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Portland native and Jesuit High School graduate will compete in the Miss America contest in December.

COURTESY PHOTO: BELIEVE PHOTOGRAPHY - Sophia Takla of Portland is excited to compete in the Miss America pageant. She is comfortable speaking, singing and dancing in front of people, having grown up in Portland theater and attending Berklee College of Music.Sure, Sophia Takla dares to dream, why not?

The 21-year-old Portland native wouldn't be in the Miss America contest, if she wasn't going to think about winning.

"I absolutely do," Takla said. "If you don't believe in yourself, that you can do it, it's not going to happen for you. You work your hardest and represent your state the best you can.

"We haven't had a Miss America since Katie Harman in 2002. She's such a role model for me. I almost cried when I met her at Miss Oregon this year. Oregon has such amazing women, it's time for another one (to be Miss America)."

Takla, a 2019 Jesuit High School graduate, doesn't lack in confidence, and she has a well-rounded resume and a mind full of big plans and options for her life, thanks to winning the Miss Oregon title last month in Seaside.

Maybe she'll sing, dance and star in musicals. She does attend the Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music and plans to finish her bachelor of fine arts degree online as she prepares for the Miss America competition in December.

She might go on to get a master's degree and go into marketing, given her vivacious personality.

Maybe she'll take her love of public speaking and appearances and become an actor.

Maybe she'll go to law school. Along with about $17,000 in scholarships earned through Miss Oregon, Takla has the opportunity to attend Willamette Law School, for a special tuition rate, through a partnership with the state program.

Or, maybe she'll put all her efforts moving forward into community service work, including being an ambassador/constituent for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and her own social impact initiative, Operation Joy, which brings music into hospitals.

"I always thought I wanted to be on Broadway, and I still think it's where I'll end up trying to be — in stage musicals," Takla said. "Because of this (Miss Oregon) opportunity, the world has opened up for me. So many exciting things for me on the table. I'm grateful for the space to do things. My future is bright because of Miss Oregon."

Takla won the overall talent competition at the Miss Oregon pageant, singing "Don't Rain On My Parade," in the style of Barbra Streisand in "Funny Girl." And, she impressed judges when speaking about her social impact initiative (winning the category) and more.

COURTESY PHOTO: BELIEVE PHOTOGRAPHY - After winning the Miss Oregon contest in Seaside last month, Sophia Takla has many appearances to make throughout the state leading up to the Miss America pageant in December.She was particularly proud of her response to a surprise question about her most controversial opinion. "On the spot, I said in the modern day, it's controversial to be a moderate," Takla said. "People want to be on one (political) side or the other, and people get upset with you. You have to listen to every news outlet. I need to be aware of what people are thinking."

(As an example of her moderate stance, she respects the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, but also wants some gun control.)

It was Takla's second time competing in Miss Oregon. She relinquished the crown as Miss Portland-Metro to Karson Fair, but won an open competition for the title of Miss Meadowlark, which provided her the spot in the Miss Oregon contest. (The western meadowlark has long been the Oregon state bird.)

Takla has deep roots in Oregon from her mother's side; her father emigrated from Egypt.

She grew up performing, and not entering pageants, although she participated in a Miss Oregon mentorship program.

Takla's passion for performing began by doing puppet shows in her grandmother's living room, and she and her grandmother would watch Fred Astaire musicals and tap-dance together.

Fred Astaire? Talk about old school. "He's my idol," she said. "I'm a tap dancer as well."

Takla performed for Oregon Children's Theatre and Northwest Children's Theater; she won best young female performer at the Portland Area Musical Theatre Awards for playing Ella in "Ella Enchanted." She also won the 11th season of Portland Teen Idol. "I was a junior dancer for the Blazers for a while," she added.

After attending Jesuit High, Takla went to Berklee College of Music, where she has performed in and managed musicals, organized tap-dancing shows and, obviously, studied her craft. She had organized another tap dancing show for 2022, but she'll have to help coordinate it from afar.

Takla plans to relish her time as Miss Oregon. She likes the Miss Oregon and Miss America contests because they put an emphasis on intellect and accomplishment, and they have deemphasized the "pageant" aspect of it.

Takla, who has the use of a car through Miss Oregon, will make a lot of appearances in the next several months leading up to Miss America. It's an extension of who she is, a person very comfortable being with people and being of service to others.

"Service for me is a lifestyle," she said. "I'm just along for the ride, being the best leader I can be."

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