Sunday, December 31, 2006

Pageant Press: Ashleigh Lemon crowned Miss SEO

CLICK HERE for the Coshocton Tribune article by Holly Richards.

CLICK HERE for a gallery of photos by Trevor Jones, the captions of which tell that Karissa Martin and Emma McCullough won Talent Awards.
[Below left, Martin sings "I Feel Pretty;"
below right McCullough dances a ballet en pointe.]

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Congratulations to the New Miss Southeastern Ohio, Ashleigh Lemon!

Tonight Jenna Wilson crowned a new Miss Souteastern Ohio, Ashleigh Lemon [right]. Ashleigh is from Caldwell, Ohio, and is a senior at Muskingum College majoring in Conservation Science. For the talent portion she sang "Crazy;" on the Miss SEO website she said she wanted the title to "incorporate the title of Miss SEO with promoting my platform issue to the public.”

Ashleigh competed in this pageant last year, but did not place. Last year's website further shared that her favorite quote is: "When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life." Three words that describe her best are: Intellectual, Personable, Self-motivated. Last year her platform was “Bio-diversity: The Race Against Time.”

The First Runner-up was Laura LaCara of Dresden. She is pursuing Musical Theatre at Wright State University; tonight she sang "Astonishing."

Karissa Martin was named Second Runner-up. She studies Music Education at West Liberty State College. Karissa performed "I Feel Pretty" from the musical West Side Story. Last year she was also Second Runner-up at Miss SEO; she will compete for her first time at Miss Ohio as Miss Scioto Valley, a title she won in November.

A hometown girl attending West Muskingum High School, Sasha Eby was named Third Runner-up. She sang "Forget About The Boy." This past summer Sasha was named the Miss Southeastern Ohio Teen.

Also from Zanesville, Amelia Vincent was named Fourth Runner-up. She attend(s/ed) West Virginia Wesleyan College and sang "On Eagles Wings." Amelia competed last year and won the Spirit Award.

All photos from Leonard Hill; copied from the Miss SEO website.

Best of Luck to the Miss Southeastern Ohio Pageant Tonight!

Tonight in Zanesville the Miss Southeaster Ohio Scholarship Pageant will take place. Note, however, this pageant is no longer an official affiliate of the Miss Ohio scholarship Program… however; the winner may still compete there this summer. Confusing? Certainly. Controversial? A tad, depending who you talk to… But never mind all that for now, the important part is that a beautiful, accomplished woman is giving up a title and twenty other women are vying for over $20,000 in scholarships and prizes!

*First Things First...

Last year the Miss SEO program was resurrected and Jenna Wilson won the title and several other awards. I was in attendance that night [left] and Jenna and I ended up being roommates in Mansfield at Miss Ohio this past July. I cannot begin to say enough about Jenna! She is sweet, humble, fun and determined. I have met a lot of women in the Miss America organization who are committed to their platform; like many, Jenna’s comes from a very personal place, yet she manages not to make it an annoying sob story. Upon birth, Jenna fought for her life and now helps at-risk babies, like she was, by working with the March of Dimes. She is a talented vocalist who recorded a CD to raise funds and awareness for her cause. [Right: we’re in our Sunday parade best at Miss Ohio.] People in pageantland throw this phrase around a lot, but I was truly surprised when she didn’t make the Top 10. I bring it up only to say she handled the disappointment with tremendous grace and dignity, a feat that is beyond difficult, trust me, I know.
Jenna and I also competed together in September at Miss Ohio USA. I had a great backstage picture of us together, which I now cannot find in the vaults of my computer.

*The Contestants

Twenty women from the southeastern Ohio area are vying for Jenna’s title. While I’m sure this is the first pageant for some, others competed last year and a few names may ring a bell from other Miss Ohio locals- Courtney Wallace, Karissa Martin and Kara Roberts.
CLICK HERE to view all the contestant’s photos and information.

Contestants are judged in five areas of competition:
Interview: 30%
Talent: 20%
Commitment to Community Service: 20%

Health & Fitness: 15%
Evening Wear: 15%

*Pageant Press

Click on the following headlines from the Zanesville Times Recorder to read the stories:

Miss SEO Contestants Prepare for Pageant

*Confusing Point #1- How might the winner of a non-franchised pageant go to Miss Ohio?

As I said above, Miss SEO is no longer an official local to Miss Ohio. Rather, it is an independent scholarship program to strengthen the community and help local women. On the official website, pageant director Vicki LeVeck states, “As a community, Zanesville-Muskingum County is committed to encouraging young people to advance their education, to obtain personal and humanitarian goals, and to improve the lives of others while maintaining their own sense of style and character.” In my area of the state similar pageants are the Van Wert Peony Pageant, Napoleon Tomato Queen, St. Mary’s Summer Fest Queen, etc… I’m sure independent community pageants like this exist everywhere.

The winner of Miss SEO could still compete at Miss Ohio under three different circumstances:

A. To increase the number of participants at Miss State the Miss America system has revised its rules to include independent title holders, such as fair and festival queens and representatives of colleges and university. (I currently can’t find the letter which was sent down from the national level about this, so please email it to me if you have it.) A Miss SEO contestant told me that her understanding is if the new Miss SEO wants to compete at Miss Ohio she can submit paperwork to the Miss Ohio board. The Board will review the potential contestant and decide whether or not to accept her as a state contestant.

