It’s hard to believe that I have been Miss America for four months already! It feels like so much has happened since I last blogged, but these past few months have been full of excitement. From Homecoming to Hawaii I have had so many amazing experiences it seems unfair I’ve waited so long to share them with you!
The Miss New York Organization did a fantastic job putting together a weekend of events in New York City for the girls and me. We were so lucky to have had the opportunity to do so much in such a short amount of time. Wednesday of that week was an event that honored the many people who are a part of the Miss America Organization in New York who are Straight Allies for the LGBT community. Because it was a small gathering at the Andaz Hotel on Wall Street, it was an opportunity to see the Miss New York Board of Directors and officially congratulate our new Miss New York, Shannon Oliver. That evening was the kick-off to a whirlwind weekend! The next day all of my Miss America sisters arrived to join me and we were treated to an amazing rooftop experience and dinner at the Todd English restaurant, Olives, thanks to Miss Manhattan, Amanda Mason, and her family.
On Friday, we started the morning with Good Morning America and GMA Live. We had so much fun seeing our judge, Sam Champion, and playing a hilarious game about a few of our states. From there we loaded up and stopped over to the Miss New York shoe sponsor, Pink and Pepper. They were incredible! They have been such a fun sponsor for the Miss New York Organization and I was so happy to be able to stop by and see their team! After picking up our new “kicks,” we made our way to the Habitat for Humanity Volunteer site in Harlem to join some former Miss Americas and MAO volunteers to snap some pictures and provide some enthusiasm before heading down to the Brooklyn Bridge. There, we joined Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz. Mr. Markowitz presented me with a “Brooklyn Bridge” replica (since it’s my favorite place in New York City) and took some pictures with me and the other girls. So cool! That night, we had an incredible event at the Hilton Garden Inn on Staten Island and spent it with family and friends.
Saturday morning was full of fun! The “Miss America and Me” brunch gave all of us an opportunity to get to know some of the girls from the New York City area and answer all of their pressing questions. To top it off, the Staten Island PS 22 choir performed for us. They were amazing! They even sang our Evening Gown song from Miss America, Hall of Fame. From there we made our way to the new Broadway show, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, before getting ready for the big night.
The Saturday night show was full of surprises. It was amazing to have so many former Miss Americas, Sam Haskell, our Chairman of the Board, our Miss New York’s and celebrity guests in attendance. I mean… Ben Vereen stopped by. What?!
The weekend was one I will certainly never forget. I am so thankful for the Miss New York Board of Directors and all of the volunteers who made so much happen for myself and the other Miss America girls in such a short amount of time.
Following Homecoming, I was right back to work! I made my way down to Phoenix, Arizona to visit the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and celebrate the WalMart and Sam’s employees fundraising achievements in their region. It was so much fun to meet the people there making big things happen for the children in their local hospitals. I also had the opportunity to see Piper Stokel, Miss Arizona, for the first time since the Miss America Competition. We were able to catch up and hang out during my few hours of down time. There’s nothing like seeing fifteen of the girls you competed with all in one month! Unfortunately, though, my trip to Arizona was quite short. After just a day, I was headed back to the east coast and on to Atlantic City.
My trip to AC was filled with exciting projects. I had the opportunity to do a photo shoot for this year’s competition magazine and there are some really exciting shots to look forward to sharing with you! Additionally, I saw Boardwalk Hall for the first time ever…it’s hard to believe that in a few short months I will be walking the runway that holds so many years of history and tradition.
From Atlantic City to air conditioning, I made my way down to Alabama for a much needed Easter break and an opportunity to spend time with my family. It was so relaxing to spend time at home, lounging around with my friends and parents. It’s not often I get to spend time with them, as living in New York for the past couple of years poses a geographical challenge. I loved being able to see my friends from high school and eat my Nana’s broccoli casserole!! Except…I made it. I guess that’s what happens when you get older and holidays become “pot luck.” During my week, I still had to make one, teeny appearance….at the Atlanta Braves Season Opener along with 46,000 fans! I led the crowd in the 7th inning stretch and got to visit with so many long lost friends from around the southeast. I was so grateful for the chance to visit with the people who love me most before heading back on the road to embark on a month of work with some inspiring organizations and my personal platform.
