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LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56/WKYT) – University of Kentucky graduate and Miss Kentucky Elle Smith is set to represent the country in the Miss Universe pageant after being crowned Miss USA.

It has been a whirlwind journey for the young journalist. Smith has gone from representing Kentucky to the entire country. Next stop, the world.

She’s currently in quarantine in Israel as she prepares to compete in just her third pageant ever.

We caught up with her to learn more about how her life has changed

“I’m in complete shock. I did not know what was going on. It was such a surreal moment, but the first thing that I wanted were my parents and just to celebrate with them because they supported me along this journey,” Smith said.

The 23-year-old will go from competing as Miss Kentucky at Miss USA to competing as Miss USA at Miss Universe in less than a month.

Smith says, at this point, she’s still letting it all sink in.

“It was a little bit overwhelming to be honest because it was such a quick turnaround, but I’m extremely grateful,” Smith said.

Smith works as a reporter in Louisville.

She worked hard to prepare for the swimsuit and evening gown events but thinks her communication skills are what really set her apart from her fellow contestants at Miss USA.

“You know, being a reporter you are going out every single day speaking to people from different perspectives and as a titleholder, you’re doing the same exact thing,” Smith said. “So, I think those skills being a reporter transcended to my pageantry career so I’m going to attribute it to that.

The theme of this year’s contest was “Miss USA: Pageantry re-imagined.” It lived up to its name with transgender contestant Miss Nevada and Connecticut’s first Afghani contestants to compete at Miss USA.