Monday, January 31, 2011

My Miss America Experience!

January 6- 16th

Wow, I truly do not even know where to begin. I have been home from Las Vegas for about a week now. I have had time to relax a little bit, collect my thoughts, and to reflect about the incredible and life changing experience that I just had. The emotions, feelings, and relationships that I have made seem to be impossible to describe in words. However, I will give it my best shot…

My first memory was seeing Melaina, Miss Colorado, and Adrienne, Miss North Carolina, at the Denver airport. It was comforting to see them and to share in the same feelings of excitement and anticipation while talking and laughing on our flight to Vegas. From the moment we arrived at the airport we were instantly wrapped up in a whirlwind of excitement; and so our adventure began. The entire week was very eventful. We met Boys II Men, enjoyed the Barry Manilow show (and met him afterwards!), viewed Las Vegas from the Eiffel tower, walked the runway at the Fashion Mall wearing our Joseph Ribkoff apparel, flipped pancakes at the Children’s Miracle Network IHOP breakfast, filmed commercials at DSW, Planet Hollywood, and Caesars, ate a delicious meal at Buca di Beppos.Rehearsals began in the early morning each day. We began rehearsing in the ballroom of the hotel- practicing our walking patterns and learning the opening number routine with Barry, Stacy, and Brian (they were so much fun!). By Monday we were in the theater and on the Miss America stage.

There were so many volunteers who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make the week go as smoothly as possible. A huge thank you to our security team- Rodney, Lewis, and my buddy Chris and our incredible hostesses (especially mine- Jean and Rosie!). They not only made sure that we were safe and on time to where we needed to be, but they really took the time to get to know each of us, relieve us from any stress, and put a smile on our faces. Thank you to the women working in the tent who made sure all of our wardrobe was steamed and ready to be worn on stage. The Artistry representatives were also very generous and a real pleasure to be with. I cannot thank everyone from the entire Miss America Organization enough. The endless work that they do to prepare for the pageant all year round is unbelievable and more than anyone (even myself) could ever imagine. The smiles on their faces and their positive words of encouragement made the experience so enjoyable. A special thank you to Mr. Art McMaster and Mr. Sam Haskell –two of the most sincere, inspirational, passionate, and generous individuals I have ever met in my entire life. They make such an impact on so many young women across this entire country.

I felt honored to be in the presence of 47 former Miss Americas in Las Vegas. These extraordinary women have been my role models for my entire life and it was surreal to not only see them right before my own eyes, but to also spend time with many of them. Just over a year ago I met Katie Stam, the first Miss America I had ever had the opportunity to meet in person. I remember every detail of that day- the way my eyes lit up when I saw her and the excitement I felt when she signed an autograph for me. In Las Vegas I realized how Katie and each former Miss America are real people. They are individuals who share many of the same characteristics and values as I do.

I am privileged to say that my very own roommate, 17- year old Teresa Scanlan, is our new Miss America 2011! We were able to get to know each other well, take many roommate photos, share laughs, and m&ms (haha). She is not only a very well spoken, intelligent, energetic, and beautiful young woman- but she is genuine and sincere. I am proud to call her my friend. Congratulations Teresa.

I look back and appreciate every moment I spent with my Miss America sisters. There were some nerves not knowing what it would be like with 53 women together in a pressured and competitive environment. However, everyone was truly AMAZING! I think about receiving inspirational quotes from Katie, Miss Michigan, having heart- to –heart conversations with Lindsay, Miss Maryland, and dancing the Macarena on the roof to keep warm with Jaclyn Miss Florida and Melaina, Miss Colorodo, etc. It is rare to meet true friends that share common interests, show love and support for one another, and who are genuine and sincere. I can say that I have met best friends in Las Vegas. I still talk to many of my new friends everyday and we are planning our next reunion!

There are a few particular moments that really stick out in my mind during the week.

