I remember it quite clearly: Sitting in my dorm room, watching Mallory Hagan, Miss New York 2012, win Miss America…and sobbing. Why was I so emotional? Yes, I had a personal connection to Mallory, having competed with her that year. And yes, I was overwhelmed with happiness for someone I believed (and still believe) truly deserved the title. But, there was much more to it.
I was convinced that I would NEVER have the opportunity to do what she did.
It all hit me at once. Just a few months prior, I had been ecstatic with my placement in the Top 10 at my first state level pageant. But on this night, something changed. I sat there in my dorm and suddenly felt overwhelmed. I watched as Mallory took the stage with confidence and grace in each phase of the competition. She was poised; she was sassy; she was unapologetically herself. In that moment, I believed that competing on the Miss America stage would never be an option for me.
But, last year, I did get that chance.
Being a year out of Miss America can really get a girl thinking. I don’t think it’s any secret that my Miss America experience didn’t exactly have the ultimate outcome a competitor would hope for. Deep down I was grateful for time spent in Atlantic City: I made incredible friends, rode down the AC Boardwalk in a convertible, made an appearance on Good Morning America, and danced & shared my platform on an enormous stage in Boardwalk Hall. But, it was – and still sometimes is – difficult to face the big question when someone finds out you were Miss New York: So, how did you do at Miss America?
To be candid, the question was initially especially painful to answer having followed three consecutive Miss America winners. I always change my answer around a bit, but it is usually the same idea: “I didn’t place, but I had a wonderful experience.” Truth is, for a while I felt like I failed not only myself, but my family, friends, and home state, as well.
Of course, no one made me feel that way. My family & friends were “still proud” of me and my community supporters told me how much they loved seeing my intro on TV. However, I still couldn’t convince myself that this was not a failure.
Now, a few months out of the spotlight of Miss New York and a year out of the crazy journey that is Miss America, I have a clearer mind (still juggling a million tasks, but definitely clearer). I’m looking back on that young college senior crying in her dorm room. Would she ever consider herself to be a failure simply for not placing at a national pageant? Considering that fact that she believed pigs would sooner fly than she would be on that stage, I can’t say that she would…
At the Miss America 2016 Opening Ceremony, I stood center-stage to introduce myself to the crowd. I began with this statement: “They say you're more likely to have a son play in the Super Bowl, than to have a daughter compete at Miss America.” Think about that for a moment. This means that for a man it is easier to get to the Super Bowl that it is for a woman to get to Miss America. That fact in itself is enough to be proud of. I stood on a stage that hundreds of young women compete to be on each year. I walked the path that only 52 ladies get the opportunity to walk each year. I achieved the dream that my 21-year-old self never thought possible and it was an honor to be one of those daughters.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in focusing on the goal we didn’t achieve, that we forget to look at the goals we did.
During a commercial break in the live Miss America taping – after not being called into the Top 15 – I took my moment to speak out to my supporters, some of whom came out for just that night. “You get to keep me, New York,” I said into the microphone that was handed to me. Moving beyond Miss America, I set out to be the best Miss New York I could possibly be, determined not let my title go to waste. That was a feat I can confidently say I conquered.
Recently, I was asked, "If you could do it again, would you change anything at Miss America?" Obviously excluding changing the outcome, there is really nothing I did that I wish I had done differently. I loved my gown, felt comfortable and confident in my interview, rocked the best swimsuit body I've ever had, and couldn't have been happier with my dance performance. I don't regret a thing.
So, maybe we can’t always achieve what we want to, no matter how hard we work for it, but is that always a terrible thing? If we learn through the process and become better people because of it, isn’t that truly coming out a “winner”? On September 13th 2015, I became a spectator, cheering on my fellow contestants during the final night of Miss America…but I was there. I made it to a level that so many others work for.
Who am I to consider that a failure?
These months are flying by, and with only 2 weeks left until I leave for my last Miss New York Week...ever...things are getting pretty hectic over here! I'm taking every day one step at a time and working to become the best version of myself. From the start of the month, I've had a multitude of appearances, as well. Over the years I've learned that it's all about balance and, while it may not always be easy, I think I'm getting the hang of it!
