Ericka DunlapFormer Miss America Ericka Dunlap says she had a lot to prove by appearing on the recent season of CBS' 'Amazing Race.' Coming in third, along with her husband Brian Kleinschimidt, the beauty queen admits it was partly because of her desire to be a country star that she even entered the grueling competition.

"I was hoping I could shave my head and jump off a bridge, but none of that happened," she tells Nashville's Tennessean newspaper. "But that's one of the reasons I wanted to do the show so much -- to prove to people they can't put me in a box of being just a beauty queen. I'm so much more than that. I'm intelligent and I'm talented and I'm confident and I have all this stuff I'm really great at. I'm not just pretty. 'Pretty' is a matter of painting on a face. At the end of the day, I'm a scholarship winner, I'm not just a beauty queen. That's what I really want people to know."

Ericka says her path to a record deal hasn't been an easy one. She and her mother made frequent trips to Music City over the years, without seeing many results. "We wanted to try and land a recording contract, because we 'knew' it was just that easy," she says. "Of course, that was back in the day when karaoke was a big deal, and we'd go to those karaoke joints and I would sing and think I would be picked up, and I wouldn't. "

Finishing her reign as the 2004 Miss America, Ericka completed her college degree, and packed her bags to make the permanent move to Nashville. "I learned my way through the muck and mire and had some very interesting experiences with people who promised the moon, and I didn't know any better," she admits. "I was just as green as the day is long. I wanted to be an artist so bad that I listened to a lot of people who probably didn't really know what was going on."

It would have been easy for the beauty queen to give up, but thanks to her recent experience on 'Amazing Race,' she says that won't happen. "I don't feel invincible, but I do feel like a few more stones can be thrown at me and I'm not going to flinch," she says. "Entertainment as a whole is really tough, but Nashville is like grabbing the bull by the horns. I knew I was capable of completing all these tasks, but I was really faced with just how strong I am, and that really goes back into the music I'm looking forward to writing."

Now, with respected producer Paul Worley (whose credits include Lady Antebellum and Martina McBride) at the helm of her new project, Ericka is moving full-speed ahead. "I appreciate the fact that I've had to work to try and make a name for myself. I don't expect it to be any easier, but I feel like I can take it. Bring it on! But not for too much longer, because I'm ready to get going. I'm starting to live my life like I'm 65 and I don't give a damn."

Ericka, for the record, will turn 28 at the end of this month.