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PIONEER VILLAGE - Sitting on a sofa in the living room of the Bullitt County home she has lived in since she was born, 18 year-old Alexandria Mills is braiding her best friend Rhiannon Jones’ hair as the television plays the evening news in the background; her parents stare proudly at her and her big brother glances at his phone on a loveseat next to his girlfriend.
“Would you like a frozen oatmeal cookie?” she asks a guest.
“I love frozen oatmeal cookies,” she says.
On the surface she seems like any ordinary teenage girl. She loves cuddling with her two dogs. She loves shopping for vintage clothes and going out for ice cream. Photography is a hobby.
She bites her nails. She enjoys riding bicycles and going to the park. She’s outgoing, spontaneous, sentimental and adventurous.
“I’m nobody special,” she says modestly. “I get grounded...I have chores.”
It’s difficult to imagine that only a day earlier Mills was returning home to Bullitt County after spending a month in China where she was crowned Miss World.
Flying into Louisville International Airport fresh off her win, all Mills could think about was getting home.
As her American Airlines flight descended upon the tarmac, Mills closest friends and family anxiously awaited her arrival inside the airport.
“I’m shaking,” her mother, Susan Mills said as she stood near the gate.
Aboard the plane, Miss World Organization Chairwoman Julia Morley helped Alexandria Mills place the Miss World crown on her head for the much anticipated homecoming. Mills had butterflies in her stomach and, like her mother, she was trembling.
Walking out of the gate, tall and graceful, Mills approached the throng of greeters bearing a “Welcome Home” banner signed by well wishers.
Surprised that her parents weren’t the only ones there to greet her, Mills was overwhelmed by the reception.
“I wanted to run out of the gate when I saw everyone,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is real, I’m home.”
The first person she went to was her mother. As the two embraced, they started crying.
“I knew my mom would be crying. It was so cute though,” Mills said with a smile.
Mills was happy to be back home in Kentucky, but more than anything she was happy to be reunited with those who know her best as “Alex,” a vegetarian who hates her feet and is proud of her small town roots and her close knit family.
Though Mills is known internationally as Miss World 2010, she was not always pageant royalty.
She was born Alexandria Nichole Mills on Feb. 26, 1992 to Kenneth and Susan Mills, a middle class family who migrated to the Bullitt County suburbs from Louisville with their son Brad shortly before Alex came along.
Growing up in Shepherdsville, most of Mills’ family lived nearby and over the years they have been very supportive, standing beside her every step of the way, whether she was asking them to recycle for the sake of the environment or support her decision to compete in the Miss World pageant.
Mills’ education began at the First Baptist Church of Shepherdsville where she attended preschool. She later attended Brooks Elementary School where she met her best friend, Rhiannon Jones.
When she entered the fifth grade Mills was moved to the newly built Freedom Elementary, making her a part of the first class to graduate from the school.
From Freedom, Mills was off to Hebron Middle School. While attending middle school a Louisville modeling school asked if she would consider taking lessons when she was 12 years-old. The pre-teen was initially hesitant.
“I was going to school and worried about cheering at the next big game,” Mills said.
Eventually she warmed up to the notion and it wasn’t long before Mills was modeling professionally, which opened the opportunity to travel around the world for advertising campaigns and fashion shows.
As middle school drew to a close, Mills’ modeling career and constant traveling made it impossible for her to attend North Bullitt High School, so she did her coursework online through Jefferson County Public Schools eSchool, which she completed earlier this year.
Despite building a successful modeling portfolio, Mills has managed to keep a relatively low profile in a community where everybody knows everybody.
Susan Mills said there was a reason for that as she commented on her daughter becoming Miss World 2010.
“It’s fabulous and we’re very proud of her, but were still us. We don’t go around bragging and that’s the way we raised her to be,” she said. “She’s somebody special, but at the same time she’s nobody special; she’s Alex.”
“At the end of the day Mom’s going to yell at me because I haven’t cleaned my room and Dad’s going to ask me when I’m going to take care of the recycling.”
As a child, Mills dreamed of adventure and traveling, but she never considered anything close to competing in the Miss World pageant, much less winning.
Now that she has the chance to circle the globe as an ambassador for the Miss World Organization, she can hardly believe it.
“It still hasn’t hit me,” she said. “When I was on stage and I heard, ‘United States,’ it felt like a rehearsal. It didn’t seem real. It still doesn’t seem real.”
Mills was unsure of what she would do after she fulfilled her duties as Miss World, but she plans to savor every moment, vowing to take lots of pictures and keep a journal along the way.
“I feel the possibilities are endless,” she said. “I just want to take it one step at a time. This is a big step, but it’s still just a step in my life.”
One thing she knows for sure is that while she’s away she will miss her Shepherdsville home and all the people who have helped her become who she is.
“I’ll always miss home while I’m away. You’re always going to miss your home and your own bed, but this is my time and I’m going to embrace it.”