Category Archives: Pageantry

12 Shocking, Random, and Difficult Interview Questions

There is a website that feeds the sometimes scary, occasionally impressive, often underrated minds of pageant competitors and fans. It’s name is fitting: The Pageant Planet, because pageant people– and I can speak freely as a former citizen– live on a far off, eccentric planet full of uncomfortably tan residents who wear crowns to buffet restaurants and lip liner to bed.

The Pageant Planet is a safe place for this entertaining sect of humankind to come together to anonymously vote on which gowns are currently in style, learn which brand of butt glue works best, and read the opinions of bloggers who may or may not have worthy credentials. But really– what are worthy credentials in the pageant world? Good hair? A swimsuit trophy? Tony Bowls’ personal cell phone number? For me, I guess my worthy credentials include a sash that accidentally says “Miss New York 2013” even though I was Miss New York 2012, pictures that are proof I am friends with some former Miss Americas– mostly the ones that the official Miss America Board of Directors hate, and the good fortune to have been roommates for a week with the smart, funny, successful editor of The Pageant Planet. Because of these things, I am worthy to share my opinions and list compilations with hundreds of thousands of readers. Don’t you know it!

Read my first, and hopefully not last, article for The Pageant Planet HERE. The title is “12 of the Most Shocking, Random, and Difficult Interview Questions Ever Asked” because pageant people are nothing if not dramatic. I like to cater to my audience. Enjoy!

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Miss America 2016 Predictions

Last year, I did some serious due diligence for my Miss America predictions—and it paid off. Eight of the 10 girls I picked made the semi-finals. Still proud about it.

This year, I’m planning a wedding, so I don’t really have time to watch videos of the contestants in the media to assess their personalities and speaking skills. I did that last year–and yes, it felt a little creepy…but also, tens of thousands of people read my predictions, so I think my behavior was validated.

Since I don’t have time for proper stalking this time around, and also don’t know as many girls competing because I’m getting old, my investment level has fallen a few notches. Even still, I am traveling to Atlantic City to watch the pageant live this year, which means I need to have some sort of opinion. Thus, I’m making predictions based on my girl crushes. As in, whose face do I want to stare at for a year should she win Miss America?

This is about to be the most shallow prediction list you’ve ever read. Don’t try and make it something it’s not.

Starting with my #10 girl crush:

10. Miss Georgia, Betty Cantrell

She’s hot. There’s really no getting around it. On her worst day, she probably looks infinitely better than me on days when I actually try to look put-together. Her hair is that of a Disney princess, while her face is that of a Victoria’s Secret model. Good for her.

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9. Miss Alaska, Zoey Grenier

Listen, I’m going to be honest here. Alaska isn’t known for sending the best-looking contestants to Miss America. And that’s totally fair! Those broads have more important things to worry about than hair and make up lessons– like not freezing to death and avoiding aggressive moose. Still, this year’s Miss Alaska is adorable. Her dimples are just the cutest and her jawline could rival that of a Russian queen (who she could see from her backyard!). Meanwhile, she photobombs a lot of pictures, which makes me want to be her friend.

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Far left.

 

8. Miss Vermont, Alayna Westcom

Vermont gives me that Karlie Kloss vibe. Anyone? I feel like she’d be friends with Taylor Swift, which automatically catapults her into the girl crush category. She also looks her age, which is rare in the pageant world. Maybe it’s because she wears a normal amount of make up. Probably because she hikes a lot. That’s what people do in Vermont, right?

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7. Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson

This tall drink of water is 6’1”, yet somehow has the face of a petite little blonde that every guy goes for during Happy Hour. Her legs will extend for all of time in her swimsuit, plus you’ll get to see her dimples during close up shots on T.V. Save some features for the rest of us. Geez.

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None of her professional headshots capture her dimples, which I think was pretty rude of the photographers, so I chose this picture of her casually flying an airplane instead.

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6. Miss New York, Jamie Lynn Macchia

Disclaimer: I know Jamie. But even if I didn’t, just look at her face. Her smile makes me feel warm all the way down to my toes. She looks like she’d bake you a warm apple pie while wearing heels, but could also throw on yoga pants have a tickle fight. I feel like a lot of guys must be in love with her.

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5. Miss Idaho, Kalie Wright

This girl pulls off a widow’s peak like nobody’s business. Her features are big and bold, just like the perfect cabernet– so you know I approve. Light blue eyes and dark hair never gets old, and Idaho even manages to rock them without looking like an evil princess. Skillz.

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4. Miss Kansas, Hannah Wagner

I feel like Kansas has naturally tan skin, and for that, I am jealous. For all I know, she’s totally white, but she looks really ethnically ambiguous to me. Keeps me on my toes. She’s just stunningly pretty and could easily be a model for facewash or something, plus her arms are exactly what I’d like mine to look like on my wedding day.

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3. Miss Alabama, Meg McGuffin

She’s the girl in your sorority with awesome hair who is always placed at the front of group pictures to draw more popularity during recruitment. She’s always en trend, but classy because she’s a southern girl with a reputation to uphold. I don’t know her, but I feel like she says “bless your heart” with the training of the south, but the edginess of a New Yorker. Into it.

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2. Miss Oklahoma, Georgia Frazier

Most girls look better one of two ways: Smiling, or sexy-smizing. For instance, I look pretty normal when I’m smiling, but when I give the camera my best sexy face, I end up looking like a serial killer. On the other hand, some girls look super hot when they’re being serious, but their smile brings them back down to normal-girl territory. Then there’s Oklahoma, who goes from smoldering sexy to bright, inviting smile like it’s easy. Whichever way you slice it, I like looking at her.

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1. Miss Florida, Mary Katherine Fechtel

Florida is the Beyonce of the Miss America Class of 2016. I don’t necessarily want to be besties with her because I’m self-aware enough to know I’m not on her level, but I want to be her. I bet she’s one of those girls who dresses up when she is sick because “when you look better, you feel better.” And you can’t get annoyed at her for never looking bad because she doesn’t even seem to try that hard. She’s the kind of girl who never does anything awkward, yet isn’t boring. Who is easy to get along with and never showy, while still the star of the room. Whose gorgeousness is unrelatable, but doesn’t make you bitter. Pageant Beyonce.

FLORIDA FTW. (Mary Katherine, sorry if you happen to read this and are weirded out that I put up so many pictures of you.)

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Case closed.

If 8 of these 10 make the cut during finals night—just like my list from last year—then I am never putting effort towards an educated guess ever again. For anything.

Also, please remember that—save New York—I know literally nothing about the girls on this list except for the 3-7 pictures I’ve seen of each of them.