Children's Miracle Network Radiothon
To kick off the month, I traveled up to Bernard & Millie Duker Children's Hospital at Albany Medical Center. This Children's Miracle Network Hospital was hosting its 17th annual "Radiothon" with the help of News Radio 810 & 103-1 WGY and 99.5 The River. Once I arrived, I was given a crash course on how to answer the phones and obtain information from the callers looking to make a donation to the facility. I hopped on the phones right away. From 2:00-6:00, I accepted over-the-phone donations and even convinced a few donors to become recurring "Miracle Makers!" I was also so inspired by a young girl, Bella, who spoke on the radio about how she had benefitted from the treatments at Bernard & Millie Duker Children's Hospital, that I decided to make a donation of my own.
As an added bonus, I was able to spend time with two of my Miss NY sisters! Katelynn Smith (Miss Central New York) & Madison Manuel (Miss Empire Rose), had both joined me once they got out of work. I'm so happy to have been able to make the trip up to Albany to participate in this event. Thank you, Art Hunsinger (the Upstate Liaison for Miss NY), for inviting the titleholders!
Walk Like MADD Kickoff
After the Radiothon in Albany, I spent the night with my Miss NY roommate, Katelynn Smith, and left bright and early the next morning to get back to Staten Island. I dropped some bags off at home and went straight to the Walk Like MADD Kickoff.
Walk Like MADD is the signature fundraising event for Mother's Against Drunk Driving and helps raise both awareness and funds to eliminate drunk driving. Last year, this walk made its first appearance in Staten Island and I am proud to have been a part of that event. That is why, when I heard it was returning for 2015, I absolutely wanted to participate, once again.
I look forward to the walk, which will be held on October 4th. To register, to donate, or to find more information, visit: www.walklikemadd.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=579. Thank you, Tara Spohrer, for inviting me to speak at both the kickoff and Walk Like MADD!
Miracle Makers: PS 74
As Miss Staten Island 2012, I created "Wish For Change." Through this fundraiser, students in local elementary schools filled buckets with spare change and bills that they earned themselves to donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Classes competed to see who would collect the most money and the winning class won a special prize. Over the past 3 years, this program has developed and expanded. I have used my buckets in over 10 schools to include causes such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ("Bright Lights") and the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals ("Miracle Makers").
On May 6th, I visited Public School 74 to kick off one of these fundraisers. Since "May is for miracles," I chose to benefit CMN with "Miracle Makers." In a brief assembly with the entire school, I spoke about myself, the Miss America Organization, philanthropy, and the Children's Miracle Network. I explained our project and encouraged the students to earn the money themselves, rather than simply asking their parents for a donation. I then answered a few questions before the assembly came to a close. Though the school is quite small with only 15 classes, I knew they were going to do an incredible job. After picking up the buckets this past Friday, I am so pleased to say that PS 74 surpassed their $500 goal and that the winning class, 3-307 (coming in at nearly $180), will be receiving a special visit and prize from me! Congratulations Public School 74, and thank you to Vivian Porcu for organizing my visit!
Night Out For Miracles
Eger Nursing Home
The Eger Harbor House is a senior living center on Staten Island. I had visited previously with both the Miss New York Class of 2013 & 2014 and it was always a great experience. That is why, when I had the opportunity to return this year, I accepted right away. Joined by Cassie Paradise (Miss Southern Tier) and Julia Simoniello (Miss Richmond County), I arrived at Eger ready to mingle with the residents. We began with two performances by Julia, who is an excellent singer and guitarist. The seniors really seemed to enjoy the performance and they could not wait to ask us questions once it was over! "What color is your gown?" "What is your talent?" "Is this your first time in the pageant?" Though we only had a short time to speak with everyone, it was wonderful and I could tell they were so excited to receive a visit. I hope to be back, soon!
Relay For Life
A while back, I was asked by Andrea Dalzell, Ms. Wheelchair New York 2015, to attend the College Of Staten Island's Relay For Life. This event is held at different times all across the country and benefits the America Cancer Society. Relay For Life teams camp out overnight and take turns walking or running around a track or path at a local high school, park, or fairground. Since Andrea is a student of the College Of Staten Island, she planned to dedicate one of the laps around the track, calling it a "Princess Lap."