I was excited to head to New York City for the Figure Skating Harlem event sponsored by Amway. Figure Skating in Harlem (FSH) is a pioneering nonprofit organization that provides opportunity, education, and empowerment for girls in underserved New York City communities. Using the artistic discipline of figure skating as a powerful magnet, they provide girls with innovative education and fitness programs that promote academic success, physical health, and emotional well-being. It was an honor to be among several Olympic Gold Medalists and World Champions in Figure Skating to congratulate the young women on their accomplishments and partake in a benefit in their honor. Vera Wang was there, too!
From NYC to DC. My favorite part of being in Washington, DC is that I get to stay with the fun and hospitable, McLean Family. During my trips to the DC area, they have welcomed me into their home and have been so supportive of my journey as Miss America. I made my way down to the Cherry Blossom Festival where I was excited to sing God Bless America for the Cherry Blossom Parade! It was so fun to see Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, Rachel Wyatt, and have a few hours to catch up with her as we waited for the festivities to take place. I appeared on the Donate Life float with many organ transplant recipients. It was wonderful to hear their stories and be able to spend the afternoon with them. I also got to meet one of my most interactive Twitter followers, Claudine Tran (@cldntran). She followed me to the end of the parade and we had a chance to take pictures! Although the parade was fun, I would have to say that my favorite part of my weekend in DC was seeing the McLean’s son, Woodfen, play his first little league game of the season. They won!
After DC, I went straight back to New York to join Prevent Child Abuse America for the Big Pinwheel Garden in Times Square. I had the opportunity to visit former Miss America, Gretchen Carlson, on Fox and Friends and even do an interview with ABC News Now, and The Buzz, too. We were geared up and ready to go for Tuesday morning when the Boston Marathon bombings took place. It was a long night of news and worry over what was next. I feel so comforted knowing that I live in a nation that stands united in any time of need. I am proud of the brave men and women who helped civilians in such a scary and uncertain time.
On April 16th, our Big Pinwheel Garden event helped to raise awareness among the community. A few hundred people and host, AJ Mccarron, joined us in Times Square to hand out Pinwheels to signify prevention. Prevent Child Abuse America is adopting the blue pinwheel as a symbol of Child Abuse. I encourage all of you to pick one up and place it outside. It is our hope that soon this will become as nationally recognized as a Pink Ribbon for Breast Cancer.
Then, I was off to my hometown, Opelika, for the Dancing With the Stars of East Alabama event. I’m looking forward to seeing my mother and her partner, Stephen, get their groove on! It will be nice to see my family, too.
Until next time…
May 3rd, 2013
The past couple of weeks have been fantastic. The last I wrote to you all, I was star-struck and geeking out over meeting Beyonce, but so much has happened since then! Following the Taste of the NFL weekend, I was excited to get out to Los Angeles for the first time. Karen and I had a 3:30 am car pick-up that Monday morning and we were off to the IHOP headquarters in Glendale, CA.
Upon arrival and a quick change, I was escorted around the IHOP offices to meet all of the people who were working hard to make National Pancake Day a success. I even got to go in to the IHOP test kitchens, make a few pancakes and interview with some student reporters from a nearby university to talk about Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and how excited I was to be at the Hollywood IHOP that Tuesday. After that, I headed over to the Children’s Hospital LA for a pancake party! And as it turns out…National Pancake Day was a success. Some of the Miss California local title holders and I had a fantastic time flipping and serving pancakes to the community for their donations to CMNH.
The rest of my week in LA consisted of none other than the Hub TV Network’s My Little Pony. I spent many hours in front of their green screen shooting promos for the (then) upcoming Princess Coronation Concert and I got to exercise my (non-existent) acting chops. The week ended with a special theater screening of the Coronation Concert where Twilight Sparkle became a princess! It was so much fun to see the children so excited about the coronation and after I had a chance to meet and take photos with every one in attendance including Miss California, Leah Cecil. So awesome.
On Sunday I was off to Hawaii where I continued my stint in the warm weather. Our incredible scholarship sponsor, Amway, brought me along to be a part of the Diamond Club Independent Business Owner’s (IBO’s) retreat on Maui. It. Was. Beautiful! I spent much of my time speaking with the IBO’s, taking photos and shooting promotional videos for Amway. They really have the most amazing team of people behind the scenes. I loved getting to know all of them and especially the “Dukes.” They’re a hoot. I also had the opportunity to see a few of the Miss America family as well. Skyler Kamaka and Rhonee Rohas (one of my Miss New York 2010 judges) flew over from Oahu to say hello and catch some rays with me. I was so excited to see them. We may or may not have spoken in a British accent for the entire day. You’ll never know!