B. Next, the Miss Ohio contract states that a titleholder may not hold simultaneous titles which both advance to a state, national or international level. Titles often overlap, but the key is that the contestant has completed her obligation to compete at the next level. For example, several local titleholders competed at Miss Ohio USA this fall; we were all “cleared” by our local directors because we had already competed at Miss Ohio (America). This is relevant because one of the Miss SEO contestants already holds a local title, with which she’ll compete at Miss Ohio this summer. Many have wondered, is she allowed to hold both titles, and if she already has a crown to Miss Ohio, why is she competing at Miss SEO?

I pride myself on using this blog in a positive way, so to end the gossip and speculation, I went to reliable sources, and here are the facts- Karissa Martin, Miss Scioto Valley, has received permission from the Miss Ohio board to compete in Miss SEO because Miss SEO does not automatically advance to any other pageant. By competing, she is making herself eligible for valuable scholarships and prizes, as well as gaining invaluable practice for Miss Ohio. If she wins, her commitment as Miss SEO will only be local, and she’ll likely be given even greater opportunities to work with her platform, while her preparation for Miss Ohio and her duties as Miss SV will come first.

Okay, just to play out all the options… If Karissa Martin does not win, and if the winner does not go to Miss Ohio as Miss SEO, that woman would be able to continue competing in Miss Ohio locals in the spring. This might happen if the Miss Ohio board for some reason does not approve the new Miss SEO. Or, if the new Miss SEO is extremely confident and wants to try other locals in hopes of even more scholarship money.

*Confusing Point #2- Why isn’t Miss SEO an official local anymore?

PLEASE NOTE- “Confusing Point #1” was based on information from very reliable sources; however, the following is hearsay and my personal opinions.

Last year, Miss SEO was seemingly everything a local pageant should be. The pageant gave out tremendous scholarships, had twenty contestants, a beautiful auditorium nearly sold out, and the hosts were Miss America 2000, Heather French and Johnny Parrazzo, emcee to multiple state programs. As Jenna Wilson’s Miss Ohio roommate, I know that she was given amazing support, preparation and weekly appearances! This sounds like a model, and rarely a reality; thus, the organization was featured in Four Points Magazine.

Why, oh why, then would the Miss Southeastern Ohio's franchise as a Miss Ohio local NOT be renewed?

Pageant director Vicki LeVeck issued the following:

Last year, the Miss Southeastern Ohio program was resurrected after a six-year hiatus. At that point, the new director of the program, Vicki LeVeck, made the choice to affiliate the Miss SEO program with the Miss America Organization by acquiring an official Miss America Local Preliminary Franchise. In 2007, Miss SEO will operate independently.

“This gives us the freedom to place greater focus on the contestants and their involvement in community service, higher education, and the performing arts,” stated Executive Director, Vicki LeVeck. “While we will not be affiliated with the Miss Ohio/Miss America Organization this year, we will continue to provide an opportunity for young women in the Southeastern Ohio area to earn much needed and well-deserved scholarship dollars; to showcase their performing talent; to hone their public speaking and interview skills; and to develop personally and professionally overall.”

Miss SEO will still be open to young women ages 17 to 24 pursuing higher education. Last year, the program was limited to contestants who attended school or resided in one of the following counties: Muskingum, Belmont, Perry, Hocking, Coshocton, Noble, Morgan, Athens, Guernsey, Monroe, Washington, and Meigs. This coming year, in addition to those counties, Miss SEO will also be open to: Licking, Fairfield, Vinton, and Athens counties.

“This provides a better representation of Southeastern Ohio, and from a tourism standpoint, it will be to our economic advantage to draw people from each of these counties to downtown Zanesville for a series of events,” LeVeck explained. “Which brings me to another point and another improvement. The Miss SEO program will host not just a pageant, but also a series of events that will make up the Miss SEO experience.”

In addition to a staged pageant with areas of competition in talent and interview, the new Miss SEO program will more greatly emphasize community service and the celebration of women and beauty. The contestants will also have an opportunity to attend a series of professional development workshops.
CLICK HERE to read the entire press release.

I’ve heard it had something to do with the fact that Miss SEO held a teen pageant as a fundraiser; because Miss America now has an official teen program, SEO’s independent teen pageant may have been some sort of conflict of interest.

Another theory is that Miss SEO was simply too good; some may feel that it made the state program look bad.

I suppose if I were still a titleholder I would approach the topic more gingerly, but as I’m not, and as a friend of Jenna, I think it is ridiculous that such an outstanding local is no longer an official part of Miss Ohio.

*Final Thoughts

Best of luck to Jenna, all the contestants and the Miss Southeastern Ohio program tonight. I wish I could attend, to see Jenna and hear the contestant who’s singing my old talent song… but with the holidays, I’ve been doing too much driving lately…

While I don’t agree with the new rule which allows non-official local pageant winners to participate at Miss State (more about that once I find a copy of the letter), I also disagree with Miss SEO’s removal as a Miss Ohio franchise… so whoever the winner tonight, I hope she is at Miss Ohio one way or another!

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Gift That Keeps On Giving...

Sorry to disappoint, this is not an amazingly inspirational post, as the title may imply…

Last year Loren and I got my parents a pair of lovebirds. Click here for last year's post. [Above: Lucy (blue) and Ricky (green)]. The family’s last pair laid eggs that never hatched, and sadly the female died from an egg that got stuck. So, like a teenager having unprotected sex who thinks, “it can’t happen to me,” my dad once again put a nesting box on the cage and we were all shocked when eggs started hatching around Thanksgiving! Three of five eggs hatched and the first and third hatchers survived. [Left: a little over a week old.] We’re told these are actually really impressive stats. Throughout the incubation process my parents joked that my brothers and I were each getting a chick for Christmas; my oldest brother said he’d take his hard boiled!