On an extremely windy Friday, I joined Andrea and my friend Amanda at CSI. After the opening ceremonies, the laps began with the first being dedicated to all cancer survivors. Along the track were bags honoring those we have lost and those who are still fighting, which would be lit from the inside later in the evening. Before I knew it, it was our turn to lead the "Princess Lap." To my surprise, Andrea chose to have the lap dedicated to pediatric cancers and the need for increased research in acknowledgement of my platform. I was touched by the amazing gesture! Thank you, Andrea, for asking me to join you! I had a great time!
If you want to see more pictures from my adventures, make sure to visit my Facebook page!
Let's continue on from where I left off in my previous post and wrap up the month of April!
I am not one to typically agree to run a 5k race. However, when I was asked to run in "Matt's Race," honoring FDNY Lt. Gordon "Matt" Ambelas, I knew it was something I wanted to do. So, bright and early on a beautiful Sunday morning, I made my way to Clove Lakes. Since I have never considered myself a runner (in fact, I avoid it at all costs), my goal was never to finish with the best time, but to simply complete the race. I am proud to say that with a little encouragement from my FDNY boyfriend, I made it across the finish line!
This girl ran her first 5k (and didn't come in last)!
New Dorp Restaurant Crawl
After a morning run, we made our way to the 1st Annual New Dorp Lane Restaurant Crawl! For just $10, we were able to sample various cuisines from multiple restaurants and even found a few new places to visit again in the future. Thank you to The New Dorp Merchants Group, Councilman Steven Matteo, and The Richmond County Savings Foundation for putting this event together. It was a big hit and I'm hoping there will be another in the future!
Childhood Cancer PSA
April 22nd was an usually cold day, but that didn't stop me from spending the night in Times Square working with TheTruth365. We filmed reactions to a Childhood Cancer Public Service Announcement (PSA) featuring Kylie Myers, who we lost only two months ago. The video carries an extremely powerful message and we had some strong reactions from viewers. I cannot wait until May 4th, when TheTruth365 will release the completed PSA. Check out the video shown in Times Square: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vyh_XqooTwc
"What's Happening With Kids On The Island?"
"What Happening With Kids On The Island?" is a local program on CTV. I was contacted by Helene Bucchieri, whom I had met several times before, and was asked to serve as the interviewer for the upcoming episode. Though I have to admit I was a bit nervous, I agreed.
First, I interviewed Leia Schwartz, the 10-year-old author of Dyslexic Renegade. She was diagnosed with dyslexia and took it as an opportunity to educate and empower her peers. What a strange feeling being on the other side of the questions, but it was definitely loads of fun! I had initially been under the impression that this was my only job, but Helene was so happy with my "performance" that she asked me to interview one more young lady! Just goes to show you, you' have to always be ready to go with flow. Thank you for trusting me with your show, Helene. I loved my first hosting experience and look forward to doing more work with you in the future.
NYC Chili Cookoff
I am most definitely a "foodie," so what is a better fit for me than judging a cookoff? I had previously served as a special guest judge for the NYC Chili Cookoff in 2014 and was asked to return this year as Miss Greater New York. I guess I did an okay job last year, huh?
The NYC Chili Cookoff is sanctioned by the International Chili Society, so this competition is no joke. Judges must sit through a pre-cookoff orientation (complete with a reading of the rules) and must take their jobs very seriously. After all, the cooks are counting on us! I judged both the salsa and red chili competitions, took a stroll through Historic Richmond Town with my family, ate delicious food and met two Jets coaches (Ron Heller & Marcel Shipp). All in all, it was a pretty wonderful day!
Give Hope Walk
To round out a fantastic month, I was finally able to attend the Give Hope Walk to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. April 26th was a beautiful day and the scenery was perfect for a morning stroll (If you've never been to Riverside Park, you must go!). I was invited to cut the starting ribbon alongside Dana Wershaw, a pediatric cancer survivor. It was an amazing honor for me, especially since I have been able to donate over $15,000 to this organization in the past year. Their gratitude was simply overwhelming.