While in Maui I also had the opportunity to learn about the Amway health and well-being brand, Nutrilite. I am excited to explore the products and find which supplements and wellness formulas work best for my body. Nutrilite’s team was fun and informative at our Valentine’s Day lunch with their celebrity “comedian” chef and Body Key spokesperson, Jason Roberts. We all had a great time and I look forward to working with them this year as Miss America. How lucky am I?
The week in Maui rounded out with the Women in Business Forum where I spoke about my mother and her influence in my life as a leader and businesswoman. I also had the opportunity to hear correspondent Frank Luntz speak about how to improve business relationships and gain trust among the work place. It was incredibly empowering and a great way to end my time with Amway in Hawaii.
However, in true ‘Miss America’ fashion, we went from one extreme to another! After a week of fun in the sun, I am here at the Montreal airport looking out on the snow and reflecting on the past three days with the team from our official clothing sponsor, Joseph Ribkoff. I had such a blast with them! Tuesday we started with radio interviews and a tour of the Ribkoff offices. I met almost every Ribkoff employee (including Mr. Ribkoff himself), took photos and toured the warehouse. It was fascinating to learn that all of the Ribkoff clothing samples are still made right there in their building. Fabric is cut, sewn, stitched and then checked, right there, by the employees. I had the opportunity to sort through the fall collection and pick out some super-cute clothes. They have some amazing pieces coming out this fall. Be on the look out!
Following the tour, I was so happy to go visit the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Mr. Ribkoff gave a donation of $5,000 and we were able to deliver big, snuggly, plush teddy bears to fifteen patients who were anxiously awaiting the presence of ‘Miss America.’ I met quite a few children who clung to my heart, but only one challenged by tap dancing skills. He claimed that he was better! I informed him I would take him up on that one day. We were sad to leave, but excited to attend the evening reception held at the local boutique, Ambre.
We were greeted at Ambre by press, interviews and fans of the Joseph Ribkoff collection. My favorite part of the event, though, was meeting eleven year-old, Alexa. She turned out to be my French teacher! We spent much of our time learning phrases (my crown is a couronne), taking photos with each other and playing “what’s in this hors d’ oeuvres.” She was usually right. The night ended with a delicious dinner at the local eatery, Liverpool House, where we spotted Anthony Bourdain. It was nice to get to know the Ribkoff group and chat about life a little bit.
Wednesday was fairly simple. We spent the morning at Global TV, where I was interviewed about my time in Montreal, my non-Brooklyn accent and the relationship between the Miss America Organization and Joseph Ribkoff. After, we were off to a media luncheon where I had the opportunity to meet many of Montreal’s best fashion bloggers, talk about my experiences with Miss America and show off some of the fall collection clothing by Mr. Ribkoff. I had a fantastic time!
Next stop? Home! Today we are heading back to New York for another Amway event and a trip to Rent the Runway before really hitting the ground running with my personal platform next week in Washington, D.C.
Are you guys ready?
February 21st, 2013
Well this week is really shaping up to the BEST. ONE. EVER. Wednesday night I had the honor of singing the National Anthem for my hometown heroes, the Brooklyn Nets vs. Miami Heat game. I was SO nervous, but singing publicly has always been something I am fearful of, so I faced my fear! Knowing that Inside Edition was following my journey and that there was more press there than ever before made things 100x worse, but it appears that I didn’t do tooooooo bad. I’m sure it will be easier next time!
The Barclays Center was amazing! We were treated to dinner at Jay-Z’s famous, 40/40 Club and I had the opportunity to meet players including Nets star, Darren Williams. We took some photos together before the start of the game and I felt like a big celeb! It was wonderful to be back in the borough of Kings and I may or may not have tried to sneak a wink in at LeBron, too, as I sat court side. What can I say? Haha.
After the Nets game I made my way back to the hotel to pack. We had a 4:30 pick up yesterday (Thursday) to head down to New Orleans and the Taste of the NFL. The day was full of media and press interviews, but I will say the high light definitely came from all things Beyoncé. We started out the day in her Half-Time Press Conference where she opened by singing the Start Spangled Banner….live. I love her.
She answered some press questions with incredible style and grace before being whisked away. I expressed that I would love to meet her, but in that moment it seemed as though that wouldn’t happen. Off to radio interviews it was, then!
