: What type of questions did they ask you in the interviewing process and how did you prepare yourself for the interview part of the competition?

A: Our interviews were very laid back this year. We had two panels of judges; one set of four and one of three. Each panel lasted four minutes each. Most of the questions they asked were to get to know me, what I would do if I become Miss USA, and what my life goals are. I spent three to four hours per week staying up to date on the news and thinking about where I stood on certain issues to prep for the interview.

AbbyFloydhorseshootP: At some point during the competition they referred to “some of the favorites” by showing their stories and their reason for starting pageantry. How did they select those favorites?

A: They did everything for TV purposes, and they wanted to show a variety and diversity among the girls. FOX wanted to show that we are so much more than ‘pretty pageant girls.’ They wanted to show that we are all so well rounded and different than the typical stereotype.

P: How was the Miss USA pageant both similar and different from the Miss Teen USA pageant you competed in?

A: Miss USA was much more intense than Miss Teen USA, but it 100% helped me prepare for the big stage. At Miss Teen USA, we were only there for one week and it wasn’t televised. Whereas at Miss USA, we were there two weeks and had millions around the world watching. As a Miss contestant, we were held to a higher standard and the competition was more difficult because everyone is so experienced. I definitely had to bring my A-game every single day.

P: How did you physically and mentally prepare yourself in the months leading to Miss USA?

A: I started prepping six months out. I had to spend 10-12 hours a week in the gym and watched everything I ate so I could be in the best physical shape possible. It was really hard because I’m from the south and we consider butter a food group…plus I love to eat. It was worth it in the end, though. Mentally I had to keep reminding myself that this was only a competition and no matter what happened, I was going to grow so much from it, and I did!

P: What did you and the other girls do during the two weeks you spent together in Las Vegas? And what was your favorite thing all of you did together?

AbbyFloyd_RedRockA: Every day we had so many amazing appearances, events, or photo shoot scheduled! We would start super early around 5 am and wouldn’t get back some nights until midnight. It was exhausting but always a blast. One of my favorite shoots was at Red Rock Canyon (pictured right), we filmed promos and took so many photos while hiking. It was gorgeous!”

A: Did you have any interaction with the celebrity guests featured on the show? (i.e. The Backstreet Boys)!

P: We did have interaction with them during rehearsals! It was so hard not to ‘fan-girl’ the whole time because my childhood dreams came true when I met the Backstreet Boys! We got to film a few promos with the celebrities and they were all so nice.

P: Looking back on when you first started your pageant career, what advice would you have given to yourself?

A: I would tell myself that it’s okay to lose and it’s okay not to be perfect. Never let the outcome define me or who I am. I think many girls focus on being “perfect” and they forget to enjoy the journey. It’s so important to be present in every moment and take it all in. This is a once in a lifetime experience and it’s too easy to let it pass you by. I have no regrets and always leave it all on the stage, but I would do it again tomorrow!

P: What are your future plans for showing horses and pageants?

A: Miss USA was my last pageant so I’ve officially retired from pageant land. It is bittersweet, but I couldn’t have asked for a better go at it! I hope to eventually start showing horses again because I miss it, and everyone, so much!”

We wish Abby the best of luck with her future plans and look forward to seeing her back in the show circuit.