I spent the day speaking with pediatric cancer families, gathering ideas for upcoming projects, and enjoying the gorgeous spring weather (finally). I even had the chance to chat with Lee Goldberg, the meteorologist for ABC7 and an avid supporter of PCF. The entire event reaffirmed my passion for my platform and inspired me to develop new initiatives. Our children are worth #MoreThan4. It's time the government took notice.
Now, it's time to say "Hello" to May...and to some new projects and fundraisers! It's going to be a busy month because I will be finalizing my preparations for Miss New York, as well, but I'm looking forward to it all. Let the fun begin!
** If you sang the title of this blog, you're awesome (and are probably a 90s child). If not, see here. **
Now, let's get down to business. Tomorrow is the beginning of May and I cannot believe how quickly April flew by! I guess time flies when you're having fun...and when you have 11 events in 11 days. I've been meaning to calculate my travel miles, so I'll be sure to do that soon, too. I feel like I've been to every part of the state since being crowned in March! In fact, I've done so much that I'm going to have to cut this blog into two separate posts! Here we go...
Ronald McDonald House of Long Island
Each year, on April 15th, the Staten Island Giving Circle sends a small group to cook dinner for the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island. I was excited to be able to join this group for the second time. The kitchen and playroom had been updated since my last visit and they were beautiful! The entire house truly feels like home. It is welcoming and warm, which I'm sure is much appreciated by the many families who stay there, far away from their own homes.
Mom and I were in charge of the cookies, which was a definite test of my willpower. It only took an hour and a half to complete the entire meal and it looked delicious! I couldn't stay long enough to see the reactions of the guests, as I had an appointment next door for a special tour of Cohen Children's Medical Center, but I have no doubt it was hit!
Cohen Children's Medical Center
After cooking dinner for the RMH, I went right next door to meet Victoria Mann, the Development Assistant at Cohen Children's Medical Center, for a tour of the hospital. I had connected with Victoria previously at the Walk For Health Kickoff. Since Cohen Children's Medical Center is the only Children's Miracle Network Hospital in the Greater New York area, I was excited to have the opportunity to learn more about the workings of the facility.
The tour was led by Victoria Maccone, the Development Manager. She took us floor-by-floor and explained the layouts, artwork, and high-tech equipment used in each section. An incredible amount of thought was put into every detail, making sure the patients and families always feel safe, comforted, and - most importantly - happy. I am so thankful to have been given the opportunity to see exactly where the over $6,000 I have raised for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals has gone. I am raising funds directly for this incredible facility this year, as well, with my team "These Crowns Are Made For Walking." Help us out, if you can. I promise, it will be put to great use! Click here.
Kayla's Life Fund
On April 17th, I met a little fighter named Kayla. She was born with Situs Inversus, a condition in which the visceral organs are reversed. Because of this, she now has Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia (PCD). I saw that her family was having a fundraiser to help supplement their medical bills, a decided I had to meet her! After conversing with her mother beforehand, I surprised Kayla with a few gifts at her fundraiser - including her very own crown! She was definitely excited and carried her gift bag around like a purse the entire night. To learn more about Kayla, visit www.KaylaLifeFund.org.
Miss America Day Of Service
This year, for the first time, the entire Miss America Organization came together for a day of service sponsored by the Children's Miracle Network. This event, known as "Miss America Serves," encouraged the states to create team volunteer projects and the Miss New York Organization made one of those opportunities the Silver Lake Specialized Care Center. Joined by fellow "downstate" titleholders, I enjoyed a day of games and conversations with the seniors at the center. I even met a 102-year-old rockstar resident, who just wanted to show all the girls how awesome her pink nails were. I have to admit -- they looked great!
After a day of #MissAmericaServes, a group of the titleholders ventured into Manhattan for another event. Founded in 2012, DragOn is an annual showcase of creative costume and drag talent. The event shines a spotlight on New York City’s LGBT community and allies in support of Gay Men's Health Crisis.
I was excited to attend and see my friend, Justin, as he was planning to compete in the fashion show "walk-off." And, let me tell you, he was fabulous! I wish I was as fierce as some of these men! Seriously - 100% jealous.
