I grew up in a military family and, to help pay for college, I joined the Air Force. I was an AF ROTC cadet at Penn State and the goalie for the PSU women's ice hockey team when I heard that I could earn even more money for school through the Miss America program. On a whim, I decided to throw my hat in the ring.
I got my start in pageants when I was about 20 years old and it was the best decision I've ever made. I earned more than $23,000 in scholarships, (Miss America wins $50,000! And that's in addition to what she won at the local and state level!) and made some of the best friends and career connections out there. The girls in the Miss America program do not fit any stereotype. They aren't privileged dolls who stand on stage and talk vacantly about world peace. These are girls who are driven to improve their lives and the lives of others through education and community service.
As Miss Virginia, it's more than just waving in parades and cutting ribbons. Over the course of a year, a Miss Virginia will travel about 4,000 miles A MONTH (alone, no entourage) and get 5 hours of sleep a night if we're lucky. We write our own speeches, do our own hair and make-up and hope that we present ourselves 24/7 in a way that makes our state proud.
A typical day consists of waking up at 5am, driving 3 hours to give 6 presentations in a row at a school, drive 3 more hours to visit one of the many Children's Miracle Network hospitals in Virginia (doing phone interviews with various media outlets on the way), drive 2 more hours to speak at a charity gala that evening then drive to a host family's house in the area where they have generously gathered local movers and shakers to run a mock-interview with you. Then, you retire to your room, answered a few dozen e-mails, prepare for the next day, and finally sleep. Redbull is your best friend.
Now, Miss America, travels over 40,000 (!!!!!) miles a month and she runs on adrenaline as she'll be lucky to get much sleep at all!
This past weekend one lovely young woman won the chance to compete at Miss America and the honor of taking on the job of Miss Virginia 2012.
Rosemary Willis is a Chesapeake native and student at William and Mary. Her platform is "Get Moving Today for a Healthy Tomorrow". This year she hopes to reach out to all groups of people: young, old, obese, fit, disabled, unmotivated, affluent and disadvantaged alike, and teach healthy living habits that last a lifetime. Rosemary will also be an ambassador for the Children's Miracle Network and help to raise funds and brighten lives as a spokesperson for their Virginia hospitals. She's also a phenomenal singer, winning a preliminary talent award for her rendition of "I Who Have Nothing".
A picture of persistence; Rosemary has competed as Miss Virginia three times. The first time she was voted into the Top 10 as a "People's Choice" contestant but did not advance any further. Last year, she was a Top 10 finalist. This year, she won the whole thing!
Some familiar local faces represented Charlottesville well. UVA sports fans recognize Victoria Maiden as one half of the Sabre Twins. She took home a preliminary talent award and placed 2nd runner up to Miss Virginia. Dominique Quarles, the first to represent the Miss Charlottesville title at Miss Virginia in over 50 years, showed grace and class in the competition. She has been accepted to UVA's School of Law hopes to start next year.
The program is full of incredible young women who are making a difference in their communities every day and are driven to make something of themselves and their futures. One of the best parts of the program is the sisterhood. I've met some of my absolute best friends through competing. If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in the Miss America program, please visit www.missva.org or www.missamerica.org and learn about the largest provider of scholarships to women in the world... Or talk to me!