"But we weren't raised to be Miss America or Miss West Virginia."
Will's parents were away on a cruise when she decided to check out a pageant. The talent competition drew her in, as she had previously participated in show choir. She competed and won her crown in 2009.
Wyatt was searching for a sense of belonging. With no clique or niche to fit into, she seized on the chance to participate when a director came to recruit contestants.
"I was the only girl who stayed committed after all the meetings. They'd say we had to fill out five pages of paperwork, and two would drop off. They'd say we have to sing, and another three would drop off. They'd say we had to wear a swimsuit, and two more would drop off," she said.
"But I already had my platform. I didn't have to think, 'Oh, what can I fake to be passionate about.' I was already passionate. But I had no idea what I was doing."
She was crowned by Lawrence, her predecessor, in 2007.
Lawrence got involved to support for her best friend and ended up winning the crown in 2006.
"She decided I was going to do this with her," Lawrence said of her friend. "I said, 'I'm just doing this for support. This is your goal, not mine.'
"But I went, and I wore my high school prom dress for my first pageant. I sang a song from show choir. I competed in a swimsuit that was right out of my swimsuit drawer. It was a one-piece red paisley, I'll never forget."
The three attribute their success in government in part to their experience with the Miss West Virginia pageant.
"I always say that if Miss America is the biggest thing you ever do, then you're probably in it for the wrong reasons," Lawrence said.
"I often tell young women that, because Miss America is just a springboard or a steppingstone to the next level of your career or profession. For us, it's helped in government . . . I probably wouldn't be here without it."
Beyond career help, the women believe the pageant has been an integral part of their lives. Will and Lawrence are married, and fellow competitors participated in their weddings.
Wyatt spoke of the friendships she forged.
"You win scholarship money, but the life lessons you learn, the interpersonal skills are absolutely priceless," she said. " The sisterhood - and the people you meet both through the platform, as well as other competitors - are friends for life. The people are just wonderful people."