The media room was huge and full of radio hosts from all over the United States and Canada. It kind of felt like a whirlwind, but it was a ton of fun to talk football and performances with the journalists. At one point my tour manager (and now dear friend), Karen, came by to say that there was a possibility I could meet B’ (we’re old friends now).
What? Could it be?!!
One of the photographers said “Beyoncé, would you be willing to meet our new Miss America?”
Her eyes lit up.
Our dialogue went as follows:
B: The new Miss America?! (We shake hands) Of course! You are so beautiful!
M: Hiiiiiii (way too excited and giggly). I have to tell you, I waited on you at Lure Fishbar.
B: Oh my gosh! Haha that’s too funny. I love that place.
M: I know! You order the fish and chips. (I’m clearly a stalker)
B: (Laughs) You’re too funny! That’s hilarious.
We take pictures.
B: So good to meet you! Good luck this year.
February 1st, 2013
Wow! It’s hard to believe it has been two weeks since the Miss America telecast on Jan 12, 2013. The past few days have been a whirlwind of excitement, emotion and incredible opportunity. I could not be more humbled to have been chosen to represent the Miss America Organization and the other 52 women who made their states proud at this year’s competition. I will strive to always remember that each one of them is a piece of what I accomplish daily and that my service to the Miss America Organization is about the many, many young women who will be vying for the job of Miss America for years to come, but also the rich history and legacy of this organization.
After the crowning that Saturday night, life became a bit crazy! I was whisked away to a briefing room before being invited on stage by Sam and Art to give my first speech as Miss America at the press conference. It was strange how calm I felt in such an exciting moment. I had just WON MISS AMERICA! I was escorted from interview to interview before finally heading upstairs to hug my friends and the many members of my family who came from all over. I feel so lucky to have had so many people there. Everyone came! When the room cleared and only my parents remained, I (like an 8 year old) jumped up and down with pure excitement. It still seems unreal, but I knew the next day would be the start of a remarkable adventure.
And…..I was right.
Monday and Tuesday began the crazy media tour! Good Morning America, The View, Extra!, Entertainment Tonight, Fox and Friends, Wendy Williams, Lee Hawkins, Women’s Wear Daily, The Wall Street Journal, The Daily News, The New York Post, The Brooklyn Paper, ABC radio tours and the list goes on.
Until Wednesday and Thursday when I was able to relax a bit with Artistry! Wednesday evening we had the best time at one of my favorite restaurants, Basso 56. The Artistry team is a ton of fun, so having the ability to sit down, enjoy some pasta and talk about our (then) upcoming Twitter party was much needed. On Thursday morning, in the penthouse of the London Hotel, I was introduced to the world of beauty bloggers, editors and media.. The launch of Artistry’s gorgeous, garden-inspired collection was coupled with stunning views of New York City, multiple cups of fresh-brewed coffee and breakfast croissants for days. Each writer in attendance had the opportunity to view the new Artistry products, have their make-up touched up, have their professional photo taken and then interview me! When all was said and done, they went home with a pretty sweet swag-bag from Kate Spade filled with some of my favorite products: Crème Luxe Eye Cream and Artistry’s liquid eyeliner. Win!
The rest of the afternoon consisted of my first official photo shoot as “Miss America.” Artistry picked some sophisticated gowns for me and we took some beautiful pictures for their promotional materials this year. I hope to share them with you soon! Following the photo shoot, we sat down and got to business with our Twitter party. I spoke to my Twitter followers about my Artistry products and answered questions from everyone with the hashtag #MeetMissA. Artistry and the Miss America Organization trended WORLD WIDE! Crazy. That was definitely an exciting way to end my day with Amway and the Artistry team.
Friday morning I was up and on my way to Washington, D.C. I had the honor of speaking at the STEM Women’s Leadership Conference next to the great minds who lead our technological programs on the Hill. In addition, I met Natalie Tran who is the Maryland Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Webmaster and a junior in high school. She was there with her FBLA leader in order to find out how she can mentor students in her community and inspire them to become more invested in their math and science courses. I was also able to speak on my experience with falling out of a STEM related college curriculum, how I wish I had been fortunate enough to have a STEM mentor and the ways we can encourage young people to become more involved.
Saturday, marked my second week as Miss America and it was a full of community service!
