I spent this past week in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Planet Hollywood Hotel for the Miss America pageant. The week started off Tuesday morning with a costume fitting with Trish, from Togatea Designs. The costume she made for me was absolutely gorgeous, and I’m thankful to have such talented people as sponsors. Thank you Togatea! Next, Mrs. Dianne and I headed down to the Miss America office which was set up in the hotel to check in. It was great seeing all the Miss America staff members’ smiling faces. Once all our business was settled in the office, we had a wonderful lunch with Dr. Glenn Harmon. I was fascinated by his life as an Appalachian Trail hiker, professional pianist, world traveler, doctor, and former professional figure skater. Dr. Glenn is such an interesting man, and I’m glad I got to chat with him and thankful for his support of the MAOTeen organization. After lunch I had rehearsal so Mrs. Dianne and I went to the auditorium where I ran through my solo. Once rehearsal was over, Taylor, who is part of Jenn Cady’s team of makeup artists, helped get me stage-ready for my performance that night. Thank you Taylor for being so sweet and always doing a fabulous job! After we were all ready to go, Mrs. Beth, our special security guard for the week, lead us down to the auditorium where we mingled until the pageant began. Towards the beginning of the show, I was introduced, and then headed back to the tent to get changed and warmed up for my dance. Finally, with the help of the backstage crew directing me on where to be at certain times, I made it out onto the stage and perform the same dance I did at MAOTeen, The Climb. Dancing on the Miss America stage was truly an indescribable feeling, and even though I don’t usually enjoy dancing with tights on because I feel like I’m not able to perform my best, this experience made even having to wear tights fun! I loved every minute of it, and the whole time I felt like I was in a dream. All 53 contestants did a spectacular job, which made the first night of prelims a success. At the end of the show, I received my Duke of Edinburough gold medal award along with Miss SC, Ali Rogers. I was so incredibly proud of her because she won the lifestyle and fitness prelim that night as well! Of course this made me ecstatic for the rest of the night, during which time, we headed up to Jenn Cady’s room for a photoshoot with Laura Keappler, Miss America 2012. I always enjoy Jenn’s photo shoots because they are so much fun, and this one was no exception.
Wednesday was a rehearsal-filled day. We began with a teen rehearsal that morning to review and perfect our fitness production number we had performed at MAOTeen in Orlando. I had a blast getting to see all my dear friends I made this summer and catching up with them. Rehearsal was especially fun, because I got to introduce one of my very best friends, Sydney Sill, Miss SC’s OT, to all the other state titleholders. Rehearsal could not have gone any more smoothly thanks to Mrs. Mary Bocchicchio, and Mrs. Jodi Fonfi. After rehearsal, I had lunch with these sweet ladies. Following lunch, we returned to the auditorium to run through the number one more time. That night, after being introduced, I headed back to change and then had the time of my life performing with all my teen sisters on the Miss America stage. I think we wowed the audience with our high energy, tumbling-packed routine. After another very successful prelim, Mrs. Dianne, Mrs. Beth and I stopped by visitation where we encountered several state directors and got to mingle with many of the different states. Of course we also stopped by South Carolina’s area for a bit, and it was so nice getting to see Ali, Sydney, my parents, and two of my favorite people in the world, the SC directors, Ashley Byrd and Steve Frocchi!
Thursday morning, I got to attend the Miss America press conference where I observed as some of the former Miss Americas, along with Laura, answered questions about the organization and some of their memories during their reign. When the press conference ended, we all loaded up on a bus and headed to the Miss America luncheon. I was in awe of many of the former Miss Americas, and was so honored to get to meet, and talk with, many of these inspiring women. The luncheon venue was beautiful, (thanks to MA sponsor, Neiman Marcus who provided it) the food was delicious, and I enjoyed mingling with all the folks who attended. Also a huge thank you to MAO Board Member, Mrs. Lynn Wiedner for helping to arrange and make the luncheon possible. While there, I was incredibly moved by Sara Stonier’s speech about her experience in the Miss America circuit. I also enjoyed being in Mr. Robin Leach’s company and listening to him talk; I loved his accent! After the luncheon, I joined the Teens for an autograph session. There was also a CEO reception in the theatre that Mrs. Dianne and I attended that night before the show. Since I wasn’t performing Thursday night, after being introduced, I was able to sit back and enjoy the performances. Following the show, we headed to the Miss America hospitality suite where I was able to visit with some of the formers a little more and get some photos with them before heading back to our room for some much needed sleep.
Friday was teen day, and boy was it fun! First we got to tour the historic Las Vegas sign, where our great photographer, Mr. Allen took some excellent photos. From there, we went to the St. Rose CMN hospital where we were able to have a tour thanks to Mr. Jaden. Next, we visited White House Black Market, and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Mr. Jason gave us a tour of the beautiful Smith Center and he was so incredibly kind. You could just tell he had a true servant’s heart, and I was inspired by, and throughly enjoyed, his telling us about how he got into the business that lead him to his job today. Thank you to Ellie Smith, Miss Nevada’s OT, and her mother, Mrs. Gerrie, for helping to coordinate these special appearances for the teens.That night, six of the former MAOTeens and I were treated to a dinner by the precious Mr. Jeff Parker. This was my first time meeting Mr. Jeff, and I could feel the love radiating from him. He is probably one of the friendliest, most genuinely caring people I have ever met. I’m so very thankful to have someone like him support the MAOTeen organization. This dinner was absolutely incredible because I got to spend it with my MAOTeen sisters! I’d never met a couple of them before so it was a real treat!
Saturday, I had the privilege of being a part of the Miss America autograph session with many of the former Miss Americas. Then, I headed over to the Fourpoints boothe which was set up in the trade show where I got to sign magazines and take photos. For lunch, I joined my SC crew at a restaurant in the hotel where I was able to see my parents and grandparents, as well as almost all of Laurens County who had come to support our incredible Miss SC, and my big sister, Ali Rogers. After lunch, Taylor beautified me for the final show that night, and away we went to the auditorium. My nerves had me all excited, and it was so cool to get to see the show in person instead of on TV. After being introduced, I held my breath each time the contestants were narrowed down. By the end of the night, we had our new Miss America, Miss New York, Mallory Hagen. I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome of things, and am beyond proud of my SC big sis, Ali Rogers, who placed first runner up! I’m sure Mallory will do a magnificent job representing our nation and the organization this year, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for the 53 remarkable young women who competed this year.