As summer approaches, high school seniors are finally breaking free from grade school and preparing to spend their last summer home before their new life as an undergraduate college student. Many students, or at least their parents, find this to be a stressful time on the financial front. Mia Adams McSherry, Syracuse resident, knew how expensive college is, and wanted to provide a unique opportunity for seniors in the greater Syracuse region. What resulted was the Miss Central New York Scholarship Pageant. Although not an official preliminary to Miss New York, this pageant follows many of the same standards and morals, while providing scholarships for the young ladies who compete.
The 6th annual Miss Central New York Scholarship Pageant invited senior girls from a handful of high schools from across the central New York region to participate in a month long process with contestant orientation and workshops, dress rehearsals, and the pageant, including three phases of competition. The pageant was held in the historic Palace Theater in Eastwood, and was filled to the brim with the proud families of the girls. The stage, laden with flowers, boasted a balloon backdrop shaped like a crown.
Diana Ross made an appearance, opening the show with one of her songs. She invited an audience member to the stage to sing along. She then booked it off on a flight to Paris, or somewhere else, as the Mistress of Ceremonies Mojeh joked.
The twelve contestants entered from the rear and made their way to the stage. They were all wearing a casual summer dress of their choosing, and a sash reading “Miss Central New York 2014”. Each girl came to the front, introduced herself with her name, school and a quote that inspired them. Many of the girls were nervous, and slipped up on their quote, or held the microphone as a crutch while they spoke. However, many of the quotes were some of my favorites!
Mojeh took the next moment to introduce the esteemed judges, as well as the auditor.
- Courtney Rae Kasper: Editor of CNY Today’s woman
- Robin Corteze: Model Manager
- Lorraine Koury: Owner of Boom Babies dress boutique
- Dr. Renee Franklin: Assistant professor at Syracuse University
- Melissa Seline- Proprietor of Honey Bliss Cosmetics
- Auditor: Gina Paduana: Fashion Blogger
The girls returned to the stage for the first phase of competition; the interview. While some girls remained in the same dress worn during opening number, others changed into cute business attire. They stood in line on stage as a guest speaker came to the stage.
The audience welcomed Sharon Contreras, the first female superintendent in the Syracuse City School District and first woman of color to serve as superintendent of a Big Five district (Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Yonkers and New York City), to the stage. She grew up waiting to watch the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageant each year, but noted that the Miss CNY Scholarship Pageant is different than this. She gave praise to the emphasis of talent, academics, and service. She then gave the girls some great advice; to ensure they have a mentor in life, never let being a female hold them back from reaching their goals, and always show gratitude.
Each girl then met the host at the microphone for two questions. The first question simply asked of their goals; what are your plans after high school or how will scholarship enrich your future. The second question was chosen at random.
The contestants left the stage, and the audience enjoyed some trivia for great prizes.
–Who was the first female Supreme Court justice, and which president swore her into office?
-Sandra Day O’Connor, by Ronald Reagan.
The ladies returned to the stage once again, this time for the talent portion. Each girl had no more than 3 minutes to wow the judges.
- Alize Claudio: Vocal; My Immortal by Evanescence.
o Her voice was good, but she chose to sing without a musical backtrack. This made it painfully obvious that she was nervous, and more difficult for her to stay on pitch and rhythm.
- Alexandra Varley: Bollywood Dance
o Her outfit was very cute, and the routine had a lot of depth. Her poses were not nearly as exact as they should be, and she lost her smile at many points.
- Nahjae Morris: Cheer
o She invited 2 of her high school cheer mates to join her on the stage and perform a cheerleading routine. At one point, the other girls left the stage and she had a solo performance. Honestly, she was good and did not require the help of her background dancers. They all wore a black tee shirt and blue Soffe shorts. I would have liked for her to be wearing either a different color shirt, or something with sparkles.
- Deanna Eura: Contemporary Ballet
o This was a very pretty dance, representing a jewelry box ballerina breaking out. She wore a bright green leotard and black tutu to a song that started as a classic ballet tune, but slowly emerged in a high beat, slightly hip-hop feel.
- Destany Finney: Vocal
o She sang Turning Tables by Adele. It was pretty, but didn’t quite reach Adele’s vocal power.
- Nyaisa Brown: Flute
o She played a very pretty song, with quick finger movements. Even though she didn’t have a backtrack, and used sheet music, I was impressed. Flute is often difficult to make sound pretty without a backtrack.
- Zachia Gayle: Interview
o This was a unique talent, based off the television show “Kids Say the Darndest Things”. She invited her 3 year old cousin to the stage and asked him various questions about the meaning of life, and if he had a girlfriend.
- Shannia Loudsbery: Monologue; Long Cuts
o Shannia came to the stage pretending to talk on a cell phone. She then broke out into a story about her mother giving the taxi driver directions for a “short cut” to their location. It was a very fun monologue, and she posed a very convincing Brooklyn accent.
- Amara Sledge: Vocal
o She chose to sing a blend of Somewhere Over the Rainbow and I Believe I can fly, as originally done on Glee. She did not have a backtrack, which made it very difficult to understand that the songs were blended, and she didn’t just stop singing one song and start singing the second. The audience enjoyed it, and clapped along
10. Emily Mahana: Irish Step Dance
o Emily performed a classic hard shoe Irish step dance, with a full sparkle costume right down to her sparkle socks. She did not smile very much, but the difficulty of the routine was noted.
11. Tylah Worrell: Vocal; I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston
o She had great energy once the nerves wore off. Some of Whitney’s strongest parts were emulated flawlessly.
12. Sonia Mensah: Monologue; Hamlet
o She performed a monologue from Hamlet with 2 additional people. I found it hard to follow the scene, perhaps because I have not read the play. I think she has acting potential, but would like a different monologue.
The audience then took a break for Intermission. Baked goods and ice cream concessions were sold in the lobby. Also, a People’s Choice Award ballot was given to patrons free of charge.
The second half opened with a performance by Syracuse Elk’s Pride Drum Line and Pretty Girl’s Rock. They were by far the cutest drum line and step team I have ever seen. Some of the drummers could not have been older than 7. The girls wore pink teeshirts, khaki skirts, and all wore a crown on their head.
The final phase of competition for all of the girls was evening gown. They came out a final time, wearing gorgeous gowns. Each took a turn modeling, before turning to their lineup on the stage.
The host then read a special letter to the girls from Mayor Stephanie Meyer, congratulating each on their hard work.
The reigning Miss CNY 2013, Jasmin Eatman came out and made her final walk, then gave a heart wrenching good-bye. Mia Adams McSherry followed her, with a quick speech thanking her, all of the contestants, and the audience.
Then came People’s Choice:
o People Choice: Amara Sledge.
The Top Five was announced:
- Nyaisa Brown
- Emily Mahana
- Destany Finney
- Deanna Eura
- Sonia Mensah
The non-finalists took a seat in the front row, as the finalists waited for their final question. Each finalist chose a judge’s name from a fishbowl, who then asked a question.
Top Five Placement:
4th Runner Up: Deanna Euro
3rd Runner Up: Emily Mahana
2nd Runner Up: Sonia Mensah
1st Runner Up: Destany Finney
Miss Central New York is Nyaisa Brown