Even after the hatching began, my parents were skeptical the chicks would survive. [Right: about two and a half weeks.] They’ve always been amazing parents to me, but these poor birds are getting the short end of the planning stick! Now they have two healthy lovebird chicks and no idea what to do with them, as none of the human children want a bird!

So, if you or anyone you know wants one, let me know… or if not, just enjoy the photos; click to enlarge.

[Above: at a little over a month old, the oldest chick has began contemplating taking his first step out of the nesting box. I took these two days ago, so I'm sure by now it's out and about!]

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays!

Today Loren and I and the animals are headed to my parent's house...

Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings.

May whatever you celebrate be joyous for you and yours!

[The above image features Jason Alexander, aka George, and is from a random website. It will be funny to fans of Seinfeld, like me!]

Friday, December 22, 2006

Life in Photo Review...

Well, sadly there's even more Miss USA scandal hitting the headlines... Click here for news articles. I'm pretty sick of it all, so instead of devoting anymore space on the web to it, scroll below for the photos I promised in a recent post! Click each photo to enlarge it.

Way back at the end of September I competed in a preliminary episode of the show The Great American Dream Queen, hosted by the amazing Heather French.

The show aired on WLIO NBC Lima. I hope to have all the photos uploaded to Webshots soon.

About a month ago the final, hosted by Ericka Dunlap, was filmed. I truly did not expect to win, as this show was targeted toward an array of ages and types of women, and I was the youngest. In the end, the gigantic crown did end up on my head! The show was fun and I especially liked catching up with former Miss Ohio contestant, Jeanna Jones, who also made it to the finals.

The day after the show Ericka and I made an o-so-glamorous appearance at a local McDonald’s restaurant, which sponsored my cash prize.

So then, as if the holiday season isn’t hectic enough, Loren and I decided to get Niki the Great Dane [above] a new friend- a puppy we named Hanz!

When I was home last weekend for several Dream Queen appearances, my parents and the puppy loved each other’s company.

The “grand-pooch” slept on my dad and saw himself in a mirror for the first time!

As for the appearances...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Conner Controversy...

Miss USA, Tara Conner, survived the wrath of The Donald- here it is in his own words, along with her pathetic responses:

MSNBC- Trump’s Press Conference

The above link includes an opening by Trump, comments by Tara and Q & A with both. Below is her first phone interview after the press conference:

MSNBC- Tara’s First Phone Interview

In both Tara talks about going on to be “the best Miss USA ever;” this to me is funny and after this scandal with only four months left in her reign, highly improbable. In both interviews Tara denies being an alcoholic, while Donald thinks she is, but is confused about it.

On a random note, Trump kept pronouncing her name “Tara” rhyming with “par” rather than T”air”a, as I thought it was.

Neither Miss Conner or Trump and the pageant organization would specify which of the allegations against Tara were true or untrue. I’m sure much of it was blown way out of proportion by the media and I doubt Tara did anything out of the ordinary for a person of her age. I have to say it folks- underage drinking is a reality. If you’re convinced the sweet college student you know hasn’t had an underage drink or that this offense is reprehensible and unforgivable- I’m sorry but that makes you way out of touch!

Does it sound like I’m on “her side?” Not quite. While I don’t think underage drinking warrants scandal status I am appalled that someone given her title and opportunities would ever jeopardize it by being so stupid!

My boyfriend and his coworkers used to go to a local pub every Monday after work; after I won Miss Maumee Valley I remember thinking “I can’t go to Frog Town’s anymore… I might get recognized.” If I thought that as a local titleholder, how could it escape the mind of a NATIONAL representative? I am an extremely aggressive driver, but now that I’m the Face of FOX Toledo my horn and finger use has dropped 95% (5% of other drivers on the road are still too dumb for me to handle!) My point- the number one thing you must learn about being a pageant titleholder, celebrity, politician, clergyperson, teacher, etc… is that you are that person 24/7, everywhere and always.

Tara mentioned something to that effect in one of her interviews, but apparently she didn’t really understand it. Here’s another admission- I always felt it was unfair that alcohol was served at the Miss Ohio after party, but it would be “unacceptable” for contestants of age to have A glass. Last year at the Bowl-A-Thon the announcer even made a joke to that effect. Titleholders must endure an undeniable double standard in our society. We’re expected to be unrealistically perfect. Making sense of that in your own mind and wisely choosing your own actions is all part of a titleholders JOB. In an interview yesterday morning I was happy to hear former Miss Missouri MAO and Miss USA, Shandi Finnessey, say that as Miss USA she was at the type of appearances and formal parties where she would have a glass of wine, but she was of age.

Shandi obviously realized how to be appropriate; I don’t know what Tara did, but it seems to me she must have done something to draw so much attention to herself that then the age became an issue. So the question I’ve been asking more than whether or not she should be dethroned is how did it get to this point? In his press conference, Donald defended his use of chaperones for the three titleholders living in NYC’s Trump Towers most of the time, but admits the women are responsible for their personal time. However, wouldn’t she have been disciplined the first time a chaperone or her roommates noticed her coming home drunk or hung over the next morning? Did these allegations really go straight to the media, completely bypassing Trump, the pageant organization, NBC or the police?!