[The 2016 Miss America Pageant airs Sunday, September 13th, at 9 p.m. EST on ABC]

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Hey, You! Be Proud.

Weather, without a doubt, affects my mood. This weekend was full of sunshine, and so was my soul. I wasn’t feeling great on Saturday, but even sickness couldn’t stop me from feeling the joy of falling asleep in my roommate’s hammock while reading Lena Dunham’s book (cue controversy) and staring at a squirrel eating a nut for 15 minutes straight. The sun must have healed my sickness—it is a burning ball of happiness and vitamin D, after all—because the next morning I woke up feeling like Princess Anna on Coronation Day. I went straight to the gym after springing out of bed, followed by a long afternoon of horseback riding and meeting a handsome but evil prince named Hans. It was glorious.

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With my newfound sense of optimism and the windows rolled down, Sam Hunt blasting on my drive to the barn where I ride [horses not cowboys], I began thinking about when I was Miss New York. Usually, when I think about being Miss New York, I view it as a very neat experience, but feel a slight twinge of embarrassment. I didn’t do anything outstanding to become Miss New York. I was not chosen based on my stage presence or killer interview or looks. I was not chosen at all. I was the default, handed the opportunity of a lifetime on a platter because I happened to be in the right place at the right time during the year that Miss America judges [finally] chose an edgy, game-changing New Yorker to become Miss America 2013. I often feel like I’m presenting myself to be something I’m not when I talk about my time as Miss New York, as though I accomplished some great feat by landing that title. People assume that a panel of distinguished judges picked me out of an incredibly good-looking, smart, and talented pool of contestants. But that’s not what happened. The closest I came to winning a state pageant was finishing in 4th place at Miss Virginia. In New York, I was 7th. I won talent almost every time I competed, which was great, but that was about it. (CLICK HERE for more on how I became Miss New York.)

In Pageant World, I was never the impressive or pretty one. (This will not come as a shock to anyone who has ever seen what I look like first thing in the morning or after a bottle and a half of red wine.) I’ve read comments on super awesome anonymous message boards saying I look like a horse or that people “just don’t get my appeal.” Honestly, that’s fair. People inevitably look like their pets, and I owned a horse growing up. I happen to think horses are really beautiful/adorable, though, so that comment didn’t really have the negative effect its author was going for. Beeeeeeeep. Please try again. All of this is just to say that I tend to dumb down the fact that I was Miss New York, along with other experiences or accomplishments in my life, because I think of myself as that person with a lot of potential who has never actually amounted to anything more than 4th, 7th, or 1,000th best.

Now do you see why I needed sunshine in my life so badly? The wambulance was too busy taking care of people who didn’t land any of the Lilly Pulitzer collection at Target to come pick me up.

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For some reason (sun), I was able to see Miss New York, this blog, my singing, heck—even my dating appeal—in a different light when driving to the barn yesterday, all the while trying to forget that I am a target for cops since my license plate tags have been expired since October. (Dad, I’m sorry for failing as an adult. It only took me being pulled over twice to order new ones. But I got out of the second ticket by showing the cop my first ticket! Little victories.) When I became Miss New York, I felt proud because A.) I had placed high enough among a group of women that included two future Miss Americas, a future Miss Connecticut, a future Miss International, a former Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, and–still possibly–additional Miss New Yorks, to even have the opportunity to take over the crown; and B.) I knew that my mom had gone to Heaven four months earlier and pulled strings to make it happen. She believed in me. And she wasn’t alone. So many people came out of the woodwork to say that they had always believed I would become a state titleholder someday. Random pageant moms. Facebook stalkers who said flattering words about “following my journey,” but who I still refused to friend (thank you and sorry). My cousins. The star of my high school football team who I kissed once during Thanksgiving break from college. A group of socially underdeveloped men who I once spoke to as a panelist for a dating seminar (the things I get roped into…). Sorority sisters a few years older than me. My puppy-eyed ex-boyfriend. It was a motley crew, but by golly, they had always believed in me!

Once I became Miss New York, many others boarded the Shannon train, as well. The little girls at school assemblies who said they wanted to be me when they grow up (may they never read this blog). My Business Manager who booked outrageously high profile and high-paying appearances by making people believe I was the second coming of Idina Menzel (Deana, you’re an angel on earth and a marketing genius). The fine people of Manhattan who baked delicious, assorted cheesecakes that I judged to raise money for AIDS research (I did this appearance for free, obviously, because why wouldn’t I). None of these people cared how I became Miss New York. All they cared about was that I had the sparkly goods to prove it, plus that I made them feel special, inspired, or—in my Business Manager’s case—like a licensed therapist making a real difference in the life of a somewhat emotional, at times scatterbrained, princess.

Memories of all of the love I felt, and still feel, from the people who saw me as the #1 Miss New York came flooding back to me on that breezy drive to ride horses in a class full of 11-year-olds. I became consumed by excitement to see what other curveballs and successes life will throw at my face or lay at my feet. I felt inspired to write for Generation grannY despite only being the 400,000th most popular blogger in the U.S., because to my dad and about six other people, I am the #1 most popular blogger in the U.S.  I felt motivated to go to the gym because even though my body will never look like Peta Murgatroyd’s, my future husband (identification still pending) and possibly my sleazy neighbor think I am Aphrodite cloaked in modern apparel. I felt focused on my future, where I might become Mindy Kaling’s best friend and write a book that becomes a movie of my life and then get famous enough to turn into a popstar who eventually morphs into the new Oprah, or perhaps where I write an e-book that a few hundred people read and their lives, hearts, and abs are better for it. And where maybe I’ll get some bar gigs to sing songs that put strangers in a great mood after a long day at work.

The moral of the story is to make sure that I am exposed to warm weather every 4-6 weeks. Also, that finding pride in your life is all about the lens through which you choose to view it. Especially for twenty or thirty-somethings, it’s easy to choose the self-deprecating “what will/have I actually ever accomplish(ed)” lens, but get your butt outside, feel the warmth on your face, and think: You are alive. You are like no one else. If you have shown love to even one other human being, then you have already done something to be proud of. Your inherent uniqueness combined with your experiences and accomplishments makes you extraordinary. Pair that with some hard work and positive lenses, and your future will hold even more to smile about on sunny afternoon drives. Maybe even on sleety, dark, winter afternoon drives, too. (That might be overshooting.)

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Bikini Talk: Exposing More Than Skin

I was honored to write a guest blog for Kandice Pelletier Swimwear, the official swimwear sponsor of Miss USA 2014. In the post titled Exposing More Than Skin, I explain how donning a bikini reveals more than just physical appearance. Click on the link below to read!

http://www.kandicepelletier.com/blog/2014/10/2/guest-blog-exposing-more-than-skin

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In my Kandice Pelletier swimsuit at Miss New York 2012!