As a young woman who grew up in the Miss America Organization, I am acutely aware of how important service to the community is to personal growth. I was so happy to be a part of the First Family’s initiative to invigorate the nation and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with community service efforts through their National Day of Service. I began the day reading to the students involved with the Children’s Defense Fund. They were such a trip! Their teachers and administrators were so enthusiastic and upbeat. I had the pleasure of reading aloud the inspiring book, The Eagles Who Thought They Were Chickens.
After a few photos with the kids, we boogied over to the National Day of Service tent where I was interviewed by several news sources and completed multiple projects. Actor, Omar Miller, and I spent some time decorating cards for children’s hospitals, I wrote a letter to a Veteran and even decorated “This Book Belongs To:” stickers to be included in brand new books for students. My visit was filled with fun, photos and encouraging people to take the National Day of Service Pledge. Hey! Who doesn’t like to get a sticker for achievement?
Following the service tent, I made my way over to Bethesda Naval Hospital to meet some of our Veterans who were wounded overseas. It was my great honor to be able to spend time visiting with these young men and women, who made great sacrifices so we can enjoy our freedoms. It was a very humbling experience and one that certainly put everything in perspective for me.
Sunday was filled with inaugural brunches. I had the pleasure of attending day-time parties for Politico, The Daily Beast and Google/Elle. Every venue was full of the most influential and accomplished people in Washington D.C. I had the opportunity to shake hands with Senator John Kerry, advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, and talk show host (and Oprah’s best friend), Ms. Gayle King. All of that meeting and greeting certainly worked up an appetite for me. That evening I had a relaxing dinner with the new Miss New York 2012, Shannon Oliver, Miss Claire Buffie, New York 2010, Gina Valo, Miss Michigan 2007 and Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011, among a few others. It was so amazing to sit with so many intelligent, fun women who completely understand what this year is about to bring. It was great to catch up with all of them and have some fun after the crazy week!
The inauguration was next. I was so excited to be able to attend and witness history. As a young woman, and a proud American I felt so lucky to be a part of such an incredible day. The energy of Washington, D.C. was a buzz as hundreds-of- thousands of people made their way down to the mall. My favorite part of President Obama’s second inaugural speech was:
“For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.”
Seeing our first African American President sworn in on Martin Luther King, Jr. day was something I will never forget.
After the whirlwind of inauguration (and yes, it was cold), my travels took me Atlanta, Georgia where I filmed promotional materials for IHOP’s National Pancake Day, visited with Kirsten Haglund, Miss America 2008, and current Miss Georgia, Leighton Jordan and also joined Good Day Atlanta for a quick interview. I took my official Miss America photos with my beautiful wardrobe provided by Joseph Ribkoff and I was photographed by Matt Boyd, and worked with his stylist, Meredith, too! It was a successful trip to the south, if you ask me- complete with Chick-Fil-A and sweet tea.
This past Thursday I had the honor of attending the Child Abuse Prevention Program annual benefit dinner at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. An event I previously scheduled as Miss New York, I was so excited to learn I would still be able to uphold that promise as Miss America. Child Abuse Prevention Program (CAPP) was the first organization that opened their arms to me and has since become like family. The CAPP Child Safety Workshops are empowering children all over the New York City area to understand their right to tell and their ability to speak up. As I am proof that prevention is possible, CAPP is near and dear to my heart. The work they do is important and they are the only Board of Education certified workshop on Child Abuse in the five boroughs their certification means that parents do not have the ability to opt-out =- which is very important. The evening was a success! Every year, CAPP’s team of puppeteers reaches 10,000 students with $100,000. This year, because of the benefit, CAPP will be able to extend their reach to 20,000 as they raised an additional $100,000 through live auction and donor matching. Amazing. I am so elated that I was able to a part of their growth!
And now, as I sit in my hotel room in Atlantic City, it begins to sink in that I am Miss America. This dream and goal of mine that started so many moons ago at the Miss Teen Alabama pageant has finally come to fruition. I am so thankful for all of the individuals who have helped me on this journey. Most importantly, though, I am thankful to my ridiculously cool parents. My Mom and Dad deserve every bit of credit for the person I am today and I could not be more grateful for their dedication to being my parents first and my friends second. I hope that my year as Miss America is a reflection of their hard work, dedication and love.
People continually ask me if the job of Miss America (so far) is what I thought it would be. It’s more.
I look forward to sharing my journey with all of you!
January 30th, 2013