A special thank you to Jason Shaw, who invited the Miss New York titleholders as his guests. And a great job to Jillian Tapper, Miss New York 2014, who served as a judge!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this April blog. There's much more to come!
Here we are, already halfway through April! My responsibilities are quickly building, but my drive and commitment are as strong as ever. Looking back on these past two weeks, I realize that my appearances had one common theme: they all centered around children. These types of events are always my personal favorite.
Walk For Health Kickoff
Previously known as the Every Woman Matters Walk, the North Shore-LIJ Walk for Health is a walk for women and their families benefitting both The Katz Institute for Women's Health and Cohen Children's Medical Center (CCMC). Since Cohen Children's Medical Center is a CMN Hospital - and the only one in the downstate region - a group of the titleholders were asked to participate in the upcoming walk on May 17th.
Of course, every walk has its "kickoff." That is why, on April 1st, Kristen Stillwell (Miss Manhattan) and I made our way to Long Island to get some more information for our team, "These Crowns Are Made For Walking." We met the CCMC staff, enjoyed a few snacks, and brainstormed ideas for Victoria Mann (Development Assistant) to further promote the walk and our involvement in it. There are 8 local titleholders participating and we want this partnership to be an enormous success. You can help! Please consider making a donation here!
Coney Island: Light Up Blue
The Parachute Jump is a landmark in Coney Island, which is used as a monument to recognize several worthwhile causes, including pediatric cancer in September. April is Autism Awareness Month. On April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day, I made my way to Brooklyn to join the "Coney Island Autism Angels" as they lit the Parachute Jump blue.
It was an unusually cold night, but there was still a large crowd gathered as politicians and families spoke. After a few presentations, the structure lit blue and the crowd erupted in cheers.
1 in 68 children born in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. On that night, we stood together to help people understand what autism is all about and to create an understanding, supportive environment for all children.
A Voice For Frankie
I met Gina Billera last year when I was interviewed on the Al Lambert Show. We kept in touch throughout the year and I even made an appearance on her friend's program on CTV, Late Night With Johnny P. When she asked if I would come to her fundraiser "A Voice For Frankie" in honor of her son who is living with autism, I obviously whole-heartedly agreed!
My mom and I had a great time at the event, which included comedians, singers, dinner, and raffle baskets. I even walked away with a prize! It was also wonderful to see some friends that I didn't know where attending: Carla Murino of Carla's Closet, Vinnie Medugno, and former teacher, Ms. Carroll. Proceeds went to benefit PS 37, a school for children with special needs, and I know they must be incredibly grateful for the support.
Young Voice Of NYC
Young Voice Of NYC is a talent competition to benefit St Jude Children's Research Hospital.
This annual showcase fundraiser features a panel of judges who award one contestant the honor of becoming the Youth Ambassador for St Jude. When I found the event online, I knew I had to be a part of it. I immediately contacted the organizers and offered to help in any way.
I arrived at the theater in Queens early to help with setting up and, once the event began, I volunteered to help serve food to the participants and guests. I have to say, it wasn't easy smelling all of the sandwiches and chicken wings without eating them all!
Then, it was time for the show to begin. There were so many talented kids; I couldn't even believe what I was seeing and hearing! I knew the judges were going to have a difficult time making a decision. After each performance, the panel asked the contestant a few questions, which always included, "Why do you want to be the ambassador for St Jude?" I was very impressed with all of the answers.
In the end, it was Sparsh Shah who stole the judges hearts. I have to be quite honest, he had already stolen my heart prior to the show, as well. This 11 year old is wise far beyond his years. Sparsh suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, but he doesn't let that stop him. To describe him in my own words will not do him justice. You need to see and hear him for yourself, so here is a link to his public figure page. Congratulations, Sparsh Shah! I have no doubt that you will do amazing things this year as the 2015 Youth Ambassador for St Jude Children's Research Hospital!
*BONUS* - Workshop Weekend
This past weekend, I traveled to Saratoga Springs to meet the rest of the Class of 2015 for the Miss New York Workshop. We spent the weekend touring the Capitol Building, meeting with sponsors, learning about the requirements for Miss NY, and picking our contestant order. I will be representing the Greater New York area on June 4th, 5th, & 6th as Contestant #5!