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Miss America 2015: Kira-sistible

I’m going to make this short and sweet because, let’s be honest, Sunday is a school night for this granny and it’s already past midnight.

In case you were watching football instead of Miss America tonight, let me fill you in: Miss New York won for the third year in a row. According to Facebook, people right now feel all the feels. So. Many. Feelings.

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I’ve read some really nasty comments about Kira Kazantsev winning Miss America this evening. I’ve also read a lot of wonderful things, however am having a really hard time not letting the negativity overshadow the excitement. It’s taking everything in my power to not call folks out by name on my blog at the moment, because I am sorely disappointed in the lack of class I’ve seen on social media. I want to let these sourpusses know that in no circumstance is it okay to bash a young woman- particularly one that you don’t know. I’m glad everyone has opinions. That in itself is fine. Actually, opinions are great. Otherwise, who would watch the pageant? But put on your big kid pants and try to remember that these women are humans who are defined by far more than a bikini and plastic cup (named Wilson, in case anyone wanted to know).

Let me tell you a few things about Kira. She has been in Atlantic City with the other 52 contestants for the last two weeks. Many of you know that two weeks ago was the two year anniversary of my mother’s passing. Kira took the time out of her crazy-busy schedule at Miss America to send me random texts saying “I love you!” and “I just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you.” During a period of time that was about her dreams and her success and her experience, she made an effort to make me feel loved and comforted. That’s something special. kira3Rewinding 1.5 years, I’ll never forget when she competed in her first local pageant in the Miss America Organization, because it was during my first week as Miss New York. She shone so darn bright on that stage and was so refreshingly non-pageanty that everyone held the phone and asked where she came from. Through laughter after winning, she requested a lesson from me on how to put on the crown since she had never worn one before (wait, wearing a crown isn’t normal? What?). Her ability to laugh at herself fumbling with the crown made me fall in love with her on that very first night. Such a goof. But besides the fact that she’s down-to-earth and thoughtful, Kira is absolutely brilliant. She speaks fluent Russian and Spanish, graduated as a triple major, and was accepted into some of the most competitive law schools in the country. On top of that, she has overcome tremendous struggles that I won’t share here, but are the motivation for her platform, “Love Shouldn’t Hurt”- raising awareness for domestic violence. This girl is a good human. Someone worthy of being a role model.

But you’re angry that she sang while using a plastic cup as percussion?

Because that matters so much. Right.

Keep in mind that this is coming from someone who takes talent very seriously. Talent is my jam. I won talent in both Virginia and New York when I competed. I sang professionally for a year. I’ve taken voice lessons since I was nine. I know what I’m doing. But I’m not offended that someone whose strength wasn’t talent won Miss America. I still think talent is an important part of the competition, but Kira was engaging, personable, and didn’t try to scream out a song that she wasn’t capable of singing. She knew her voice and used it in a way that was reflective of her overall appeal. I applaud that. Plus I really loved the nod to Anna Kendrick and Pitch Perfect (for those of you who live under a rock, that movie inspired Kira’s cup action- she didn’t get the idea from the cafeteria table in third grade). Even if you don’t agree with my assessment, why do you think it is okay to put her down? The argument people love to make is “she put herself in the spotlight to be ridiculed.” Um. Nope. Not why she competed at Miss America. She put herself in the spotlight so that she could have a platform to make a real difference in this crazy world and maybe meet Beyonce (I mean…). And even IF Kira held up a big sign that said, “I’d like you to ridicule me, please!”- what kind of person does that make you if you have the desire to do that? Take a Xanax or chug some wine or maybe both and just go to a corner and stay there.

Okay, so the cup thing was an issue. Addressed that. The other issue was people saying she isn’t pretty enough. Part of me doesn’t even want to tackle the ridiculousness of these statements because I just…can’t. For lack of better words. I simply cannot. Kira is probably top 5 hottest girls I know, which really says something, because I know a LOT of hot girls. Does that sound weird? Yes it does, but it’s true. Thanks to the Miss America Organization, my girlfriends are really easy on the eyes. Said it. Anyways, how does someone get the honor of being on my personal list of top 5 hotties? Well, first of all, they have to be really gorgeous. Kira: √. Second, they have to carry themselves with a confidence that makes every head turn. Kira: √. Third, they must dress in a way that only 1 out of 1,000,000 can pull off. Kira: √. I’m allowed to be shallow here because, remember, we are addressing the fact that people have attacked her physical appearance. Miss America is a beauty pageant  scholarship program where the girls are, yes, judged on how they look, but I didn’t see anyone on that stage- Kira included- who wouldn’t get a thumbs up on the thumbs up/thumbs down test. Don’t know that test? Ask your boyfriend. He knows.

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A picture from the night Kira won her first ever local pageant in the Miss America Organization! Oh and that other hot blonde I’m sandwiched between? That would be the current Miss CT, Acacia Courtney, who also rocked it as a semi-finalist this evening.

I hope most of you are sleeping off all of your feelings by now, but let this post remind you that you don’t know the hearts and minds of anyone you see on television. Whether a celebrity or a pageant girl, you have no right to tear people down- especially those who are using their time in the limelight for greater good. If you’re a pageant girl who was saying negative things about Kira, I’m even more disappointed. More than anyone, you should be able to imagine how it’d feel to be in her platform heels shoes. Let’s pull it together, everyone, and be happy for this woman who I can personally confirm is a gem of a being.

I kind of want to end with a sassy “HAH! Even if you don’t like her, she is Miss America and you’re not nanananabooboo,” but that just doesn’t seem classy and is maybe even hypocritical, so I’ll end by saying congrats, Kira! Your heart obviously won the judges over in your private interview, you rocked it onstage, and you stayed authentic the whole time. Those are accomplishments no one can ever take away from you! Way to make history with the threepeat and I’m beyond excited to watch you take over the world this year! You are simply Kira-sistible.

BTdubs, eight of my predicted 10 (<– click) made the first cut. Just saying.

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Okay, I’m typing things like “BTdubs.” I should go to bed. Night.

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Miss America 2015 Predictions

OMG everybody grab your Modlash 33s, Jergens Natural Glow, and favorite pair of nude pumps. It’s Miss America week!

