The 58-year-old employee, wife, mother and grandmother says she was always accustomed to being behind the scenes. However, now she is in the spotlight after beating out seven other contestants in the pageant.
Johnson says she entered the pageant as a fluke and never expected to win the title.
"It kind of validates who I am on the inside and outside, and people saw that," said Johnson.
Pageant officials say Johnson won the judges over with her poise, grace and confidence
"The judges loved her. Her interview was the best one of the whole pageant," said Marcie Aceto, Illinois director for the Mrs. Illinois America Pageant.
Johnson's costume also helped to seal the deal, especially, the one inspired by the monarch butterfly.
"I thought of the metamorphosis that butterflies go through, and I related that to the role that wives play in life in general," said Johnson.
Johnson has been married for 38 years to her college sweetheart, businessman Henry "Hank" Johnson who says he is so proud of his wife and partner.
" She has always had a passion for winning. One of her hidden talents is she is very competitive," said Henry Johnson.
Zara Johnson was awarded $15,000 and will now compete in the Mrs. America Pageant in West Virginia in the spring. She is the second African American to win the title in pageant history.
"I have always wanted people to look at me for who I am and not the color of my skin, because there is more to me than that. The color of my skin happens to be brown. There is much more to me than that," said Johnson.
As Mrs. Illinois, Zara Johnson will be making a number of appearances that she is looking forward to. She is now getting reading to compete in the Mrs. American pageant and has the total support of her family.