Empire Rose has always been a hidden gem in the New York local circuit. The venue is small and tucked away with conservative equipment. The scholarships aren’t much, and the prize package is is modest as well. But Empire Rose is special because of the director, who runs the pageant with the largest heart imaginable.
This year the pageant was expanded to three titles, with three different eligibility. In truth, it was as though there were three separate pageants being held in the same venue. I admit, I was overwhelmed at first by the 24 contestants. But after I wrote out a list of all of the girls, and which of the three titles they were eligible for, my mind was suddenly at ease. Eleven of the Twenty-Four girls were only eligible for Empire Star. That means that about 45% of the girls were going cutthroat for one title, and the 13 of us who were left were divided between the other two titles. In fact, only 7 girls were eligible for Empire Capital Region. Five of the girls were eligible for both Empire Rose and Empire Star, but not eligible for Capital Region. If I shut out the other two titles in my mind, I could convince myself that I was only competing against 6 girls for the Capital Region title. Suddenly it wasn’t that overwhelming.
Opening number was surprisingly difficult to dress for. It was supposed to be simple: black dress pants, black heels, and a white dress top (not see through). Unfortunately, the current fashion trend has white tops all see through! I ended up finding a white metallic shirt on sale at Express. I didn’t try it on, which was a big mistake. Backstage I realised that it didn’t fit me properly, and Katelynn had to rescue me when my head got stuck. I bought great black pants at the Gap, on clearance for $22! They fit great an will become assets in my closet. My favorite part was that I could wear my old lady black pumps from my casino days. They are by far the most comfortable heels I have ever owned. The number itself was simple. Two lines, everyone pivots, and we switched lines. Somehow I still managed to forget the second pivot and walk to the back line as they were pivoting. I’m going to pretend no one noticed.
I wore the Sherri Hill gown that I purchased at the Miss America trade show in Atlantic City for talent. It was only $75, which was well worth the plethora of compliments it received. I don’t know why I didn’t wear it sooner! Actually I do. It had some loose sequins when I bought it, possible a result of being a floor version for try-ons and the reason I paid such a low rate. Thankfully, a friend who happens to be a brother in the Acacia fraternity at RPI knew how to sew, and came to my rescue. I’m pretty sure no other contestant can say a frat boy repaired a designer gown bought at Miss America.
I wore the Mac Duggal gown that had been my talent gown at Mohawk Valley for my Evening Gown. I had originally been seeking the red version of this gown, when we had found the custom blue version. Blessings to that, as Tracey had the red version!
My onstage question asked me if I thought scholarship recipients should be subject to random drug testing. As always, I was told I had a great answer, but I left uncertain. I should have mentioned this that or something else. But in the end, I did a good job anyway.
Tabulation took forever, as expected with three separate Top Five Ballots. Janet, the director, had deliberately cut entertainment to try and shorten the show time. Unfortunately, the long tabulation time meant lot’s of dead air. She kept coming back into the dressing room and telling the girls how much she loved us, and she was proud of us, and she couldn’t wait to work with whomever won. She is extremely genuine. She treats every contestant like her very own daughter.
I am incredibly pleased and proud of the results. (Crowning pics courtesy of Annamarie Bianco)
Katelynn has won two titles so far (Empire Rose ’12 and Fulton County ’13) and improved so much between both of those. She is an active titleholder, and represents our area very well. She serves as a board member on the Society for the Prevention of Suicide, where she works to promote her platform “More than Sad”. I remember the first time we met, way back at Miss Finger Lakes 2012, she was wearing an Out of the Darkness tee shirt. I instantly liked her, as Suicide Prevention was almost my personal platform! I love following her in her various reigns, and keeping up with her work. As Empire Rose she gained valuable experience that may have helped her win Fulton County. As Fulton County, she built an amazing website that pushed the Fulton County Organization forward in the world of social media. This year she focused on school until the last pageant of the season before putting down the pen and notebook in the cusp of midterms and picking up her clogging shoes.
Sarah has traveled across the state to compete at every pageant she could this year. She just started competing in MAO during her last year of eligibility, and worked her butt off to be the best contestant she could. She is extremely devoted to clean eating and fitness, and even has a blog much like this one, called Sweatsational. She has consistently placed at each pageant this year, as well as gone home with Miss Congeniality, Community Service, and Overall awards. I knew she came into this pageant as a last ditch effort, and was discouraged by the number of girls competing for Empire Star; the only title she was eligible for. But rather than simply place, again, at her last pageant, she pushed through and beat all 23 of the girls to earn the single title of Miss Empire Star.
I just met Cat at the Empire rehearsal that was held the night before the pageant. I liked her automatically. Granted, there’s a chance that I am biased to like her because we share a name, but in truth that doesn’t matter; she is beautiful inside and out. She spoke to every one of the girls, between talent run throughs and walking patterns. She introduced herself to everyone and made conversation like we were friends already. She even spoke to the volunteers! Backstage at the pageant she was still talking to everyone, getting to know them and learning their stories. I can’t help but believe that this will be extremely helpful during her reign, as she travels across the region to promote her platform an the Children’s Miracle Network, and prepares for the Miss New York pageant.
So many titleholders came to visit and watch the last local of the season. Some visiting titleholders included: Lauren (Mohawk Valley), Jamie-Lynn (Staten Island), Desiree (Finger Lakes), Adrienne (Syracuse), Madison (Upstate), and Anneliese (Flower City). There were also many Outstanding Teen and Princesses present. I love how titleholders of all levels are reprsenting their areas and supporting the sisterhood.
I am incredibly blessed to have such a great fan base an support team. Although I may not have won a title during my competition, I have made some amazing friends that will last a lifetime. I have won hundreds of dollars in scholarships from People’s Choice to Miss Congeniality to Community Service Awards. I have grown as a person inside and out. This may be my last MAO local, but this is not the end of my participation and involvement in MAO pageants.