Honestly, how has no one come up with an awesome way to make a hit reality show out of Miss America? For years, TLC, ABC, or whatever network Miss America ping pongs onto has tried and failed to come up with an entertaining way to promote the pageant with a four-episode series leading up to the big shabang. THIS SHOULD BE EASY. My personal idea is to have former Miss Americas/Miss States do something of a Drunk History (<–click), where they crack open a bottle or three of wine and tell stories from their glory days, with professional reenactments coinciding with their narrations. I personally know plentyyyy of formers who would happily partake in a clean-ish version. Somebody please forward this idea onto ABC execs. If they can convince Comedy Central to let them do this spin off, I guarantee it’d get huge ratings…plus it’d be a much needed departure from pageant reality shows revolving around the dried up stereotype of catty crown chasers or scary little girls with veneers.

Stop clutching your pearls. You know it’d be hilarious.

But since we’re currently stuck with no form of entertainment surrounding the pageant except for updates on the Miss America Facebook page, I’ll go ahead and use the small amount of information I have to give you my prediction of this year’s Top 10 (Miss America airs on Sunday, 9/14, at 9 p.m. EST).

Not to brag about my amazing talents, but I can say all the states in alphabetical order in one breath, which came in handy when making this list. Keep your eyes peeled for these chicas:

1. Miss Alabama, Caitlin Brunell

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Any guys out there recognize her last name? Do any guys read my blog? Dad? *crickets* Caitlin’s dad is former NFL quarterback, Mark Brunell. What does that have to do with her chances at Miss America? Well, besides the fact that she’s been raised to be well-groomed and educated, not that much. Still, it’s worth mentioning since we all need a little sports news in our lives other than the Ray Rice scandal. But back to Caitlin. I’ve seen this girl in person and she’s pretty darn breathtaking on stage. I also love the fact that her talent is dancing to Frozen’s “Let it Go.” She clearly knows that the only people watching Miss America are gay men and little girls in tiaras. KIDDING. Kind of. In all seriousness, everyone I’ve talked to says she’s a sweetheart and incredibly personable. Add in the fact that she has legs for days and a long-standing personal platform (<–click), I think we’ve got ourselves a finalist. Plus she’s a Phi Mu! LIOB ❤

2. Miss Connecticut, Acacia Courtney

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I’m not going to pretend that I’m not slightly biased, considering I lived with Acacia (uh-kay-shuh) for a week when we were roommates at Miss New York 2012 (she goes to school in NYC, but lives in CT, which makes her eligible in both states- for all of you with confused looks on your faces right now). Speaking from personal experience with helping her change in our hotel room, this girl’s swimsuit body is on POINT. Inappropriate? Sorry? While we’re on her looks, I should mention that she is the girl targeted in One Direction’s hit “What Makes You Beautiful” and Sammy Kershaw’s tune “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful.” Pick your genre. And age. See flow chart. What I’m saying is that Acacia happens to be an amazon goddess, yet somehow remains the most humble and loving creature on the planet. It’s almost unfair. On top of that, she’s a brilliant speaker and a trained ballerina princess. I expect her to be a top contender.

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CLICK CHART TO ENGLARGE

3. Miss Florida, Victoria Cowen

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Let me catch you up to speed. A gorgeous girl by the name of Elizabeth Fechtel was crowned Miss Florida a few months ago. One week later, officials announced that they’d crowned the wrong girl. Gasp! Victoria was the rightful queen and took her place upon the throne. Elizabeth was stripped of her title and sent back to work in the fields among the peasants. Wait, sorry, that was a bit dramatic. Elizabeth graciously stepped down (the dethroned Miss DE could’ve learned a thing or two from her…just trying to help you out, girl) and Victoria assumed the responsibilities of Miss Florida 2014. I don’t know much about Victoria, but trustworthy sources say that Elizabeth is a pageant force like no other. If Tori (Facebook indicates that’s what Victoria likes to be called…not even sorry for being creepy) finished above Elizabeth, something tells me she’s one to watch. I also see her hugging my girl Miss New York in a lot of pictures, so I consider us friends by association.

4. Miss Georgia, Maggie Bridges

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You guys. I have such a girl crush. It all started when I saw her take part in Pageant World’s play on Jimmy Kimmel’s segment called “Mean Tweets.” During Mean Tweets, Jimmy Kimmel has celebrities read aloud the mean things that people tweet about them. Pageant World’s version had pageant girls read mean things that people wrote about them on anonymous message boards (Voy boards). I’m SO MAD I didn’t think of that idea before Pageant World, because it really is brilliant. What better way to make those cyber bullies feel like idiots? Anyways, Maggie was in the video, so I already know she has an awesome sense of humor and is super confident. Check and check. She also really stood out in a video I watched of all the contestants introducing themselves on stage during their arrival ceremony in Atlantic City last week. In an effort to be well-informed while creating this list for you all, yes, I spent 20 minutes of my life watching a video of all 53 girls saying their names into a microphone. You’re welcome. A lot can be determined about a person’s presence in a simple introduction, so I expect great things in the interview room. Oh, by the way, Maggie studies business and biochemistry. SOLD.

5. Miss Iowa, Aly Olson

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Usually, the down-home state of Iowa doesn’t get much attention in the good ole U.S. of A. But lately, it’s been shining bright like a diamond. I mean, hello, Farmer Chris is even from Iowa. Oh, you don’t know who Farmer Chris is? Read this (<–click). I like Aly because she seems really natural, well-spoken, and legitimately talented. I’ve watched a few interviews of her on local T.V. stations and she always seems laid back and authentic. She also has this indescribable spark in her eye that tells me she’s in this thing to win it. I’ve always been told that no girl wins Miss America unless she truly believes it’s hers to lose, and something tells me this ginger is expecting big things from herself. I like that. You go, gingey!

6. Miss Louisiana, Lacey Sanchez

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Not to be shallow, but Pantene Pro V needs to call this girl STAT and use her locks in a whimsical commercial. Obviously, good hair isn’t the key to winning Miss America, but it sure won’t hurt. Lacey has big hair for being such a little nugget, though her lack of height seems to have helped her in preparing for swimsuit, because it’s pretty clear she couldn’t reach the cookies on the top shelf. I want her arms. She won both the fitness and talent portions of the Miss Louisiana pageant, so I expect a solid performance across the board. Speaking of the board, the Voy board has torn this girl apart for her eyebrows. Let that sink in. Random people across the nation are sitting behind their computers and critiquing a stranger’s eyebrows with such passion that you’d think Lacey’s last name was Peterson. Just for that, I hope this girl makes the cut at Miss America so that all of the eyebrow activists across our great nation can be defeated.

