Monday, November 29, 2010

Return to the Capitol.

But this time for something different. This weekend, I went up to Albany with my 2005 Miss NY sister Kandice Pelletier to cheer for Marina Montes (2nd RU Miss NY 2009) in Miss NY USA. Not knowing exactly what the "crown etiquette" was, I emailed Kim Bass, the executive director to ask. She was so excited to have me there, in crown and sash, announced from the VIP section of the audience. The producer introduced me by saying "Who said the Hatfields can't talk to the McCoys? We are honored to have with us Claire Buffie, Miss New York who will compete in Miss America at the Planet Hollywood January, and I think it's on ABC!"  So it was wonderful to have the full pitch about Miss America and to be recognized with such high regard from the USA pageant.

When just one girl stands alone with a sash stating Miss New York or Miss NY USA, the general public doesn't necessarily know the difference, but when you see the two right next to each other, people are able to recognize that there are two representatives in two separate organizations and it really gave me an opportunity to explain some of the differences to interested contestants. I talked with one family whose daughter is an amazing dancer and she just never knew how to get into MAO-did not know about locals, requirements or eligibility, so she did USA. Of course I was delighted to fill her in :)

Kandice Pelletier, Samantha, 2nd RU Miss NY Teen USA, and me
The competition was interesting--definitely different than Miss America! A pageant is a pageant; we all know that it's subjective and unpredictable, but wow! You have to really stand out and shine to make it on the NY USA runway because it goes by in a flash. I can't imagine judging it. Marina looked unbelievable and just the best I've ever seen her. The top 20 in both Miss and Teen were full of surprises, with a fun story that both 1st RU Teen and 1st RU Miss were sisters! Congratulations to Lisa Drouillard, Miss NY Teen USA, and Amber Collins, Miss NY USA! Also congrats to Kandice for the success of her girls competing (pageant consulting) Lisa (Teen winner), Samantha (2nd RU Teen), Christina, Angelina and Jackie (all Top 20 Miss)!

It was a wonderful weekend with Kandice that reminded me of what a sisterhood state titleholders and Miss America contestants have in general. Before Miss NY this year, I had never met Kandice (MNY 2005) or Jessica Lynch Renzi (MNY 2003), yet in the past few months, they have both supported me in such fantastic ways by attending fundraisers, housing me upstate, and setting aside time to give pointers on my performance at Miss NY. Leigh-Taylor Smith (MNY 2008) is not only my best friend, but has led my preparation for Miss America, and along the way girls including Kate Marie Grinold DC 2008, Hannah Kiefer VA 2007, Faith Jenkins LA 2003, Erika Grace Powell SC 2005, Sarah Wiley Goude IN 2004, many from the Class of 2010 and multiple Miss Americas have offered their encouragement, sat in on mock interviews and even taken me away from the preparation to find balance with some fun! The women you meet through this organization just "get" each other in an inexplicable way. Therefore the support system and network of knowledge and experience is expansive. I cannot wait to pay it forward as these amazing women have done for me.

And since about seven people have now sent various articles about Davina Reeves, Miss NY USA 2010, jumping on the Miss USA float, I'll quickly address. I heard it first from her when I got to spend a bit of time with her this weekend as it hit the papers. Per our conversation, her intention was one I can agree with: the importance of recognizing that an organization is not only the ONE girl with the national title, but that there are titleholders from every state. And we don't hate each other as a result of "losing" a pageant. This is a perception I've tried to change by inviting local Miss NY titleholders to do appearances with me. We need to show that Brooklyn and Watertown and Albany and Manhattan are represented by young women as well. Of course, I always encourage the respect of an invitation and if she did not have one, I would have worked to organize that with the higher-ups before showing up if I were her. I'm thankful that Miss America has stressed their open door between state contestants and executive directors and the national office for questions. And that's all I'll say about that :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


 Well how bout off-Broadway debut! I had a blast with the cast of My Big Gay Italian Wedding on Thursday night! Everyone in the show has high energy, huge accents, big personalities and were just ridiculously fun! I met Randy Kaplan at the Empire State Pride Agenda fall dinner and that is when they invited me to be in the show. This run was especially special since it was the 100th show! Of course I was a big fan of the content of the show - a family's initial reservation and then complete celebration of Anthony's marriage to Andrew - but in addition, the humor was just right on par. What did I do exactly? Well not too much, just attended the wedding (scene) as a celebrity guest Miss New York, did the tarantella at the reception and said a few words after curtain call about supporting marriage equality with a big ask to support Miss America on ABC on Jan 15 at 9pm!! They said they are going to have a cast party to watch!