All 29 contestants also attended the Miss New York's Outstanding Teen Pageant while we were there. Congratulations to Alisa Vasquez, the former Miss Upstate's Outstanding Teen, who walked away with the crown! A congratulations, as well, to all of the 24 teens who made their supporters and big sisters proud. You were all beautiful!
With only 7 weeks until Miss New York Week begins, it's time to get serious! I'm going to be a busy bee, so make sure to keep up with me on my public figure page or through my blog posts! Thanks for reading!
After being crowned on March 15th, I hit the ground running. Though I only passed on my previous local title in November, it was definitely an adjustment jumping back into the "titleholder life." In the past two weeks I have made 4 appearances, attended 2 send-off parties, & traveled to 1 pageant. I have also begun preparing for Miss New York, which is now only 65 days away! Eek!!
Giving Strength, Fighting As One
On March 19th, I headed to The Old Bermuda Inn for "Giving Strength, Fighting As One," a fundraiser to benefit Michael's Cause, Pietro's Fight, & Jar Of Hope. These organizations work to find to a cure for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a rapidly progressive form of muscular dystrophy that occurs primarily in boys. The event featured vendors, games, and a magician for the kids!
I was also joined by Miss Staten Island's Outstanding Teen & Miss NW Oklahoma City's Outstanding Teen (who had been in New York for Spring Break). It was fun, relaxing night for the families who had young boys affected by the illness and for all other guests, as well.
Our Miss New York Class was completed last week and, though it was 3 hours away, I had to be in Binghamton to watch it happen! After all, this is the last Miss New York Class I will ever be part of (that's a little strange to see in print, but it's true).
The pageant was run by Jack Carr and gave the opportunity for girls who placed as a runner-up in any other local this season to give it one last shot. Two girls were crowned and brought our class total to 29 girls! Congratulations to Cassie Paradise, Miss Southern Tier & Hillary Peckham, Miss Triple Cities!
Inner Circle Show
Since 1922, the Inner Circle (comprised of reporters, journalists, and television/radio personalities) has held the annual "Inner Circle Show" to satirize our mayor and various other politicians through song and dance. Proceeds from the show benefit multiple charities across NYC, chosen by the Inner Circle members. It's comedy for a cause and I was honored to have been a part of the festivities for the second year in a row.
Following the show, my family and I attended the "after party" with some of the performers and I felt like a definite celebrity mingling with them. I even ran into NJ Burkett from ABC 7 who remembered me from last year! A special thank you to Michael Scholl, who had me and my family as his guests. We had a blast!
Iber Cup Fundraiser
After the "Eggstravagant Breakfast" I stopped by a send-off party for the Miss Staten Island Organization teens and then it was time for an Iber Cup Fundraiser. What is the Iber Cup? I was wondering the same thing. Iber Cup is one of the world's largest youth football tournaments. In this case, football means soccer. A local team from right here on Staten Island will be competing in this tournament and my fabulous hair sponsor, Claudia Carucci of Zoe Salon, has been hosting fundraisers to pay for their expenses. Her son is a member of the team.
Claudia asked me to attend the event and give the team a motivational pep talk. Though I don't know much about soccer, I do know about motivation and determination, so I agreed. That night, I spoke to the boys about hard work and making dreams a reality. I could relate to them through my years of competing with a team in dance competitions. It's all about trusting each other and learning to work together. "Most importantly," I told them, "believe that it can happen, and it will." I can't wait to see how they do!
One of the greatest gifts the Miss America Organization gives to its contestants is long-lasting friendships. These friendships are not only within the miss program; they cross over into the teen program, as well. This past weekend, I joined some of my Miss New York sisters in "sending-off" our local teen contestants. This year, we have 5 girls from Staten Island who will be competing in the Miss New York's Outstanding Teen Pageant on April 11th.
We celebrated the girls at two separate parties on Saturday & Sunday. Though Charista and Ashley were unable to attend, we hope they know how much love and support they have behind them! A special thank you to Amanda and Allison who organized the second send-off. You girls are incredible!
Good luck to our "Staten Island Teens!" You will be wonderful!