7. Miss Mississippi, Jasmine Murray

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Back when American Idol was still relevant (btw, Carrie Underwood is pregnant!!), Jasmine was a finalist on the season with Adam Lambert. I think she was like, 12, at the time because that feels like forever ago, yet somehow she is still eligible to be Miss America. Nonetheless, this beauty sure knows how to capture the attention of a panel of judges. Obviously, she can sing- plus she’s abnormally gorgeous. I’ll be honest in that it’s hard to gather much about her personality from videos I’ve seen, but I just get this hunch that the judges will be captivated by her. Anyone who’s read my blog knows that Professor Trelawney and I have a lot in common, so I think it’s safe to trust in my divine instincts. Or is it..?

8. Miss New York, Kira Kazantsev

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Accurately described by my peeps in New York as a unicorn, Kira is a rare and mystical being. She’s that untouchable girl who dresses like every day is a stroll down the runway at NYFW, but then talks to you like you’re best friends and makes you forget that she’s wearing skin tight red metallic pants. How she simultaneously completed three majors, got into law school, and owned NYC’s social scene like her name was Olivia Polermo is beyond me. Impressive doesn’t really cover it. Kira is cool yet vibrant, edgy yet chic, and relatable yet brilliant. It’s funny to see pageant fussbudgets freak out over her clothing choices, because she dresses like a true fashion girl should- fearlessly, unapologetically, and en trend. Think Carrie Bradshaw. If the judges are looking for a Miss America who can hang with celebs on the red carpet, then turn around and talk to politicians and news anchors without missing a beat, Kira’s your girl. Her talent is totally unprecedented- she channels Anna Kendrick and uses a solo cup for percussion as she sings. Her interview is a knock out- the girl exudes pure intelligence. Her body is sick- she walks in her swimsuit onstage like it’s a completely normal activity. Call me biased since, like CT, I know Kira personally, but I’ll be shocked if the judges don’t fall in love.

9. Oklahoma, Alex Eppler

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As people say in the pageant world, it’s Oklahoma. There’s something in the water down there. Miss Oklahoma always shows up at Miss America ready to win. Alex is statuesque, mature, and incredibly well put together. I know that description doesn’t sound wildly exciting after my fan girl report of Miss New York, but trust me- it’s something to be commended. I can see this girl sitting on the Miss America throne of the 1950s as a timeless beauty who oozes class. She seems like an old soul, which might be the ticket to standing out among a group of energetic, overly enthusiastic coeds.

10. Miss Virginia, Courtney Garrett

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I haven’t spent much time with Courtney, but we competed together years ago at Miss Virginia (her first year and my last in VA). I remember standing behind her in swimsuit and marveling at the force field surrounding her body that defied the laws of gravity. Unfortunately, I was not so lucky to have such a force field holding up my derriere, so marching onto the stage in her tracks wasn’t my favorite moment. Courtney is more than just a walking mystery of physics, though. Her brother has cerebral palsy, so Courtney is an incredible activist and spokesperson for people with physical disabilities. Nothing she does feels exploitative for her personal gain, which can often be the case with pageant platforms (not trying to put anyone down…but we can all admit when a hospital photo seems contrived). With a heart of gold and consistency in all areas of competition, she’ll probably be the judges pick for the All-American sweetheart.

Hope everyone tunes in this Sunday night to see how well my list holds up! Happy pageanting.

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Do I Know You?

I wonder what it would be like to be Britney Spears.

She’s quite the legend, equally known for being the biggest female pop icon of the century (more so than Madonna? Maybe?) and for shaving her head bald during a mental breakdown. That little display was enough to challenge even Olivia Pope’s PR skills, but here we are seven years out of the crazy hole and Brit Brit is the ultimate comeback kid. Whoever the real life Oliva Pope is- if you’re out there reading this- I commend you. We all commend you.

The extent of my knowledge about Britney includes what I just wrote, along with any facts I learned on her E! True Hollywood Story. Oh, and my ex-boyfriend used to work at a hotel where she stayed and said that she didn’t leave her room in the best condition. She also requested an extra microwave so that she and her possy could heat up their frozen meals simultaneously (at least I assume that is the reason one needs an extra microwave). I’m not going to hate her for that. Can’t say I’ve never been impatient while waiting my turn for the microwave.

I call her by her first name, can tell you about that time she got married in Vegas, and might even feel like I’m in the room with her during televised interviews, but I actually know more about how my roommate’s skittish cat thinks than I do about the inner workings of Britney Spears’ mind. I don’t know the real reason she shaved her head or who her closest friends are or what her favorite Lean Cuisine meal is (again, assuming she eats them because of the microwave thing). I have no idea what she regrets, who broke her heart, or what she thinks about when she’s falling asleep.

Britney Spears is an extreme example of something we all experience. People think that they know you because they follow you on Instagram or heard a story about you from a friend’s ex-boyfriend’s new fling’s coworker. This is flattering and all (or maybe terribly unflattering depending on your life choices), but let’s keep a tighter grasp on reality, shall we? On a regular basis, I bump into a total stranger who gives me a giant hug and gushes “It’s soooo good to see you!” Where am I. How do I know this person. P Sherman 42 Wallaby Way Sydney. Bingo. Fabio. Elmo. Nemo?

I’m not saying that I’m super popular or anything. That would be false- just ask the fine folks on my high school prom court or anyone from my freshman year hall. Actually, don’t ask anyone on my freshman hall because I’m pretty sure none of them would recognize my name…unless you mention that I was the girl who had a “no cussing” sign taped above her mirror, strictly wore oversized sweatpants, and hoarded oreo pie from the dining hall. I wasn’t exactly a social butterfly. What was I saying? Right. Although all of us have had strangers exclaim, “Hey! I know you,” I must say that the stranger-hug thing became a much more prevalent part of my life post Miss New York. I’m sure the same goes for anyone who has taken part in a somewhat public activity.

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When people think we know each other because they saw me give a speech, heard my name mentioned as “the girl who went to CNU and then became Miss New York,” or simply because they’re pageant fans (which do, in fact, exist), I don’t get annoyed or proud or feel much of anything. Mostly I think it’s kind of funny as I smile and pretend like we’re old friends (once I move past the initial Dory moment of wondering how I’m supposed to know them). On occasion, however, someone will say, “Oh my gosh! What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be off being famous or something?” These scenarios tend to take place in a bar, so I immediately feel a mixture of amusement and embarrassment. Um, nope. I’m just your average 26-year-old trying not to make poor choices. I appreciate the assumption that I have my life all figured out because I guess that means I don’t appear to be in shambles, but we’re dealing with some major life misrepresentations to those who only see me as a former Miss New York.

