Sunday, March 27, 2011

Return to the Alma Maters

 Last week I traveled to Indiana to speak as an honored alum of Ball State University.  Jay Zimmerman, psychologist in the Counseling Center, brought me to BSU for a keynote address about my platform Straight for Equality: Let’s Talk.  They hosted a private dinner with some of my most influential professors from the Honors College, and College of Fine Arts (both visual art and theatre/dance) as well as members of the faculty, community and the LGBT groups on campus, Spectrum and Continuum. Following dinner, we went to Pruis Hall where almost 400 students and faculty gathered to hear me speak.  I did my 20-minute speech and then as planned, opened it to Q & A.  We answered impromptu questions from the audience for 1 hour and 40 minutes!  With the current state of Indiana legislature on the HJR6 proposed constitutional amendment that would completely eliminate even the possibility of marriage equality OR even civil unions/domestic partnerships, I urged the people in the audience to be not just allies, but advocates - requiring action.

READ the Ball State Daily News Article
READ the Muncie Star Press Article

I say “we” because I was honored to invite a new friend on stage.  On Monday before I went to BSU, I received multiple text messages reading “Did you hear about the new Miss Ball State?”  People informed me via text messaging that the new Miss BSU had an LGBT Equality platform as well and that “I [Claire] told her to be confident and proud of who she is and what she believes in.”  I searched through emails and facebook messages (I've received quite a handful of contestants who have told me about stopping pageants because of their sexual orientation, or being motivated to compete again because of the inspiration I gave them...) Well, come to find out when we had lunch together with Executive Director, Carol Cosisko – who got me started in pageants! – Kara Mitchell, the new Miss BSU, had followed my journey and heard my message, which told her to be open about who she is.  Now that’s cool.  So as I finished my speech, I wanted to introduce Kara to the audience because as I return to NY and continue my work, the torch is passed to her and she carries this legacy and leads the fight on Ball State’s campus.  Just two days after being crowned, with no warning, she came up on stage with me and fielded those almost 2 hours of questions so eloquently, tackling difficult questions about religion, marriage equality, and more, all offering a beautifully confident perspective as an openly gay woman.  It was incredible and I was so honored to share the stage with Kara. This evening reminded me once again why I worked so hard to become Miss America, but why I continue as Miss NY with the best job in the world.  I also loved having tea with Ellen Bryan, a fellow Emens Scholar at BSU and 2-time runner up at Miss Ohio.  Good luck to both Kara and Ellen as they prepare for Miss Indiana and Miss Ohio!

Tyler Fox (big fan/advocate),  Megan Thwaites 1st RU Miss BSU (My 1st Outstanding Teen),  Kara Mitchell Miss Ball State 2011,  Miss NY,  Courtney Jurick Miss Three Rivers Festival 2011

As I returned to Indianapolis on such a high from the evening, I began preparing myself for the next day – shifting gears to a high school discussion.  I returned to my high school alma mater, Perry Meridian High School, where I spoke to the entire female population of the school in two assemblies, speaking about leadership.  I shared my leadership experience in the same school they attend now, same clubs, stage and community and then worked my way through my college career and finding my place in the Miss America Organization.  My leadership now is my advocacy.  Following the presentations, I went into multiple classrooms: theatre, history, and speech.  In the history class we compared the civil rights movement now to that of the Sixties; in the theatre class we talked about the power of words and how they can harm or benefit the people around us; and in speech,  discuss the preparation that has come from pageantry and how it has benefitted the rest of public and personal relations in my life. 


All in all, GREAT trip – and it happened to be the same week as my brother’s surprised 30th birthday party! Not bad timing :) Here's a peek at our fun day!




March 15-18 - March IS Madness!