In other news, a bit of updates on wardrobe: I've had one visit to Red Carpet Pageant and Prom and tomorrow I head over to their Sewell location for my off-night gown and hopefully another cocktail dress or two. And Kathy Lettiere from A Touch of Grace in Watertown has graciously offered to send me to Miss America in LaFemme style with a few dresses. I have such great sponsors! And the big dress? It should be arriving soon from Regalia. Swimsuit order is in and dance costume is in the works.... Whew! Lots to finish in 6 weeks!

>>> NEW -  In one trip to Red Carpet on Tuesday, I basically finished my entire wardrobe! yahoooo!!!

Badges are in and NY turned in a record number of 58 badges this year. And the number of tickets goes way beyond that. Thank you all for your incredible support and even more so to those who are making the trek to Las Vegas for the big show!!

And remember when I went to Beth Israel Pediatric Unit for Halloween?  Well they sent over some great pictures!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Miss Staten Island and Miss Richmond County

2 more girls have a ticket to Miss New York 2011! Saturday was the 45th Anniversary of the Miss Staten Island Pageant. This year, 8 Miss Contestants competed for two titles with the top spots going to Miss Staten Island Maria DeSantis and Miss Richmond County Amanda Alicea. And six Teens competed for an opportunity to compete for Miss NY Outstanding Teen, awarding Miss Staten Island's OT Shreya Jain and Miss Richmond County's OT Victoria Dugay. Two fun facts about these results: Shelly Jain, Miss SIOT 2010 crowned her younger sister Shreya, and Maria and Amanda will join Allison Carlos, Miss Forest Queen, as the three former Miss NYOT to now compete for the MISS State crown. I think that speaks volumes about the outstanding teen program and what it prepares women for. Also to note, Joelle Bracco, 1st RU to MNYOT 2010, was 1st RU in the Miss Staten Island pageant-another great example of teen growth. Congratulations to all of the contestants and winners, to Staten Island for an amazing 45 years, and to Jennifer Scacco and Kim Cantoni on their wonderful reigns as 2010 representatives of Staten Island.

(L) Richmond County, Amanda Alicea
(R) Staten Island, Maria DeSantis
At the pageant we also made a huge announcement for the Miss NY Organization! For 25 years, the state pageant was held in Watertown, then we began searching for a new home, trying out Long Island for 2 years and Albany for the 2 years I've been involved. We have found a new home in Staten Island at the St. George Theatre with great support of the SI community and the Borough President, Jim Molinaro. In addition, we will have our first princess program, giving all the little ones a chance to be a princess :) We have some exciting things planned for the girls and the community coming in the spring and summer. If you have ideas, we want to hear them!! Email us! Golf outing anyone? I think so.

View the official Press Release HERE.

Many more photos on my November Events Photo Gallery

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Well into November...

I can't believe we're already so far into November!  This time 2 months from now, we will have a new Miss America -- ahh!!!  butterflies!

Last week, Monday was the perfect example of the stamina necessary to be a Miss State.  I was up in the morning to work on some photo editing, then the gym at 12:00, then dance rehearsal to finish my Miss America talent, back to the gym just to shower because I didn't have time to go home, then to Actor's Connection for my hosting class, left early and ran to BB King in Times Square for Rockers on Broadway!  Mind you, I had a different outfit for each of those things, slung around my shoulders while traveling on the subway.  Oh NY...  :)

Rockers on Broadway was a great event, bringing awareness and fundraising to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.    It was an amazing cabaret night - lots of dancing - lots of fun! I met some great people and spent the evening at Fred Schneider from the B52s.  Thanks to Michelle Kinney (former Miss Thousand Islands) for the introduction to the event and producer, Cori Gardner!

On Friday, I went to Cohen Children's Hospital on Long Island where I was able to have a really great and intimate conversation with a few of the patients.  It was a small group, but this allowed us to really get to know each other.  Two girls talked about their struggles with eating disorders and how they are bullied as a result.  They said they feel great pressure from the media and in turn have no role models. "May I offer you a role model?" I asked.  And proceeded to tell them about Kirsten Haglund who as Miss America advocated for eating disorder awareness and treatment during her year, but even more importantly, has continued that work with the Kirsten Haglund Foundation in the two years since. I gave them Kirsten's website and her slogan, "Love your body, Rock the world" You could just see the difference it made with these two girls specifically.  I think that's something so important about the Miss America Organization.  We create our own network of references and support.  If there is a story about human trafficking on the news, I think of Miss Michigan or Miss DC 08; if there is a story about arts education I think of Miss Greater NYC; a story about eating disorders, Kirsten; or self-confidence and bullying, Miss Virginia; domestic violence/dating violence, Ashley in IN or Miss IN.  Collectively, we are a POWERFUL group of women with so many resources at hand.