These very questions have some wondering if the whole thing was a publicity stunt since a new season of The Apprentice is quickly approaching. I personally don’t think it was. Tarnishing the pageant image and perpetuating negative stereotypes isn’t going to increase viewership. However, I feel the developing conflict with Rosie O’Donnell is for PR. I was actually watching The View yesterday morning as “the ladies” discussed their opinions of Trump’s decision to keep Tara. As Amy Allen mentioned on her blog, some people, as usual, are confusing Miss USA with Miss America. (This is ironic, considering Miss America, Jennifer Berry’s, platform is MADD!) Rosie O’Donnell knew the difference and defended Miss America. On one hand, I thought it was great that they differentiated the pageant systems, as Miss America shouldn’t be hindered due to Tara’s inability to make decisions. However, as someone who has competed in both systems, I don’t think it does any good to continue making these systems rivals.

Donald struck back quickly, berating Rosie, her looks, career and character on Entertainment Tonight and he’s threatening to sue her. Click below for articles:

People- Rosie Slams Trump,The Donald Fires Back

MSNBC –MADD Severs Ties with Miss Teen USA

That’s all for now, time to take the new puppy, Hanz, to his second vet appointment...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"You're STILL Hired."

As expected, this morning Donald Trump, owner of the Miss USA/Universe organization, announced the fate of Miss USA, Tara Conner. Conner has been at the middle of media scrutiny for her conduct at New York City bars. Media spin and anonymous fan message boards all speculated that her crown would be taken from her and perhaps Miss Teen USA, Katie Blair, would endure the same fate.

However, this morning Trump said he believes in giving people second chances. Much like the character I performed as for my Miss Ohio talent, Roxie Hart from the musical Chicago, Conner said she got caught up in the whirlwind of big city life, but does not think she is an alcoholic. Still, Trump said she will go into rehab. Click below for news articles:

Monday, December 18, 2006

Miss America Television Alert: Total Access on CMT

Tonight Miss America, Jennifer Berry, will be featured on the CMT show, Total Access. Click here to read the complete CMT show synopsis, which tells us it is "a behind-the-scenes look at the interesting, entertaining and fast-paced life of the reigning Miss America."

A Miss America Organization Press Release dated December 12 states the organization hopes "the audience will have a much greater appreciation for the valuable work being done by Miss America and see the real woman beneath the crown."

Total Access: Miss America premieres on CMT tonight at 8 p.m.; for rerun dates and times click above on the Press Release link.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Back from a Busy Weekend…

I really didn’t want to leave the Miss USA scandal post at the top all weekend, but I’ve had a very busy few days with no time to blog… For the latest on this, click here.

Thursday night I had a Face of FOX appearance; FOX Toledo, a local radio station and Kia dealership gave away a $3500 prize package to the BCS OSU/Florida Championship game. I had to draw all the numbers in the reverse raffle, thus making me the most hated woman in the room… until the winner announces, “I’m a Michigan fan… hahaha!”

Friday I had a singing engagement at the Lima Civic Center, Saturday I had a pageantesq appearance at McDonald’s in St. Mary’s, another singing gig later that night in Celina and finally another appearance this afternoon at the St. Mary’s VFW.

What were these pageantesq appearances, you ask? Well, if you recall, a few months back I talked about competing in a televised contest called The Great American Dream Queen. I won! The finals took place a month ago, but because they didn't air until tonight, I couldn’t talk about it. Those in the Lima area can tune in to WLIO TONIGHT at MIDNIGHT to watch me get crowned. Click here for more about the show.

And… the biggest news… Loren and I got a new puppy! His name is Hanz Anderbacher and he’s a seven week old blue Great Dane. (That means he's grey.) Loren’s adult Dane, Niki, is thoroughly annoyed by the puppy, while my cat, Fuzzy, is relatively indifferent. My parents loved puppy-sitting while I was at my appearances this weekend.

Pictures of everything coming soon… for now I have to get to bed, as I’m in the TV studio filming double tomorrow morning!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Is The Donald going to say “You’re Fired” to Miss USA, Tara Connor?

News broke this afternoon that Miss USA, Tara Connor’s, conduct and title are being questioned. Much was speculated but Donald Trump, the Miss Universe organization and NBC did not make a final decision or elaborate on what Tara has done.

An article from
Yahoo News is below:

Miss USA's 'personal issues' scrutinized

By ADAM GOLDMAN, Associated Press Writer
Thu Dec 14, 5:38 PM ET

NEW YORK - The organizers of the
Miss USA pageant said Thursday they are evaluating the "behavioral and personal issues" of the reigning winner and will decide her future within a week.

Pageant officials and Donald Trump, who co-owns the Miss Universe Organization with NBC, would not say what Kentucky native Tara Conner, 20, had done to prompt the serious evaluation.

"I can't really talk about it now," Trump said. "But we have to make a decision. There is no question about that."

Internet gossip Web site reported that pageant officials and NBC met Tuesday to discuss Conner's alleged bad behavior, "including her conduct at New York City bars." The Web site did not name its sources.

Miss USA is considered a role model and must act accordingly, said Lark-Marie Anton, spokeswoman for the Miss Universe Organization, which produces the Miss USA pageant. Behavior such as underage drinking is clearly prohibited, she said.

The organization and Trump will evaluate Conner's "behavioral and personal issues to see what we can do to work with her and what we will do about her reign going forward," the organization's president, Paula M. Shugart, said in a statement.

"Mr. Trump will make a determination and announcement within the coming week," Shugart said.

A 5-foot-5 blonde who lives in New York, Conner has been competing in pageants since age 4. She won the title of Young Miss Russell County in Kentucky at the county fair when she was 13, and by 2002 she was second runner-up in Miss Teen USA. She finished fourth in the Miss Universe pageant in July.

Trump said if Conner gets the boot runner-up Miss California Tamiko Nash would take over as Miss USA.

This wouldn't be the first time Trump has dealt with such a scenario. In 2002, Russia's Oxana Fedorova won Miss Universe but was stripped of her title after violating her contract.