Woah – 2 weeks behind.  That seems to be a thematic opening line of my blogs recently.  Last we left off, I was at the incredible PFLAG National Straight for Equality Gala and Awards.  Then Miss Tennessee, Nicole Jordan came to visit!  Love being Miss NY and living in a state/city where I get to see the amazing Miss America girls who come to visit!  It was great seeing Nicole in her Musical Theatre/Acting showcase with University of Alabama – fun to see these girls outside of pageantland and get a glimpse into their “real life”

I have been introduced to a lot of our state’s sports teams, professional and collegiate in hopes of establishing some new relationships for FUN and recurring appearances for the new Miss NY and myself.  In that process, I was introduced to the Yankees PR and media for whom I eventually auditioned to be a Yankess hostess --- And I got it!  So coming up, I’ll be starting out hosting five Yankees games as a broadcaster in the stadium! Pretty cool, right!?! Super stoked especially since I am very interested in pursuing broadcasting post-Miss NY. 

Then it was off to Southside Middle School in Rockville Centre, NY on Thursday where I really got down to it and had a really great conversation with the entire school about bullying and those specific biases of sexual orientation and gender identity as a part of their "Expanding Our Horizons Together" guest speakers.  The school is very progressive and proudly speaks of their student equality group "Be the Change" club, with whom I got to sit down individually and have some great question and answer.  Scott Quasha, the school psychologist who organized my visit runs the website with Elisa Waters from another school I have visited on Long Island.  He also runs the CometFire group – a support group and question/answer time for LGBT and Questioning youth -  which PFLAG NYC has been assisting.

Friday, Jamie took me to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx for a National Women’s History brunch hosted by Congressman Joseph Crowley with featured keynote speaker, the first female Nassau County District Attorney, Kathleen Rice.  I really look forward to working with her and building a relationship with local titleholders in her district.  Beautiful day in NYC!!

And then, to top things off, Lauren Edmunds came in town for Miss Georgia preparation and we had lunch!  We were at National Sweetheart together 3 years ago. Good luck this summer!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

PFLAG National Straight for Equality Gala

On Monday night, a photographer captured what may just be my favorite photo of my entire year as Miss NY - a picture is worth a thousand words is right.

This was at the Third Annual PFLAG National Straight for Equality Gala in NYC. I presented the Straight for Equality in Business Award to the Chief Diversity Officer of MetLife, a corporation who has been a longtime supporter of PFLAG NYC and National, but also committed to equality in the workplace, recognizing that a diverse blend of people creates the most affective team.

Executive Director of PFLAG National Jody Huckaby and PFLAG President Rabbi David Horowitz
Although I agree with the emcee comedian Carol Leifer that he should have come out in his wrestling singlet, Hudson Taylor was the SfE in Sports honoree for his courageous voice in wrestling as a straight ally. He wrestled through college as a 3 NCAA All-American at the University of Maryland with the HRC equality symbol on his headgear and is now the Columbia University coach. I have a direct connection to someone who is gay because my sister, but what is so cool about Hudson is that he doesn't. It's just the right thing to do for him -- and should be for us all. Hudson just started his own non-profit Athlete Ally. Join him.


This year PFLAG gave out the first SfE in Literature Award to Charlaine Harris. Perhaps you don't know her name, but I know you know True Blood. She wrote the books on which the tv show was based. Even with 7 gay characters on the show, it was so interesting to hear her speak of her intention, lacing a stronger message of acceptance and differences through a story of vampires. "To find that other people have been listening to the subtext of my books, and have been taking it seriously, is an unexpected delight. I'm grateful for this recognition of my small attempt to correct a great wrong, and to be the recipient of this very meaningful award." - CH

 And then we were ready for Rosie Perez to accept her award for SfE in Entertainment...or were we? With a fantasic and heartfelt introduction from Wilson Cruz (RENT), Rosie took the stage and stole our attention, hearts and laughter.  Rosie is a loud, proud, Puerto Rican activist for a number of causes, especially those related to AIDS and inner-city youth.  She has been an advocate for the gay community who has not and will never let an ounce of injustice occur or be heard around her.  Although we will always continue to celebrate, award and recognize those who are making ground breaking steps towards equality, we both/all look forward to a time where there is not such an award because then it won't be one incredible person stepping up and embracing equality, it will be the world doing so.