And then it was time for the big party! Ronnie Kroell (Bravo's Make Me A Supermodel) and his great team of volunteers put on such a wonderful evening at La Pomme Nightclub in NYC.  Not only was he concerned with throwing a great party, but he put so much heart into the evening, organizing speakers who would facilitate great discussions throughout the night.  I haven't received all the pics yet, but I did find a few on Facebook.  Thank you to all who attended and the Miss New York Board of Directors and volunteers who were there to help the night run smoothly. It was wonderful to look out as I spoke an actually only know about 1/10th of the people there.  So many people were there who just believed in my message of equality and had faith in the power of collaboration, that we can all, unified, make a difference. Plus we raised over $2000 for the Miss New York Organization and the Children's Miracle Network!!  Sweet!!

Many more photos on my November Events Photo Gallery

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bring your friends, please!!!

(also at the door)

Catching up - Talent and the Marathon

There is never a dull moment or week as Miss New York! The most exciting things I did this week were learn my talent for Miss America and the ING NYC Marathon. Talent rehearsals have been so cool and exciting with Laurie Kanyok, my choreographer sponsored by JUMP. I actually met Laurie years ago when I photographed her in my college photography internship. She got my brand new LaDuca Shoes sponsored by Phil LaDuca and has come up with the perfect blend of traditional Fosse movement to layer upon my very new and different arrangement of my song, "Bye Bye Blackbird."

Oh and another NYU grad student is doing a profile piece on me--that makes 2 NYU Journalism, 1 Columbia Journalism, and 1 Yale Feminist Magazine all writing about Miss NY, gaining, and therefore sharing, insight about what our lives as titleholders and advocates are really like. Thanks to Chao (NYU) for the rehearsal shots and Lauren (NYU) for the LaDuca shots!

The entire marathon weekend was really inspiring. Friday, I attended the Achilles Marathon Dinner where I welcomed people from all over the world who had come to race in the marathon. They were all disabled racers who would be completing the 26.2 mile race in wheelchairs or hand wheel bikes. It was incredible. During the awards, they recognized the woman they call "The Flying Nun" as Sunday would be her 31st marathon (22nd ING NY). She is 78 years old! Lots if photos, hugs and great company at this events...and carbs for all of the racers.

Sunday was the real deal! The infamous ING NYC Marathon was off to a start with 40,000+ runners, 6,000 volunteers, and lots of orange and blue throughout the city and Central Park. I was at the finish line with the honor of medaling the finishers. I presented the elite runners with medals followed by those who crossed the finish line by the hundreds. It was fun for people to see 20 other volunteers with medals but point and walk straight to me and say, "I want my medal from Miss New York!" Lots of sweaty half hugs, yet double kisses -the French loved "the queen." There was great diversity in the people who crossed that finish line and each time someone did, it made me want to run a marathon, but then they limped, spit and looked like they might collapse, I was reminded.. No maybe I don't...

I did receive this email yesterday from someone who had googled "Miss NY" and found my photo website. This made my day :)

I think that you handed me my finisher medal yesterday. If so, thank you. It was wonderful to see a princess at that point in the day. Unfortunately, having just finished the race, I was a little out of it and not able to quite able to take it all in but seeing your smiling face along with your tiara and sash certainly gave me a smile.
All the best,
Charles Cowap

More pictures in my November Events Photo Gallery

Monday, November 1, 2010

November 2 = Election Day.

"The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected."
-Thomas Paine

Tomorrow is election day.  That gives you an opportunity to affect the direction of your state. I hope that means you will take advantage of the opportunity.  My first election year in New York, I voted absentee in Indiana because I felt that is where my vote was needed to make a difference.  Yes, it's only one, but in an election where states are flip-flopping back and forth in a tight race, every vote counts.  Tomorrow, in New York, this is the place my vote is needed the most.  Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo may have very favorable numbers in the prediction, but that doesn't mean that any single person who believes in equality in our schools, laws and the workplace can stay home tomorrow.  The opposition to the majority is more likely to vote as a reactive tool. We need to be proactive in choosing the candidates who will take our future in the right direction.  Andrew Cuomo (Governor) and Bob Duffy (Lieutenant Governor) are the candidates that will do that.  Eric Schneiderman (Attorney General) is the candidate who will do that.  Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand need to stay because they are the candidates who continue to take our state in the right direction. And for those Miss NY girls reading this - Eric remembers us all from the capitol and supported us through Albany and the Miss NY competition.  

Obviously equality - Marriage Equality, Dignity for All Students, Employment Non-Discrimination, and Gender Non-Discrimination - is high on my list of priorities in this election.  And they are for Andrew Cuomo as well.  So I'll be at the polls tomorrow.  Where will you be?

“I want to be the governor who makes marriage equality a reality in New York State,” said Andrew Cuomo. “New Yorkers believe that their neighbors should be afforded the same rights and privileges under the law that they receive. I will work with our leaders in the legislature to achieve passage of the Gender Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), and with our state agencies to eliminate health disparities for LGBT New Yorkers.”

Eric Schneiderman

Bob Duffy and his family