"We had a Miss Universe from Russia that was a total disaster, and we fired her, and Miss Panama took over and she did great," Trump said.

Trump said he had not spoken with Conner.

A telephone message left for Conner with her grandmother was not immediately returned Thursday.

The afore mentioned article, Miss USA Dethroned?, includes a survey asking "Does the scandal make you more interested in Miss USA?" At this time, over fourteen thousand votes have been cast with 74% saying NO and 26% saying YES.

Rumors are swirling around the internet. My surfing even had me clicking on FOX News (which I despise, *note, my employer FOX Toledo is independent of FOX News*). I can’t figure out how to link it, but if you click on the FOX News homepage there is a news video title “Miss-Behaved” which features a suggestive interview with the editor of

Pageant Press: Competing for the Crown

The following article, titled Competing for the Crown, was found in this month’s Cleveland Magazine. Miss Ohio, Melanie Murphy, is featured in the article and on the magazine's cover [left].

This article has proven a bit controversial in the pageant world, as some people found Mel’s comments over confident or inappropriate, others feel this is a horribly written article and the journalist is to blame.

I have no knowledge of Colleen Mytnick or her body of work, but I do agree with the later, that this is not a good editorial, but that’s not Melanie’s fault.

I’ve given several interviews, and it is a scary experience! You have to hold your breath until the publication date, hoping you’re accurately portrayed. As a very sarcastic person, I have to juggle showing my personality with the fear that a reporter will misquote something as literal. More of my comments after the article…

Competing for the Crown

Melanie Murphy began her pageant career as Miss Brook Park. Crowned Miss Ohio last summer, she will go on to compete in the Miss America pageant Jan. 29.

The Competition: I started competing when I was 16. I'm 20 now.

The first year at Miss Ohio I was preliminary swimsuit winner, spirit award winner, commitment to excellence award winner and Top 10 overall. The second year I was Top 10 and swimsuit winner. I got another spirit award, too, which was great.

It's not catty like you see on "Miss Congeniality" or stereotypical shows or movies. There's so much more to it. But it is tough because all the girls are amazing. My whole life I've always had trouble dealing with girls because of jealousy. I've always been a cheerleader or a dancer. And I've always been the best at what I've done because I've always worked very hard.

I met the other contestants for Miss America earlier this year, and it was great because they were all like me.

The worst thing you want to do is compare yourself to other contestants. It's all about your confidence. Really, that's what it is. A girl can be the most fit, but if you can tell she's nervous, she's not going to score high. Who has the silent confidence? That's the girl who's going to win it.

For Miss Ohio, you get to pick your own swimsuit. I wore my favorite color--pink. I always win when I wear that swimsuit. At Miss America, all the girls wear the same swimsuit. We don't know yet what it's going to be, but I hope it's a string bikini because I know I'm going to look good in it. I work with a personal trainer, and I work hard to look the way I do, so I'd definitely like to show that off.

I do weight training three times a week, and I do a lot of cardio now too. I'm trying to lose a little bit more weight for Miss America because when you're onstage you look a little bit heavier. I weigh 125. I want to weigh 110.

Miss Ohio: When I was crowned Miss Ohio, they gave me a company car--a 2000 silver Pontiac Sunfire. It's got 90,000 miles on it. I'm constantly traveling--Mansfield, Toledo, Cleveland--to make appearances all over the state. That's what makes you so tired, all the driving. I practice singing in the car, talk on my cell phone or listen to NPR news. It's always something, some sort of preparation or business.

You've got to know where you stand on an issue, not wishy-washy. Anything goes in the interview room. The question is not just, "What's your favorite color?" or something like that. But if you don't know or haven't thought about that particular issue, you should just say so. What's important is how you say it. Half the judges probably don't know what they're asking you anyway. They just like to listen to themselves talk.

The biggest thing is just to be yourself. It sounds so easy, but it's hard when you're in the pageant world. So many people say, "Oh, you should get this done or you should get that done." So many people want to change your appearance or change who you are.

People have told me that if I got lip injections, I'd have fuller lips. That would not be me, and I wouldn't be comfortable with that. A lot of girls know all about this stuff. I didn't even know there was such a thing as lash extensions. I'm going to stick with fake eyelashes. That'll be fine.

I wouldn't have won Miss Ohio if I had those kinds of problems. I'm happy with what God gave me and what I have, so I'm not going to change anything. Some girls feel that that's going to make them more confident so, hey, go for it.

Past the Pageant: It's not about winning the crown. It's about what you can do with the job. So many girls do this for the wrong reason. I guess that just gives me reassurance to know that I'm in this for the right reason.

If I don't win, the God has a bigger plan for my life. There's so many things I want to do with this opportunity. There's so many lives I want to touch. There's so many ideas I have.

After this is all over, the first thing I'm going to do is go back to school. I would be in my third year at CSU. My degree is in digital media and film production with and emphasis in journalism. My next goal is to get an internship. But I don't want to be just a newscaster. I don't think that's interesting enough to me. I would love to eventually have my own TV show like "Regis and Kelly." I would like to have something where I could show my personality.

Until then, I know I'm meant to do this. I just know my whole life that God made me differently, even in middle school. I was always very independent. I was never in a clique. I always did my own thing.

I think a lot of people didn't like me in high school. I never went to parties or things like that because I was always busy with dance--constantly involved with things. Now I'm glad I did all those thngs because it's paid off. Look where I am. I'm so much closer to my dream of being Miss America.

--As told to Colleen Mytnick.