I’m not going to write a laundry list of things that make my life a little bit of a shambly mess because A) That’s super depressing and B) They’re mostly first-world problems, however the above comments have really set my wheels spinning. On a much smaller scale than Britney Spears (I don’t mean to compare a house cat to a lion…not sure why I keep referring to cats in this post), people who only know me from a distance think they have an idea of who I am. Maybe they have an overly positive view of me, or perhaps they think I’m a stereotypical dumb, catty beauty queen. Who knows? This uncertainty of who people have made me out to be in their heads makes me reevaluate my own perception of people I only know through social or mainstream media. This covers everyone from my best friend’s ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend to Britney Spears. Just because I recognize their faces and know a few facts about their lives doesn’t mean I actually know them at all.

I started thinking about this concept of recognizing someone vs. legitimately knowing them a few weeks ago and have decided that it’s time to wipe my brain clean of opinions I have about people I don’t know. Very few things presented to us in packaged interviews or filtered photographs are reality. Even second hand stories give a one-dimensional impression of a person rather than an all-encompassing understanding of who they really are. In certain circumstances, I’ll take my friends’ warnings or endorsements to heart, but as a whole, I think it’s time we all start forming opinions based on organic, personal interaction. Don’t you think?

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More Than One Healthy Body: Former Pageant Queens Weigh In

People talk a lot about health, weight, and how the two correspond. The general consensus seems to be that “healthy” does not look the same on every body type. Agreed. But what if each body type- each individual- doesn’t have one weight or look that reflects personal health? Can the same person be equally healthy at 125lbs and 150lbs? Can we be just as healthy with normal, flat-ish stomachs rather than six packs…even if our bodies are proven to be capable of the latter?

Men and women alike look to the cover of Fitness Magazine or at their marathon-running friends for proof that their bodies are unhealthy or unattractive. These harmful body-to-body comparisons are constantly critiqued and analyzed by talk shows and blogs and Facebook statuses and “real” celebrities. But what about the comparisons we all make with our past selves? Most of us were at an “ideal” weight at one time in our lives. We have pictures that we look back upon with a sense of anxiety…Why don’t I look like that anymore??? That’s my body’s happy weight. That’s when my arms were toned and healthy. I’m ready for the underexposed discussion about the battle many of us face- the one where we use ourselves as the weapon.

Before becoming Miss New York 2012, I competed in my fair share of pageants within the Miss America Organization. This means I spent years getting into fighting shape for the swimsuit portion of pageants. I cannot speak for every woman in pageants, but for me, I was healthy as a horse for swimsuit. Sure, I was really thin, but I was in great shape thanks to hours in the gym. I ate mostly protein and veggies, but didn’t deprive myself of every little thing. At the end of the day, I rocked that bikini like I was Alessandra Ambrosio (okay, maybe only in my head…).

Surprise, surprise- my body does not look like that anymore. I still eat relatively healthily and go to the gym 3-4 days a week (rather than 6-7), but am a size 4 instead of a size 0-2. Sometimes I catch myself looking at pictures, thinking “I am not as healthy as I used to be. I have got to get my pageant bod back.” HOW RIDICULOUS.  My doctor says I am currently the epitome of health. Funny thing, though…he told me the same thing when I was in pageant shape. You see, muscles are healthy, but so are hips and boobs. Guess what boobs are made of? Not muscle. Just saying.

health blog Shannon

L: Associate at a strategy and management consulting firm/Aspiring Writer; R: Miss Virginia 2011 Competition(I don’t have a full length picture of when I competed for Miss New York…womp)
L Work Out: 3-4 days a week/30-45 mins
R Work Out: 6-7 days a week/1-1.5 hours
My take on health: I’ve gone through stages of not working out for X or Y excuse, but found that I felt constantly tired and spent way too much time stressing about my looks. Eating healthily and hitting the gym even just a few days a week takes about 2-3 hours of my time each week, which is an amazing trade for the countless hours I spent feeling lethargic and insecure. Health is objectively seen in your body, but it’s also about subjectively how you feel…and hopefully, those things align!

I’m not telling anyone that gaining bunches of weight isn’t a health problem. I’m talking to the crowd who still works out regularly and doesn’t eat like they’re Michael Phelps. To those folks, keep in mind that you don’t need a booty that can bounce a penny in order to be fit! Your body can display more than one representation of happy and healthy. With basic maintenance and balance, post-pageant (or baby or career) bodies are just as desirable and healthy as the pre-[fill in the blank] bodies!

My friends are great examples…my friends being Miss America 2013, Miss America 2010, Miss Virginia 2010, and Miss Virginia 2011 (does this count as name-dropping?). These women were incredibly beautiful and healthy on the Miss America stage, but are still incredibly beautiful and healthy today. Most of them are like me, however, owning their health in bodies that don’t look the exact same as they did when they were focused on competing in a swimsuit (though they still look pretty darn fantastic). They did not starve themselves or take unhealthy measures to reach that competition physique (self-control and deprivation are different beasts), plus they continue to treat their bodies with respect in their new daily routines that don’t revolve around bikini-wear. The only difference in their health is that they may look slightly different. And you know what? That’s okay.

The women below are 10-25lbs heavier than their lowest pageant weights. They are brave and proud and strong to bare their health in honesty while facing a culture full of critics! May any reader bear that in mind (though I’m sure most of you will agree that they look fantastic in both bodies).

Mallory Hytes Hagan, Miss America 2013

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L: Newly signed talent to William Morris Endeavors with the hopes of becoming an Entertainment Host

R: Miss America 2013 competition

L Work Out: Weight Training 4 days a week (approx 45 min); Cardio twice a week (20-30 mins)

R Work Out: Alternated Weight Training (45 min) and Cardio (45 min) every other day; Tap Dancing (1 hour) three days a week, Bikram Yoga (1.5 hours) three days a week

Mallory’s take on health: I truly believe that health cannot be measured with the eyes. Health is a combination of consistently choosing nutritious food, maintaining an active lifestyle, being spiritually fulfilled, being connected and engaged with your friends and loved ones but, most of all, enjoying your life. While competing in swim suit, I may have been overjoyed with how amazing my body looked, but I never felt as though I was “living.” As I’ve been quoted before, “sometimes you just want potatoes!” I’ll take a glass of champagne, an occasional piece of bread and even delicious dessert every once in a while over the “perfect” body. Why? Because that’s what makes me HAPPY! To heck with the rest of it.

Caressa Cameron Jackson, Miss America 2010

health blog Caressa

L: Director of Client and Community Engagement at FAHASS an HIV/AIDS non-profit in Virginia

R: Miss America 2010 Competition

L Work Out: 2 days a week, mixing workout tapes with gym time

RWork Out: 6 days a week with strict diet plan

Caressa’s take on health: Being mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy is critically important as a young woman. Finding the time to nurture all of those areas amidst our ambition, careers, school, volunteering, friendships and families can often be hard. The most important thing is to find the space where YOU are happy with you and not allowing society to dictate what you SHOULD look like. Side note: My husband loves my curves.