The Broadway Boys were the entertainment of the night...and sooooo good!! And Jamie was my handsome date :)

Read the entire press release HERE.  Visit PFLAG National and Straight for Equality.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What a great weekend! 7 new titleholders!!

And then the weekend hit and what a great few days that was!? Saturday I checked in and introduced myself to many of the contestants competing for Miss NY local city titles in interview. I got really excited because although I knew from the numbers and names that we were going to have a great day of pageants on Sunday, but seeing everyone just took it up a notch! Everyone looked great!! I loved how contemporary and modern everyone looked in their interview outfits.

After playing DJ Jazzy Claire and collecting all talent music, it was over to the 18th Annual GLBT Expo at the Javitz Center. The entire space was packed with GLBT or gay-friendly organizations. In the wedding aisle, I was modeling Stephen Yearick wedding gowns with Sposabella Lace. Felt pretty fancy! It was fun though to have so many people recognize and support me, coming up with a picture of the two of us on their cell phone reminiscing of meeting Miss NY at Toys for Tots or The ESPA Gala or something. We all, in this bubble of pageant world, get excited to meet celebs in titleholders, but it is so wonderful to see the support and excitement in the community about meeting a Miss America girl.

 I also did an interview in the video lounge with big supporter Appolonia Cruz, who hosted my send off party, where we showed a highlight video of my Miss America Preliminary competition (watch it HERE).  Most importantly, I was able to meet face to face with Hertz Connect and two car dealerships about potentially sponsoring me for my upstate travels in these next few months. I can't wait to see how those relationships hopefully develop.  Then I visited with the Human Rights Campaign and signed up as a supporter of Marriage Equality. Are you?

Sunday was the big day for New York locals! Miss Greater Rochester was upstate and 6 titles were given in New York City.  Congratulations to ALL who competed and a special thanks to those in the city and state sweeper who were such troopers on a double pageant day!  I did the on-stage questions while Jackie Holmes emceed the first pageant and then moved up to emcee duties for round two.

Miss Southeast NY Amanda Mason - Miss Manhattan Mallory Hagan - Miss New York City Hannah Wright
1st RU Tara Szczepanski (L)

Miss Greater Gotham Nardeen Billan - Miss Liberty Kimberly Cantoni - Miss Metropolitan Tara Szczepanski
Visiting Titleholders: Miss Staten Island Maria DeSantis, Miss Kings County Carmen Mendoza,
Miss Altamaha Alexa Turpin (Georgia), Miss Manhattan 2010 Jackie Holmes
Miss Greater Rochester Chelsea Prophet

Parades, schools and karaoke.

I get so on top of other things and then fall behind on my blog! Last week was a fantastic mix of great schools and fun appearances. On Saturday, we had a rainy mess that turned into a great day at the Staten Island St. Patrick's Day Parade. Major thanks to all of the people who kept me dry and were flexible in the back and forth decisions reacting to the weather changes back and forth. I had a blast with our Miss NY Princess Ava and Kelli and Mary-Lou. I think Staten Island definitely loved seeing Miss Staten Island AND Miss NY in the parade; they're excited to have all the girls in June!

I had a few PFLAG schools this week in the Bronx and in West Harlem. In the Bronx, to be honest, it was a tough school - all transfer students who had been removed from or left their previous school. The school psychologist was a great support for me as he helped facilitate the conversation about equality, bullying and respect. Some students shared very vulnerable stories and as a result, I visibly witnessed a change in their peers' attitudes. At Columbia Secondary School, the kids were so talkative, adding such interesting elements to our dialogue. We talked about the trend that high school lesbians can be more accepted because "girls don't care and the guys think it's hot." Very interesting. We also had great discussions of how they define the word "gay" or when the first time they remember hearing it. In each class (5 groups of 60) they defined "gay" as happy, as when a man loves another man, as a derogatory term used as an insult, or as an umbrella term for LGBT. It was fascinating to hear about their introduction to the word. I think it continues to educate me as I speak to more groups of diverse ages, cultures and relations.