So, as I said above, giving interviews is not easy. I have found that like the pageant interview, it’s best to “just talk” and be yourself. If you think too much and try too hard, you come off overly rehearsed and robotic. This notion requires a journalist to… I don’t know… do their job! No one ever thinks about it, but the way we speak is dramatically different from the way we write. I expect a reporter to edit my spoken statements into correct written sentences. I can’t count how many sentences in this article began with “And” and “But.” Similarly, conversations bounce from topic to topic, but written work should not. It doesn’t seem as though Ms. Mytnick rearranged her conversation with Melanie as to make a well structured, organized article.

Further, several things are not given context. For example, Melanie is not vainly hoping for string bikinis. Rather, for the past two years Speedo has sponsored the Miss America pageant, providing controversially tiny string bikinis. Mel’s simply saying she’s not worried about something that has been and continues to be a major concern for many contestants. Similarly, the comment which seems to be disrespectful of judges is rumored to be about mock interview judges, who are often individuals with zero pageant experience and trouble asking questions that actually benefit the contestant.

It’s a shame that a few things that didn’t come off well are over shadowing the accomplishment of getting the cover of this magazine and the several great things Melanie said. She is clearly a driven, accomplished woman. Best of luck to her as she continues preparing for Miss America.

Meet the Miss America Contestants

Once again this year, each of the Miss America contestants have given a brief interview, which you can watch on the Country Music Television website.

Our Miss Ohio, Melanie Murphy looked and sounded great; I love how confident she is! Get to know Melanie and all the Miss States by

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Light to Unite

We’ve all gotten the bogus email forwards from “Bill Gates is giving his fortune away if you forward this,” to Applebee’s gift certificates to the ever sappy “forward this to save a dying child.”

99.9% of the time this stuff is futile spam.

But this morning, Montana Miller, one of my favorite professors sent me an actual email about a legitimate website campaign to raise money to fight HIV/AIDS. Check it out and light a candle. I did.

Today, Bristol-Myers Squibb, the pharmaceutical monolith that charges nearly $1,000 for a 30 day supply of one of its HIV/AIDS medications, is donating $1 to the National AIDS Fund for each person who simply visits their website and "virtually lights a candle." The tally is near 1, 020,000 now. Please, please take a minute to "light a candle":

Friday, December 8, 2006

What Not to Wear- Pageant Rewind

I just caught the last fifteen minutes of a mutant variation of one of my favorite shows on TLC, What Not to Wear. Lately they’ve been doing theme shows in which the two hosts fly solo.

Not familiar with What Not to Wear? It’s a fabulous cable program that accosts unsuspecting fashion victims, pillage their closet of horrid apparel, teach them what not to wear and redress them in five thousand dollars worth of new clothes.

It’s all very comical and necessary, given the hosts bitchiness doesn’t bother you. Personally, I love it. :)

Tonight the Pageant Rewind version of the show placed three forty-something former pageant contestants back on the stage in Evening Gown, Onstage Question, Talent and Casual Wear. Surprise, surprise, it took place in pageant country USA- otherwise known as South Carolina. I have to assume host Stacey London helped them prepare their wardrobes, but I really wasn’t all that impressed….

I’m going to tune in for the whole show at 1 a.m. While I can’t find another air date at this time, TLC usually reruns most of their shows, so check their website or your local listings.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Pending Pageant Press: Three Local Students to Represent Maumee at Miss Ohio Scholarship Pageant

I was asked to write an article about the recent Maumee triple crown pageant for the local paper, The Maumee Mirror. They don't have the resources to put all their stories on their website and as I don't get the paper, I won't know when or how much of it will run... but here it is... Note that the last paragraph already announces next years pageant date!


On Saturday evening, November 4, the Maumee High School Performing Arts Center was abuzz with anticipation as fourteen Miss Contestants and four Teens competed for the opportunities to go to Miss Ohio and maybe even become Miss America! The Miss America Scholarship program is a not-for-profit organization which provides over $40 million dollars in scholarship assistance to young women annually. The giving begins at the local level; for the past four years volunteer directors, Eric and Linda Wagener have held the Miss Maumee Valley pageant. This year the Wagener’s became the first local director in Ohio to award not one, but two Miss crowns, while simultaneously holding a Teen pageant.

The Teen and Miss contestants competed onstage together, but were evaluated by two separate judging panels. All the women competed in Evening Gown, Onstage Question and Talent competitions, in addition to a twelve minute private interview which took place prior to the pageant. Only the Miss contestants were evaluated in a Swimsuit competition, while the Teens exclusively modeled Sportswear and Casual Wear.

Eligible women from across the Buckeye State competed, but in the end, all three crowns were awarded to local students.

Kellie Kulka, a junior at Notre Dame Academy, was crowned Miss Maumee Valley’s Outstanding Teen. She will now compete on June 15, 2007 in Mansfield Ohio for the title Miss Ohio’s Outstanding Teen; the winner of that pageant will go on to the national competition in Orlando Florida. For her talent, Kulka performed a jazz dance to the oldies favorite, “My Boyfriend’s Back.” The reigning Miss Ohio, Melanie Murphy was in attendance as an entertainer; she also did the honor of crowning Kulka. Murphy will represent Ohio in Las Vegas at the Miss America pageant, which will air on the Country Music Network on January 29, 2007.

Out of a field of fourteen Miss contestants, two Bowling Green State University students won the titles Miss All American City and Miss Maumee Valley.