One thing I will always remember is sharing my Miss America experience with Brooke. Literally a couple of weeks before leaving for Las Vegas I wanted to make this dream a reality- and I knew it would be possible. Within 24 hours of writing e-mails, making phone calls, and going around to a few different businesses in town, I had generous donations coming to me for Brooke and her mother to join me in Las Vegas. I have been a part of Brooke and her family’s life since she was about three years old. I know that I am a role model for her and her two sisters. But I have to say that Brooke is an inspiration to me and that I look up to her. She is one strong little girl who struggles through obstacles of her illness each and everyday. Brooke and her family deserve the world.

Before Brooke arrived in Las Vegas, I watched a news story on CT Fox that was filmed after I had already left. In the interview with Brooke, she said that she loved me and that I was her “Shining Star.” When I heard those words I felt on top of the world.

I felt my eyes tear up when I saw Brooke for the first time in Las Vegas at the DSW “Show Me Your Shoes” parade. I introduced her on stage in front of the large audience as my amazing escort. We walked the parade route together- waving to fans and taking many pictures along the way. I made sure to introduce her to all of my new Miss America friends and some of the former Miss Americas. The smile on her face was priceless. She was treated like a real celebrity! She looked beautiful on the final night of competition in her new red dress that she got especially for the occasion. At visitation she told me she loved me and that I was her Miss America. That was one of my favorite Miss America moments.

The way I felt as a result of the support that I received is another part of my journey that I will never forget. I received countless messages on Facebook, in my e-mail, through voicemails, in person etc.. The words did not just consist of a simple, “Good luck” – each message was in depth and came from the heart. I literally had people come up to me in Las Vegas commenting on how they have never seen anything like the messages of support that I was receiving. I would not be at the point where I am today without the people I have in my life. Each message touched my heart and they honestly meant more to me than a crown ever could.

As I stood on the stage at a rehearsal the announcer read during our introductions … ”13,000 woman this year have competed on the local and state level to be here tonight and these 53 women have risen to the top of their class…” For some reason that really hit me. I was standing amongst 53 of the most dynamic, intelligent, beautiful, and passionate young women in our entire country- and not only was I standing with them… I was one of them! So many young girls, of course including myself, watch the Miss America pageant each year and picture themselves being on that stage. It almost seems so far out of reach -I never really thought that I could actually be one of those young women. Well here I was, at that moment, standing on that stage. My dreams turned into a reality. I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity. Anyone who works hard, sets goals, and is unafraid to follow their heart in order to reach a goal- has the potential to turn their dreams into reality.

I can truthfully say that I have worked not only the past few months, but my entire life to become Miss America. However, it really is not about winning the crown and the title. I know that because I still feel like Miss America- just as I did before competing on the stage. It is about living a life of style, scholarship, service, and success every single day. Winning the Miss America crown is not a pre-requisite to being successful in life and is by no means a final destination. I know that the life-skills I have gained through the Miss America system –at the local, state, and national level will help me throughout my entire life. Every time I hear story of how I have impacted the life of another person, receive a compliment, or make someone smile – I experience my “Miss America moments.” That is what I live for every single day.

I feel that there are more than a million people I have to thank. To everyone who has helped me on this journey- you have absolutely no idea how much you have impacted my life. There are no words to even describe my appreciation for your love and support.

I felt 100% prepared for the competition in Las Vegas… I could not have asked for anything more. I felt like a million dollars –and that is the best feeling in the world. Thank you especially to those who made that possible-


The Prete Family

The Miss CT Board

Crowning Touch

Ragtime Boutique

Katie Boyd: Miss Fit Club

Tracy and Nakiya

JD, Hector, and Antenna Salon

Patty May

Gail Mccool

Steve Smith

Mike Chaiken

All who donated to Brooke’s Dream

Lisa and Berk Little

Mock interview panels

Brenda Garton, Dr. Anthony Caprio and Western New England College

Sharalynn and the Kuziak Family

Dr. MaryAnne Herron

DSW and Artistry by Amway

My amazing family

All of my friends and family that came to support me in Las Vegas..


(Sorry I could not name everyone individually)

Now onto the remaining five months of being the best Miss Connecticut I can possibly be!! And so the next chapter of my life begins…

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