I must have been charging them with something very intense look.
I speak to schools specifically as Miss NY when I am booked through the organization, but I also speak a lot with PFLAG Safe Schools program. Obviously when kids are coming down for an assembly with Miss New York, they know who I am although I don't put the the crown on until the end. But in a PFLAG school they have no idea until I talk about advocacy and bring it out at the end when I talk about the importance of vocal straight allies, for example the straight celebrities in PFLAG NYC's Stay Close Campaign. At Columbia on Thursday, a girl raised her hand and thanked me, "I think it's really cool that you didn't tell us who your are until after you had shared your story with us because I really listened to you and believed you rather than thinking, 'she is just saying this and thinks we'll listen since she's famous.' But now I'm glad I know you're Miss NY because that's really cool and makes it even more meaningful since you told us after."  She got it. That is exactly the reason I do my presentations the way I do. I don't want someone to be distracted by a sparkly crown and miss what I'm actually saying. And then when you bring it out at the end, the crown not only represents my title of Miss NY but also is an emblem of courage, compassion, leadership and advocacy.

And then another fun appearance - I judged one of the Karaoke World Championship NYC preliminaries! It was awesome! There is so much hidden talent in NYC that needs to be discovered. Thanks to Michelle Kinney for the great opportunity.

The weekend will be in the next much to write about! Pics coming soon too -- I'm posting this from my phone on the train.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Creating the Class of 2011

Ok! We're coming down to it!  The Miss New York Class of 2011 is looking great so far and will almost double in the next few weekends.  So here's the rundown:

Last weekend, Colleen Gagne won Miss Empire Rose and Jennifer Pollard won Miss Empire Star!

Miss Empire Star Jennifer Pollard, Teens Brittany Rose Egnot and Shannon Ryan, Miss Empire Rose Colleen Gagne

Upcoming Locals
also available on
7 titles THIS WEEKEND, 3 additional following:  

Miss Greater Rochester

Sunday, March 13, 2011
Roberts Wesleyan College Cultural Life Center
3:00 pm
Tickets: $15 Adults / $5 Kids

Miss Manhattan | New York City | Southeast NY
March 13, 2011 (Interviews March 12)
Open to New York City (Five Boroughs) 

Miss Metropolitan | Greater Gotham | Liberty 

March 13, 2011 (Interviews March 12)
Statewide OPEN 

Both of these pageants will be at the Victor Borge Hall at the Scandinavian Center
(58 Park Avenue at 38 St.) 
Miss Manhattan | New York City | Southeast NY  is at 12:00noon

Miss Metropolitan | Greater Gotham | Liberty is at 3:30pm

Tickets are $20 for EACH pageant

Miss Southern NY | "County" Queen
March 27, 2011 
Miss Southern NY is open to Five Boroughs/Long Island/Westchester
Miss "County" Queen is a Statewide OPEN and will be named based on the residency of the winner.
Marina Montes, Executive Director

Victor Borge Hall at the Scandinavian Center
58 Park Avenue at 38 St. 
Doors Open 12:00 Noon  |  Pageant Starts 12:30PM Sharp
Tickets $20

Miss Mohawk Valley
April 2, 2011 
Open to Herkimer, Oneida, Fulton & Montgomery Counties
Laurie Jean Britton, Executive Director 

Mandatory Workshop for All Miss New York Contestants
April 9, 2011
St. George Theatre
Staten Island, NY

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

From my Quality of Life essay:
The Chief Service Officer to the Mayor said, "No longer is it something nice, service is something necessary.  Use your 'fill in the blank' for the better."  It is imperative that we serve each other with our unique gifts and talents, whatever they may be, as there is always a way for you to make your community better and stronger.   

Four years ago I won a local title and created a website for the Miss Duneland Scholarship Pageant. I think it is so important to have a polished face to an organization that highlights the extraordinary accomplishments of women in this program and also makes the opportunity available for new girls to compete and become a part of the Miss America Organization. Now as a state titleholder, that marketing is even more important to me. As a photographer and graphic designer, I have designed my fair share of websites and enjoyed every one of them. I love this field because I get to use my talents to promote others' talents. So this is a way that I have chosen to give back to the Miss New York Organization. A little facelift :)

So the new website is which will eventually replace which we found to be a tiny  :-)  I hope you enjoy scrolling through the new site, seeing lots of pictures, information and sneaking a peek at our new titleholders of the Class of 2011... One of whom, come June 19th, will be all over this site!