Elizabeth Crot, Miss Virginia 2011/Top 15 at Miss America 2012

health blog elizabeth

L: Nanny and aspiring singer/actress in NYC

R: Miss America 2012 Competition

L Work Out: 1-3 days at gym doing mostly body weight workouts, yoga, and a ton of walking in the city (yes, that’s a workout)

R Work Out: 5-6 days a week and very plain food

Elizabeth’s take on health: I grew up with a southern cook for a mother so nutrition and organics were kind of foreign until recently. I’ve found that what you put into your body has the most impact on how you look, and I’ve been experimenting with healthy cooking. I use garlic in everything!

Katie Uze, Miss Virginia 2010/Top 10 at Miss America 2011

health blog Katie

L: Associate Producer for CSPAN/Student at Harvard University

R: Miss Virginia 2010 Competition

L Work Out: 3-4 days a week (workout DVDs and gym)/30min-1 hour

R Work Out: 6 days a week/1-2 hours

Katie’s take on health: Healthy isn’t about a number- it’s about having a body that that is strong and capable of carrying us through life. We should celebrate our bodies for all they do for us daily rather than punish them for the small superficial ways we feel they don’t live up to society’s unrealistic ideals. We are so much more than a shell, so much deeper than we appear. There are so many more valuable ways to judge a person and so many truer measures of a woman than her waistline or dress size. Respect your body as a vehicle to take you where you want to go in life, and remember that true beauty is demonstrated through the way in which we live our lives.

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Speechless: Miss New York 2012

Not often am I speechless. Don’t get me wrong, over the years I have learned to hold my tongue when my older brother pokes fun at me in front of his good-looking friends and have discovered the beauty of a text that can be sent in one single message (pre-iPhone, of course), but communicating my emotions- both good and bad- has never been an issue for me. Then a funny thing happened on Saturday night, January 12, 2013.

I lost my words.

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Aileen and I watching the Miss America Pageant

I was sitting in an apartment in Harlem with six strangers and one friend while watching the Miss America Pageant. These seven people were college friends with Laura Kaeppeler (Miss America 2012) and wanted to watch Laura pass on her title to this year’s winner. I had met Aileen, the one of the seven that I knew, during a master class with casting director Bob Cline last November. Never one to have shame in inviting myself places, I asked Aileen if I could join her “Miss America viewing party” since my plans had fallen through. So, here I was, surrounded by mostly strangers, rooting on Mallory, Miss New York 2012 (one of my very close friends) and chowing down on a lot of baked brie. Mal and I met through the Miss America Organization- originally while singing…erm rapping…karaoke with a few mutual pageant friends in the fall of 2011. We then competed together in our local and eventually at Miss New York. Spoiler alert: she won. Anyways, since her reign as Miss New York, Mallory and I have continued to build our friendship. She was even the first person I saw in New York after my mom’s passing, when she gave me a build-a-bear from all of the Miss New York girls, as well as a Fresh Direct gift card for groceries (because, as we know, nothing cheers up a pageant girl like food).

Being that she’s such a gem, I was sitting on that couch in Harlem absolutely jumping out of my skin each time Mallory advanced in the competition. By the time she was standing as one of the final two, holding Miss South Carolina’s hands, I was curled up in a little ball on the couch, my knees tucked to my face (wheat thin crumbs on my lips and plastic tiara on my head) with six people who didn’t know me eyeing me as I prepared to explode. Miss America 2013 is…..MISS NEW YORK, MALLORY HAGAN!!!

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Mallory and me

And then it happened. My words were gone. I couldn’t say “She did it!!” No, I could not even muster an “Oh my gosh!!” Instead, what can only be described as a banshee scream came pouring out of my mouth. Honestly, it sounded as though I had just witnessed murder. My voice teacher would have had a fit on account of my vocal chords as this terrible noise erupted from my throat for what must have been at least 15 full seconds. Eventually I stopped screaming when I realized that the neighbors of this stranger’s apartment might call the police. Still, no words came for at least a few minutes as I made smaller, shorter shrieks while Mallory walked down the runway as Miss America.

Never once in that moment of mental collapse which resulted in my discovery that I have the chops to possibly star in the next exorcist movie did I think, “Oh cool! Now I’ll be Miss New York!” I was not even in the Top 5 in the Miss New York Pageant. As a matter of fact, I’ve been very open about the fact that due to my mom’s illness, I was so unfocused at last year’s pageant that I was shocked to find myself in the Top 10. Consequently, when a couple of people this past week exclaimed, “Shannon! Maybe you’ll take Mallory’s title!”, I looked at them as though they had just suggested that in a week from now I’d be on the moon. Crazy-talk.

Well, crazy-talkers, you win. Here I sit, the new Miss New York 2012. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it since, in my mind, Mallory will always be Miss New York 2012. Still, last night I sat around a dinner table with Mallory herself, Claire Buffie (Miss NY 2010 and another dear friend of mine), Teresa Scanlan (Miss America 2011), and Gina Valo (Miss Michigan 2007, who took over when Kirstin Haglund won Miss America), realizing that I was now part of this state-titleholder sisterhood. I took a picture with Claire and Mallory, and Claire said, “Three Miss New Yorks in one picture!” I think that’s when it hit me. I may have acquired this title a totally backwards way, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. I certainly think of Gina as a former Miss Michigan and my friend Chinah as a former Miss Virginia (she took over when Caressa Cameron won Miss America 2010), so I guess that means that I’m just as much Miss New York as they were their states! I’m trying to say that with certainty, but I’m not sure I’m nailing it yet…

No matter how I got here, I couldn’t be more grateful. I don’t say the word “blessed” very often, not because I don’t believe in God, but because I have a hard time deciphering what it means/implies. Those of you with a strong faith, I know that sounds weird, but I won’t take the time to explain it now. Somehow, though, in this situation, “blessed” is the very way I feel, because deep down, I know that my mom had something to do with this. Come on, what are the odds? Let’s take a look:

In my last year of eligibility in the MAO, I moved from Virginia to New York. My mom was diagnosed with cancer seven days before my local. Three months later, I made Top 10 in Miss New York (the last time my mom ever saw me on stage). Two and a half months later, she passed away, one of the last things she said to me being how glad she was that I did Miss New York because it gave her a chance to spend time with the whole family and to see me sing. Four months later, Mallory wins Miss America (the first Miss NY in nearly 30 years to do so) and all of the girls who placed above me pass on the title until finally, on a crowded bus, I receive an email asking me to become the new Miss New York.

