Sunday, January 23, 2011

Miss America 2011

Did that all just really happen? Miss America seems like a dream. It seems like our IHOP breakfast was a year ago and that final night was a dress rehearsal. Here's the thing: we all seemed so normal. These 53 women seemed to lie on an even playing field when in all reality, the work we have all done is so incredible and life-changing in our communities and beyond, that it truly sets us in a class of our own. It was such an honor to be among what Sam Haskell said to be “the most beautiful and intelligent class he's worked with.” Now granted, you think they say that every year. But the choreographers took it a step further and said not only that but we were the most competitive but with the most comradery, and that I can speak to. Of course we all come in on cloud nine, excited, awake!, energetic with big dreams and expectations. And as 53 Type A personalities are put in a room subconsciously sizing each other up and then you add preliminary awards, you're bound for some ‘tudes, right? Well, I think we had all prepared for a bit of it and honestly we did not witness it. That was the amazing part of our class!! From year one to two in my pageant career (haha) I came back because of the girls and the positive influences, friendships and memories. Well that feeling came full circle because new relationships are the best things I got out of my Miss America week. I really could not have asked for a better roommate (Arkansas), better late night talk buddies (Virginia/Nevada) and so many new friends whom I know will be in my life for a long time. Out of the entire experience, new found realizations in myself, my purpose and my responsibility in this society.

So what was it like?! Well lots of rehearsals with our amazing choreographers Barry, Stacy and Brian, dinners and appearances including arrival welcomed by Boyz II Men, IHOP breakfast for our Children's Miracle Network Hospitals partnership, visit to the top of the Eiffel Tower, Barry Manilow concert with a private meet and greet, dinners at Buca di Beppo and PF Changs. We filmed commercials for DSW, Planet Hollywood and Caesars Palace, did the rooftop opening photoshoot in little clothes, lots of cold and many takes...but it was really cool! We ate a lot at Spice Market Buffet, gave each other back rubs and spray tans, and laughed a whole lot together. It seemed normal. It didn't seem like "Miss America" as I may have dreamt about it, but I think that's because the girls were so real, so ready. By that point we were all so prepared, we were just on autopilot. I don't know that I will ever comprehend the magnitude of the experience.

I am so grateful for the people who helped me get there to the Miss America stage, physically, emotionally, mentally and proudly. The Miss New York organization and volunteers within it, our sponsors, my family, roommates and friends, my inspiration, allies and mentors, fellow MNY have all been such a integral part of my journey and of the authentic me. I am forever grateful.  Each night at visitation, I met someone new who supported me and my voice.  And in the short amounts of time I had internet, I was overwhelmed by the support, the messages of encouragement and thanks, the messages of people who have been inspired to compete in MAO and support equality for others and/or themselves with confidence and pride, and just all of the incredibly positive energy that was sent my way from every place in the country.  You are my fuel, you are my motivation.

Now was it disappointing, many have asked? No. It wasn't. Well disappointing in the sense that 52 women always wish they could have gone further, but really, I felt as though I did everything I could. Turning around in my gown the preliminary and finals nights are moments and feelings I will never forget. Finishing my talent, what I was most nervous about, and seeing it on video and actually being proud of it! Giving Emoly West a run for her money in swimsuit – puhleease there is NO beating that body and walk! And when I answered my on-stage question on Wednesday night, I felt like I had done what I came to do. Just as I promised in my speech at the Wedding March months ago, I stood on the Miss America stage as a true ally. Being called into Top 15 as America’s Choice was utterly amazing! I really felt like I had won at that point, and feel that it was a major statement to the support I have nation-wide in this fight for equality. When I was not called for talent, I had so many people to really root for, that I could not even think to get disappointed. I was right on to cheering loudly for my friends, proud of each of them ahead of me. 

Congratulations to Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011, and the best of luck, intelligence, preparation and heart as you represent us all as contestants and America’s youth whom you are proving can take this country far. 

Here's to 5 more months representing the greatest state ever!  I really do <3 NY!!


  1. Claire, you've summed up our class perfectly!
    Thank you for such a wonderful blog post about the amaze experience we were able to share. Can't wait to see you soon!

  2. Wow, what an amazing experience you've had!! So awesome to go through it with you on Facebook as you've truly helped us all live it without being there. You are a exemplorary result of what Miss New York should be. Thank you for standing up for what is right and for representing our state. We are proud of you, Claire, and have fun the remaining 5 months! Love u.

  3. Claire, I know I don't know you personally, but I've had such a wonderful time following your journey in Indiana and then in New York (I think my friend judged you in Indiana - does either Preston or Lyle Larsen sound familiar?). And at the end of all of this, I think you're an incredible person. So well spoken, and standing up and fighting for something important. And you do it in a way that is loving and kind and respectful - difficult to do when emotions become heightened, and emotions are rampant in fighting for equality.

    Congrats on your work as Miss New York and your performance at Miss America. I put your video up on my blog ages ago, and I hope you'll continue standing up for goodness. I also hope I get to meet you in pageant land someday...

  4. You are so wise and thoughtful--love you and are so proud of you and how you have enjoyed and embraced this life experience:) What a gift you have; we have come to expect nothing less from you, and Dad and I are so thankful to have been along for the ride! We know your next 5 months in the official capacity of Miss New York will be one of tremendous accomplishment--and the rest of your life you will continue to change lives for the better. Love you so, so, much--

  5. Claire,

    Never had the opportunity to meet you as I competed in NY a few years before you did, however, I wanted to stop by and tell you how beautiful you looked on television. Both mom and I loved your gown especially. You looked genuinely happy, your self and real, and I appreciated that most of all.

    Congratulations on all your accomplishments and good luck.


  6. I love the way you are able to come and support gay rights even without being gay. I think it is valiant and nice of you to be supportive of your sister even if she's gay. I remember you talking to us about PFLAG at Columbia Secondary School and all I could think was, wow, what an inspiring figure. And I like how you found the time to give me an autograph and a high five. That's why I will strive to become Miss New York, just like you are.

    Congrats on everything!