January 30th, 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!
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