If all of this happened in just two weeks, I can't wait to see what the rest of the year has in store for me! I have much more planned in the coming months and will even be hosting some fundraisers for Children's Miracle Network, Pediatric Cancer Foundation, and Cohen Children's Medical Center! Make sure to follow my Public Figure Page on Facebook to keep up with me (and see more pictures)! Thank you all for your continued support!
Nothing in life is ever guaranteed. This is the thought I kept with me as I competed in my last Miss America local competition this past weekend. I had confidence in myself and truly believed that I would be a wonderful 4th year titleholder, but I knew that the judges could feel differently. After all, "different day, different judges, different opinions." All I could do was go into the pageant as prepared as possible and give it every ounce of effort I had.
I worked harder than I ever had before. I was training at least twice a week with additional workouts in between, I choreographed and practiced a new dance, my meal plan had completely changed, I began working with a chiropractor, and I studied for interview every day. If I wanted it, I was going to have to work for it. When it came time for pageant weekend, I couldn't say that I was completely calm (I didn't sleep at all on Saturday night), but I definitely felt more prepared than ever before.
It was a snowy morning in Cortland as we made our way to the venue. It was there that we would complete our interviews and, later on, compete onstage. Though the contestants were split into two rooms, we still spent time getting to know each other and listening to music to calm our nerves. I was especially happy to be able to spend those nerve-wracking hours of competition next to three very special ladies: Amanda, Dana, & Allison. We've been through so many stages of this pageant world together. I am proud to see how much they have accomplished because they all represent the true passion of service that is behind this organization. Plus, they know how to laugh at themselves and take life as it comes, which are traits I admire and try to emulate, as well. (I mean, look at that picture. Does it look like we take life too seriously?)
Before I knew it, it was time. I was contestant #15 (the last of the bunch) and I was ready to get into the interview room and speak to the judges. However, as quickly as it was my turn, the interview was over. I left the room feeling overjoyed. I knew in my heart that I had given them the perfect snapshot of myself and what I stand for. It was more than I could have asked for.
*Full Disclosure: I may have done a "happy dance" in the hallway the minute I left the room...oops.*
After some last minute touches, the show began. I can only describe it as a whirlwind. It all happened so fast! One minute I was laughing & joking with my "Staten Island Girls" backstage and the next minute we were lining up for crowning!
One-by-one the names were called as I stood holding....okay, squeezing...Amanda's hand.
2nd runner-up: Amanda Rae Davis
1st runner-up: Kendal Collins
County Queen #1: Ashley Davis
County Queen #2: Jessica Brosofsky
Okay, now this was really it. I knew I had given it my all, but what if it wasn't enough? And, then, they finally said it...
County Queen #3: Jamie Lynn Macchia !!
All of my emotions left my body - mainly by way of an ugly cry - as I was crowned by Jillian Tapper, Miss New York 2014. I still can't believe it. I'm returning to Miss New York for the 4th and final time!
As a "County Queen" you have the opportunity to pick your title based on your hometown. I knew from the start that I wanted to be Miss Greater New York. Why? There were two main reasons:
Thank you to Jack Carr, the judges, the volunteers, and everyone who took part in preparing me and supporting me! Your time and dedication mean so much. A special congratulations, as well, to Jessica & Ashley, who will also be competing at Miss New York in June!
I look forward to everything this year has to offer and, as you all know, I am one to take my crown and run with it! Luckily, I have my sash from 2013 to use until I receive my new one in a few weeks! Here's to a fun-filled, exciting, inspiring, and successful final year with the Miss America Organization.
- Miss Greater New York 2015
“The hardest test in life is the patience to wait for the right moment.”
Last May, I competed for the title of Miss New York. It was not my first time, but my two previous experiences where very different from each other, having placed Top 10 on my first try and not placing at all the second time around. It was a significant blow to my confidence and I quickly learned that nothing is guaranteed…ever. If you want something, you must work for it. That’s what I did. I went into Miss New York 2014 having no expectations, but hoping to at least place in the Top 10. That was my goal. One by one the names were called and, to my immense surprise, I was still standing there in the Top 5. In the end, I placed 2nd runner-up to Miss New York, a feat I quite honestly did not even believe was possible.