In honor of Maumee’s recent accomplishment, a brand new title, Miss All American City was established. Lauren Hogan received this crown as well as a $1,000 scholarship. She is a BGSU senior majoring in Interpersonal Communications. For the talent competition, which is worth thirty-five percent of the overall score, Hogan sang “I Could Have Danced All Night” from the musical My Fair Lady. In the Miss America system, contestants must advocate a community service platform; Hogan’s is “Risky Business: Preventing High Risk Behavior in Today’s Youth.”

For a fourth year a Miss Maumee Valley was crowned. Kristen Haas received this honor and a $1,000 scholarship. She is a Dance Performance major at BGSU; for her talent she performed a jazz routine to the upbeat Whitney Houston hit “Dance With Somebody.” Haas also won the Outstanding Interview award. The twelve minute private interview comprises twenty-five percent of the contestants score. During the interview Haas discussed her social platform issue, Preventing Heart Disease in Women, as well as current events and social issues.

Hogan and Haas will both compete for the title Miss Ohio at the Renaissance Theatre in Mansfield Ohio June 12 to 16, 2007. They will stay in Mansfield for over a week participating in rehearsals, festivals, a parade, public appearances, three nights of preliminary competition and a crowning finale. All of the past three Miss Maumee Valleys have placed in the Top 10 at Miss Ohio.

Outgoing Miss Maumee Valley, Abby Bollenbacher was on hand to crown both Haas and Hogan. Like both of the women she crowned, Bollenbacher attended Bowling Green State University, and now uses her Theatre degree and pageant experiences in her work as the Face of FOX Toledo. She also entertained and emceed the pageant with the inaugural Miss Maumee Valley, Jeanna Jones. The “Deal of No Deal” themed show included cameo appearances by Howie Mandel, played by Loren Anderson.

While Kulka, Hogan and Haas prepare for their state competitions, planning is already underway for next year’s pageant. It will again be held at the Maumee Valley High School Performing Arts Center on the afternoon of Sunday November 4, 2007. If you are interested in donating to, or competing in this wonderful program, contact Eric and Linda Wagener by logging on to

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Forensics Weekend in Review

Congratulations to the BGSU Forensics team (Speech, Debate and Performance), which had an exciting few days with tournaments and PKD Honorary initiation. [Click on each photo to enlarge.]

The varsity team had an excellent showing some nine hours away at Wisconsin-Stout, placing Second among teams from across the country. [Photo on the Left, L-R: Kenny Rogers, Jennifer Cole, Michelle Baker, Amanda Hensley, Maryellen Jacks, Sarah Griffith and coach Paul Alday; Photo on the right, the same crew with a random pirate statue. I imagine they're getting inspired for our pirate theme tournament we're hosting in the spring.]


On Sunday I took a predominately novice squad to an equally difficult tournament at Otterbein College with teams from around the country. Even our PKD President, Michelle, said “we felt bad sending them into a blood bath.” It was initially very disappointing when none of our events made it into finals.

Allow me to be forward enough to state the obvious- pageant contestants and audiences sometimes wonder if there was a numeric mistake. In Forensics, we not only wonder, we find out. Coaches receive complete breakdowns of all the scores for all the rounds of competition. As it turns out, two of our events should have made it into finals, but technical errors occurred in the tabulation room. Though frustrating, at least this realization heightened team morale for the ride home. Honestly, the mistake wasn’t a huge surprise, as the whole tournament ran behind schedule and seemed highly disorganized. [Above L-R: volunteer judge Dr. Steven Croucher, Sarah Smith, Paul Kevin Huffman, Kayla Combs, Alex D'Ettore, Jennifer Myers and I.]

Monday night BG’s chapter of the Pi Kappa Delta Forensics Honorary inducted four new members. Fellow alum and volunteer coach, Anna, and I were asked to conduct the ceremony. Our brand new Forensics complex is connected to an unusable room full of low ductwork; we affectionately call it “The Gauntlet;” it provided a perfectly creepy place for the candle lit ceremony.

I was honored to be included and as usual, had a great time with the team. [L-R on the futon: Me, Sarah S., MJ J., Kenny R., Suzie S. and Sarah G. On the floor: J*Cole, Amanda H., Kayla C., Michelle B. and Anna A.]

Saturday, December 2, 2006

If I didn’t love it all… it would be the weekend from hell!

I am about to go up to my closet and put on as many pieces of clothing possible, until I can’t move! Tonight FOX Toledo is filming a holiday parade of lights in Ida Michigan, beginning at 7 p.m. BBBRRrrrrr!!!! I’ll be providing commentary from along the parade route, speaking with the crowd and hopping on a float or two. I did the same for the BG holiday parade two weeks ago, and it was a great time, but it was also thirty degrees warmer and during the day! Wish me luck… the parade will air on FOX Toledo later this holiday season.

I won’t get home until 10 or 11 tonight, then I’m playing “head coach” for the Forensics team which will be leaving BG for a tournament at Otterbein College at 5 AM Sunday! Our Director of Forensics, Paul, is with half the team at a two-day tournament in Wisconsin; so the predominately novice squad is under my instruction for the day. Though the tournament is at a small school, it’s large and competitive. It’ll be my job to keep the “newbies” focused and positive.

Forensics tournaments usually last all day long, so when I’m not judging rounds of competition that do not include BG students, I’ll be memorizing scripts- Monday morning I have a date with the TV studio to film my weekly commercials.

If I didn’t love it all… it would be the weekend from hell!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Holiday Halftime Show

The Miss America Scholarship program operates with pageants beginning at the local level which give women the opportunity to move on to state and national competitions. In Ohio, local pageants take place seven or eight months of the year, breaking in the summer with the state pageant in June or July. There’s another unofficial hiatus; the holiday season tends to serve as a half time show in the game of getting to Miss Ohio. The last local program was November 18 and another won’t take place until February 3rd.