Indiana Youth Group Art Auction

Indiana Youth Group 
Art Auction

Saturday, March 12th
VIP Hour: 7-8 p.m. 
General Public: 8-10 p.m. 

Wheeler Art Center
Fountain Square at 1035 Sanders Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204


The Indiana Youth Group (IYG) will host the annual Art Auction at Wheeler Arts Community Center on March 12, 2011 from 7:00-10:00 p.m. This year’s event is themed “Inspire Me”. Both professional and amateur art as well as various gifts will be awarded in live and silent auctions. Honorary Co-Chairpersons, reigning Miss New York and renowned photographer, Indiana native, Claire Buffie and the honorary David Orentlicher, former state representative and professor of Law and Medicine at IU.

The VIP social hour will start at 7:00 PM and features complimentary drinks and hors d'oeuveres. Additional VIP surprises will be announced throughout the evening. The Art Auction will start at 8:00 PM and run through 10:00 PM. A cash bar and hors d'oeuveres will be available.

I have donated three pieces to the art auction - two dance photos from my Ball State University Honors Thesis project create.capture.captivate and a digital imaging piece of abstract art.


One I want to specifically highlight is entitled "If." My dad, Bill Buffie, has written the most amazing piece, "If for Marriage Equality" and it will be revealed for the first time to the public at the Indiana Youth Group Art Auction.  It is a thought-provoking and emotional challenge and great recognition of the power of the people who yearn for and continue to fight for marriage equality in this nation.

About Indiana Youth Group
Since 1987, the Indiana Youth Group has been a positive force impacting thousands of LGBT youth.  IYG serves young people from ages 12 to 21 who self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning and their allied friends.

For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth, the normal stress of adolescence can be heightened by the pressures that often accompany the internal awareness of being different. Social stigma, rejection, and bullying are often experienced by LGBT youth. It is no surprise that compared to their heterosexual peers, LGBT youth tend to experience a higher incidence of isolation, depression, suicide, and homelessness.

IYGs activity center offers a supportive environment that allows the youth to build self-confidence, explore individualism, and develop friendships within a community that values fairness, acceptance, respect for diversity, and equality.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Straight Talk | dot429

This week I attended a VIP Dinner and day of seminars and co-hosted a cocktail reception and networking event for dot429.  As you can see above, dot429 is a network and an online magazine that connects the LGBT community with invaluable straight allies.  As one of their new founding members, I hope to enhance the connection and bring on new active and passionate straight allies.

At the event, I found myself explaining to others the spectrum of respect and alliance.  To be an ally is to respect and embrace the LGBT community, but it also takes action. If we, as straight supporters, just say "Yes, I support equality and rights for the LGBT community," but if we don't actually DO anything about it, then we are no help at all.  Advocacy takes action - proactive gestures and actions that help society and our laws progress.

The event was inspiring because of the people I met and the conversations that we had together.  A major point of the "Straight Talk" event was to open dialogue about LGBTA people in Politics & Current Events (Lt. Dan Choi, Kerry Eleveld), Entertainment & Media (Andy Cohen, Lisa Sherman, Jane Velez-Mitchell), and Fashion & Design (Suzanne Johnson - Saks Fifth Avenue, Simon Doonan - Barney's).  They also stressed the importance of authenticity - being yourself with confidence in the workplace and our communities - something I could speak to and completely support.

Lt. Dan Choi
In addition to the magazine content on their website, dot429 is like LinkedIn and Facebook together and you can join online. They also have monthly networking events.  The next event in NY is the New York Networking Brunch at the Tribeca Grand Hotel (2 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10013) Sunday, March 27 from 12:00-3:00 PM.  For you California fans, the San Francisco Cocktail Reception at The Fifth Floor Restaurant (12 4th Street - 5th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103) Thursday, March 10 from 5:30-7:30 PM.