I was thrilled for Kira and booked my room to show my support in Atlantic City. Now, imagine my shock (I use the term “shock” lightly because we knew it was a definite possibility that Miss NY could pull a three-peat) when, as I sat in the audience, Kira Kazantsev became our third straight Miss America from New York.
As we left the auditorium, my phone became alive with messages. Having represented the Empire State at the National Sweetheart Pageant (a pageant traditionally for 1st runner-ups) just one month prior, my Sweetheart sisters were elated for me and, having watched the pageant, they had almost immediately begun congratulating me on “becoming Miss New York.” They were quickly joined by my family and friends texting me and posting their congratulations on my Facebook page. This was where the panic set in. Me? Miss New York? I hadn’t even been asked yet! I wasn’t even the 1st runner-up! My response was “…thanks everyone for your enthusiasm, but Miss NY hasn't been offered to anyone yet. Right now, I'm content as your Miss Staten Island and tonight is about celebrating Kira.”
Back in my room, I managed to calm down, focus, and, since I knew that the crown could now potentially be offered to me, work through my feelings on the entire situation. Let me tell you: You will never understand the stress of this kind of decision until you are put in that position yourself. You would think it would be so simple. I assure you, it is not.
I’ve always maintained that my focus in this organization is my platform and service to my community. Giving back inspires me. It’s who I am and have always been. My mind raced. Why, then, would I want to pass on the opportunity to take my efforts to the next level? If I were to decline, I realized that I could potentially leave the Miss America Organization this year having never achieved the Miss New York crown. On the flip side, I would have more opportunity to speak about pediatric cancer across the state and advocate for increased funding for research; something I am extremely passionate about. Seems like a clear-cut decision, right? Wrong. Like I said…it’s not that simple.
Right after the Miss NY Pageant in May, I had come to terms with the reality that I was not Miss New York. I focused my energy on preparing for the National Sweetheart Pageant in Illinois and planned being a fabulous representative as New York’s Sweetheart. Then, nearly 4 months later as I was sitting in my room, I got “the call” from Deb Cantoni, Executive Director of the Miss NY Board. She informed me that our 1st runner-up had declined the crown and it was my turn to make a choice. Cue the nervous butterflies. I was given a few days to decide. I hung up the phone and, curiously, felt a sense of peace. I had been thinking (well actually obsessing) about this for several days already and I knew what I had to do.
I respectfully declined. When I hung up the phone, I knew that I had done what was in my heart.
There were many factors that went into my decision, but what finally convinced me is the very thing that might have also swayed me to take the title…my platform. As a titleholder and as a person, I am “Inspiring Action Against Pediatric Cancer.” It is not a hot topic, it is not on the news every day, and it is not being spoken about by celebrities at award shows. However, the statistics have remained unchanged for years, with only 4% of federal funding for cancer research being allocated for all childhood cancers combined. It is absurd when you really think about it and I am doing everything I can to change that fact. The truth is, it is much easier to gain the attention necessary when you have a crown and a title attached to your name. I’ve always recognized that and, as such, I treat every title as holding the same amount of power – whether it’s a local title, Miss New York or Miss America. We can all make a difference.
That’s when it clicked for me. My end goal was never to just “be Miss New York” or “be Miss America.” Of course, every girl who competes wants to achieve the title, but my end goal has always been to make the biggest impact possible.
This is my last year in the Miss America Organization and if I had accepted the title, I would have only been Miss New York until June 2015. By declining, I now have the possibility of gaining a local title and giving everything I have at Miss New York, this year. If I never win the state title, I will still have the incredible power of a crown until 2016, which is another full year of making a difference in my community. I am content with that.
I know it is not easy for everyone to understand the decision I made, but I am at peace with it because I know that it was made with the best intentions and it was right for me. In my 3 years as a local titleholder, I have attended nearly 300 community events and raised over $40,000 for various charitable organizations. Imagine the impact I will have in my final year. As I said in September, “I am honored to have been given the opportunity, but I feel in my heart that my journey is not yet complete.”
Thank you all for taking the time to read my thoughts and for sticking with me on this wild journey.