How can I not believe that my mom went to heaven and pulled a couple strings to make my dream come true during what has been the hardest time of my life? This minor miracle of becoming Miss New York is precious proof that she is still with me, still my biggest fan. I know she would be jumping up and down, washing away all of my nerves about accepting this title (do I even look like Miss New York?? Last year’s Miss New York, Kaitlin Monte, was recognized by Governor Cuomo for her work against bullying…who am I??), and motivating me to go out there and just give these next six months my all. Who cares that I had put my pageant days far behind me? I am no less capable now than I was when I was eating chicken and broccoli, size 2, and preparing for the pageant seven months ago. All I have to do is shift my mindset and prepare for what is to come! I like knowing that she’d say those things, because I cling to them fervently as I begin this new adventure.

Now that I’ve written a short novel, I would like to wrap up by saying THANK YOU to everyone who has reacted with such support and excitement. I’ve said it on this blog before, and I’ll say it again, I don’t want to be anyone but me. The friends and family I get to call my own make me incredibly happy on a daily basis, whether I’m goofy Shannon who is trying to make it on Broadway along with five million other people, or I’m the reigning Miss New York. So much has happened in one short year, but with the highs and the lows, I think I’m pretty darn lucky feel so loved through it all.

One last thing: AHHHHH!!!!!!! I’M MISS NEW YORK!!!!!

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The Truth About Beauty Pageants

Recently, I was at a house party and a friend of a friend I’d just met said, “So, maybe this is a rude question, but you do, like, beauty pageants, right?” First of all, you clearly know that I do pageants, so stop acting like you haven’t already stalked me on Facebook. Secondly, no, that’s not a rude question if you don’t ask it like I’m known for dropping stink bombs in the middle of church. I will admit that I don’t make a big to-do about my participation in pageants because of the stigma attached, but I do get offended when other people talk about them with the air of disapproval. It’s kind of like talking about your mom or sibling- you can complain all you want, but God help the person who tries to do the same. She really has no idea what she’s talking about.

 With the Miss Universe Pageant making headlines this past week, I found myself getting furious as I read the derogatory remarks about the women involved in pageants…the same vulgar comments that have been made for the past twenty years. Seriously, extreme “feminists,” either find a new angle or go away. To me, their comments about these women being “dumb” and “parading themselvespageant1 around like pieces of meat” are rude, belittling, and contradictory to what feminists supposedly stand for. These writers claim to believe in the power of women to strive for any dream they want- be it lawyers, doctors, politicians, ANYTHING. Well, something I desire to be is a woman with a voice. A woman little girls will listen to. A woman who lives her life in a healthy, ethical, and challenging way. A woman who isn’t afraid to be feminine and confident. A WOMAN. I don’t need to be in a business suit and bossing people around to project “girl power.” Frankly, I respect the differences between men and women and find no need to completely eradicate gender codes. Sure, it’s a woman’s prerogative to become CEO of a company or President of the United States, but it’s also her prerogative to become Miss America, Miss USA, or Miss Universe. If feminism is giving women the right to chase any dream they desire, free of criticism or oppression, then why criticize and oppress women who dream of winning a pageant?

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Give me a 10 or a 2- I felt great.

I understand why the swimsuit competition makes some people upset. And I won’t play stupid and say that some girls don’t go overboard. However, I’ve done it. I’ve put on my bikini and four inch heels and marched myself across a stage, allowing seven judges to look for my flaws and give my not-perfectly-toned butt a number. But you know what? I’ve never been more motivated to get in the best shape of my life. I was healthy, thin, and proud of the body I’d worked so very hard for. The way I see it, the swimsuit competition is a reflection of how hard you will work for a goal. No, it is not easy or natural to be fit and thin (at least for most people), but what’s so wrong with working out and making it happen? I handled a ten minute intellectually demanding interview of firing squad questions regarding the political arena, my personal platform (diversity awareness), and controversial social issues. I practiced and perfected my talent of opera singing that taught me discipline and dedication throughout my entire childhood. I indulged in my sexiness and femininity to exude poise in an evening gown that represented the class and confidence all of my “pageant preparation” had extracted from within me. Thirty seconds in a swimsuit was not going to keep me from my dream job of traveling the state and promoting my platform. And, let’s be honest, the only reason someone doesn’t want to get in a swimsuit on a stage is because they don’t like the way they look (argue all you want, but it’s true). If you love your body- whether you’re a size 2 or a 14- why wouldn’t you be okay with other people looking at it in a controlled, non-sexual setting? The girls who go on stage in those swimsuits are the ones truly promoting what it means to be unwaveringly confident in your body- not promoting the opposite. I mean, I certainly did not get a perfect 10. But I’m okay with that because I was happy with how I looked. That’s what it’s all about- being YOUR best and recognizing that if you believe you are a 10, who cares if you’re holding a trophy at the end of the night?

The fact that people feel better about themselves when putting down “pretty pageant girls” is sickening. Unless you know each individual girl, who are you to judge what that woman is like? I only have experience in the Miss America Organization, which is scholarship-based rather than modeling (Miss USA/Universe is owned by Trump and does not include talent or scholastic aspects), but I can say with no hesitation that women who compete in pageants are no more self-absorbed or worse examples than anyone else in this world. As a matter of fact, the girls I know through pageants are less self-absorbed than most other girls our age and the best examples of successful, driven women I’ve ever encountered. You can make fun of the good girls doing community service with their big white smiles, but when was the last time you visited a hospital to play with the kids or raised awareness for a worthy cause? If you have, good on you. But a good heart and a good deed is no less admirable just because a girl is associated with pageantry.

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After one of my Miss New York assemblies

 Even a pageant system that is not as involved with scholarship and service as the Miss America Organization does not simply draw dense, conceited muses. You can’t tell me that Miss USA 2007, Rachel Smith, doesn’t have an impressive bio (thanks, Wikipedia): “Smith graduated magna cum laude from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee in 2006 with a bachelor of science in journalism. Smith graduated a semester early, in December 2006. She received a full tuition scholarship to attend Belmont due to her community service activities and academic achievements throughout high school.While she was at Belmont, she interned in Chicago, Illinois, for eight months with Harpo Productions, a company owned by Oprah Winfrey. In January 2007, it was announced that she had been chosen by Winfrey to volunteer for one month at her Leadership Academy for Girls.” So, feminists, you’re telling me that her accomplishments are tainted by the fact that she won Miss USA? Good argument. Not.

Phew. Glad I got that all out.

Oh, and did I mention we’re the best of friends? That dress-cutting sabotage stuff is nonsense.

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