So… here are the "players" stats at the half:

Name: Erica Gelhaus
Title: Miss Lake Festival

Date Crowned: July 24
Talent: Opera
Platform: Literacy
Education: Erica is a Music student at Otterbein College.
Experience: Erica also won the Talent and Interview awards; this will be her first trip to Miss Ohio.
Celina Lake Festival website

Name: Elyse Healey
Title: Miss Greater Cleveland
Date Crowned
: July 29
Talent: Broadway vocal
Platform: “Think Ability” Reaching Out to Individuals with Mental & Physical Disabilities
Education: Elyse is a Political Science major at Youngstown State University.
Experience: Elyse also won the Talent, Swimsuit and Evening Gown awards; this will be her second trip to Miss Ohio, last year she was the Third Runner-up.
Elyse's website, Elyse's blog, Miss Greater Cleveland website

Name: Jessica Barrett
Title: Miss West Central Ohio
Date Crowned
: July 29
Talent: Broadway vocal
Platform: Organ Donation
Education: Jessica studies MicroBiology at Miami University.
Experience: Jessica also won the Talent award; she was First Runner-up at this pageant last year and will be making her first trip to Miss Ohio.
Miss West Central Ohio website

Name: Allison West
Title: Miss Ohio Valley
Date Crowned
: July 29
Talent: Jazz Dance
Platform: "Start to Finish" Improving Lives in Our Nation, Young and Old.
Education: Allison studies Elementary and Special Education at Bethany College.
Experience: This is Allison’s first MAO title.

Name: Andrea Andryscik
Title: Miss North Coast
Date Crowned
: August 5
Talent: Vocal
Platform: Youth Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention
Education: Andrea is an English and Education student at Kent State University.
Experience: This is Andrea’s first MAO title.

Name: Sophia Davis
Title: Miss Miami Valley
Date Crowned
: September 2
Talent: Jazz Dance
Platform: Big Brothers/ Big Sisters Program
Education: Sophia is studying Communications at Miami University.
Experience: Sophia also won the Interview, Talent and Swimsuit awards; she will be going to Miss Ohio for a second time.
Sophia's website

Name: Allie Krucek
Title: Miss Clayland
Date Crowned:
October 14
Talent: Jazz Dance
Platform: Serving Children with Disabilities
Education: Allie studies Exercise Science at the University of Toledo.
Experience: Allie also won the Community Service award; this will be her third trip to Miss Ohio, last year she was Second Runner-up.
Allie's blog

Name: Emily Cousino
Title: Miss Mansfield
Date Crowned
: October 28
Talent: Vocal
Platform: Heart Start Education
Education: Emily studies Art Therapy, Business and Computer Systems at Lourdes College.
Experience: Emily also won the Interview award; she has past pageant experience, but this will be her first trip to Miss Ohio.
Links: Miss Mansfield website

Name: Kristen Haas
Title: Miss Maumee Valley
Date Crowned:
November 4
Talent: Jazz Dance
Platform: Preventing Heart Disease in Women
Education: Kristen is a Dance Performance major at Bowling Green State University.
Experience: Kristen also won the Interview award; this will be her second trip to Miss Ohio.
Miss Maumee Valley website

Name: Lauren Hogan
Title: Miss All American City
Date Crowned
: November 4
Talent: Vocal
Platform: “Risky Business” Preventing High Risk Behavior in Today’s Youth
Education: Lauren studies Communications at Bowling Green State University.
Experience: This will be Lauren’s first trip to Miss Ohio.

Name: Nanciann Strosnider
Title: Miss Lake Erie

Date Crowned: November 11
Talent: Broadway Vocal
Platform: Arts Education
Education: Nanciann studies Musical Theatre and Broadcast Journalism at Elon. University.
Experience: Nanciann also won the Talent award; this will be her third trip to Miss Ohio, her first year she was in the Top 5 and last year the Top 10.

Name: Becky Minger
Title: Miss Northwestern Ohio
Date Crowned
: November 11
Talent: Vocal
Platform: “It’s Not Your Booty, It’s Your Inner Beauty” Building Self Esteem in Youth
Education: Becky is a Journalism and Music major at Bowling Green State University.
Experience: Becky also won the Talent award; this is her second MAO crown, last year she was the First Runner-up.
Links: a blog about Becky

Name: Christie Youssef
Title: Miss Portsmouth
Date Crowned
: November 18
Talent: Harpist
Platform: Domestic Violence Awareness
Education: Christie is a graduate of Westmont College where she studied Chemistry and Biology.
Experience: Christie competed three times in Miss California where she was Fourth Runner-up her first year; this will be her first time at Miss Ohio.
Links: Miss Portsmouth & Scioto Valley website

Name: Karissa Martin
Title: Miss Scioto Valley
Date Crowned
: November 18
Talent: Classic Broadway Vocal
Platform: Skin Cancer Awareness and Prevention
Education: Karissa studies Music and Theatre at West Liberty.
Experience: This will be Karissa’s first trip to Miss Ohio.
Links: Miss Portsmouth & Scioto Valley website

In-depth Halftime Stats:

*Of the 14 titleholders thus far, 9 are vocalist, 4 are dancers and 1 is a harpist.

*8 titleholders will be going to Miss Ohio for the first time and 6 are “returnees.”

*All of last years eligible Top 5 have returned, but only 1 of the eligible 4 remaining Top 10 is back.

*At this point 8 titles are up for grabs this spring.


Email me or leave a comment with information corrections or additions. Photos came from a variety of sources.