Which title(s) have you won so far, and how did you do at the State Pageant each time? I won Miss Upstate New York 2013; I did not place at Miss New York.
Why did you start competing in MAO locals? I have competed in pageants since I was 14 years old. I was a state and national titleholder for National American Miss but once I aged out I knew MAO would be the next chapter of my pageant career. I entered the Miss Finger Lakes/ Miss Upstate New York pageant following the conclusion of my last NAM pageant.
Why is your platform unique? “Leading Ladies: Equipping Young Women with the Skills to Lead” is the platform I have developed. My platform is unique because it in focuses not only on political leadership for women (which was my platform for Miss New York), but it focuses on women’s leadership in STEM and business as well. These are fields that carry unique challenges for women seeking leadership positions. Moreover, as these are male dominated industries, my platform allows me to work with young girls to get them thinking about entering these fields. My undergraduate education is in political science and I plan to run for office in the near future. I am set to begin working towards a master’s degree in Information management and then plan to pursue an MBA. My hope is to use my experiences and the experiences of Leading Ladies mentors to ignite a passion for leadership in young women and help women entering these fields to combat and eradicate the sexism that exists in each one of these arenas. Moreover, my platform aims to close the prevalent gender gap in the leadership of these industries. I have poured my heart and soul into my platform this past year and it has been unbelievable to watch the Leading Ladies movement catch on and resonate with many women (and men!) I even have had coverage from MSNBC and NPR for the work I have done with it. It is an amazing feeling to see something you greatly care about, be discussed nationally.
Where were you when Nina won Miss America? I was sitting in the basement of my sorority house with friends and sisters watching her and rooting her on. My friend actually has a video of me watching the announcement of the top 5 placement – I was cheering, crying, and on the edge of my seat!
What has been your favorite appearance or service event so far this reign? I recently had the opportunity to make an appearance at the Rhode Island Statehouse. The Miss RI Class of 2014 received citations from the Speaker and our Representatives and there was a Resolution read in support of the Miss RI pageant and contestants. It was a wonderful honor, but it was also especially meaningful to me because I plan to sun for a position in my state government in the near future.
Which is your favorite phase of competition? I love talent. It is probably my weakest competition, but I have the most fun with it. I grew up acting and doing character voices as opposed to being classically trained to sing or dance. I was so nervous to take this piece to a Miss America local but it worked out for me and I had a blast with it. I have been performing Ursula’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls” for the past few years. I have played with changing it but I am so attached to Ursula. I just become this different person – I transform into this conniving villain which is so not me – but so fun to portray. Plus, Ursula is a witty woman. There is definitely a comedic side to her which I love to show!
If you could add, remove, or change (either approach or scoring) of one phase of competition? I would make talent less of the overall score and place greater emphasis on the interview competition. I feel like interview is profoundly more important because this is where you really get to expand upon the work you have done with your platform. This is also where you really emerge as an intelligent and well-spoken woman and that is such a vital component of who Miss America is.
How do you prepare for pageants (either local or state)? Successful pageant contestants know that adopting permanent lifestyle changes to live by year round is the best way to prepare for a pageant. Since competing in Miss America state and local pageants, I have adopted healthier eating habits and have become routine with my fitness. I also work on my platform on a daily basis and have been adamant about programming surrounding my platform area. No strong competitor it made overnight, these things take time. Pace yourself, plan ahead, and remember there is no “off season” for a pageant titleholder!
What advice do you have for a girl who thinks she can’t compete in pageants? Just go for it! My biggest regret in pageantry is not getting involved with MAO sooner. I always thought my talent wasn’t strong enough or that I wasn’t fit enough for swimsuit. When I finally put myself into a local – I STILL thought both of these were true. But I proved myself wrong and won. I think a lot of women would surprise themselves by how well they do or how much they learn just by competing in one pageant. It is a life altering experience for the better and I highly recommend competing to everyone.
What do you plan to do with your experiences after you age out of MAO? Once I age out of MAO I plan to run for public office. I am looking into running for my local government or state legislature. Miss America trains women to fundraise and rally a community around you as well as present yourself and tackle important societal issues. My experiences with Miss America have certainly trained me for a future in public office and I am looking forward to serving my community and state in that capacity.
What appearance or service event would you like to do most before the end of your reign? I will actually be working in Washington, DC for the fall with Running Start, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that focuses on getting women involved in politics. There is no greater service I could imagine doing before the end of my reign than working for an organization that shares the same goals and values as my platform.
Why should you be Miss America? Miss America is represented by a woman who serves to empower and inspire others as she leads by example. She is a well-rounded woman with the skills to take on the world and instill positive change. Unfortunately there is still very much a perception that pageants – including Miss America – are demeaning, objectifying, and hurtful to women. Of course, we know this is not the case. Because I have been an advocate of feminism and women’s empowerment I know that I can be instrumental in changing the negative perceptions of Miss America and allow all women to see the organization as the premier program from women’s professional and leadership development.
And hey, Rhode Island has never won Miss America – it is about time we make history!
The Miss Rhode Island 2014 pageant will take place June 14th, 2014 at Rhode Island College.