Monday, January 31, 2011

Interview with Will Henderson | The Pageant Guy

Ok, not only do we share a same name -- my middle name is Henderson, his last -- but Will is awesome! Will is just a normal pageant guy in Texas, he describes, and does a lot of work with the USA system.  But he ventured over to MAO for an interview.  We tried the week before Miss America to catch up, but it was just pretty crazy in the packing/preparation department, so he patiently awaited my return, which was greatly appreciated!  His goal with his blog is to show the girls in their natural state, just having fun with questions you don't always here in the regular interviews.  So here's my chat with Will - and check out his blog HERE for more videos.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Support the Ali Forney coming to an exclusive party!

This Tuesday I will be returning a favor and helping Ronnie Kroell (who hosted the "Evening with Miss New York" for me) as a celebrity host at his 28th Birthday party, also a fundraiser for the Ali Forney Center and screening of "In Between Men."  This will be a great and fun event that I think many of you would enjoy if you're in NYC!  --------------------------------

Join us for an Exclusive Screening of the new web-series, “In Between Men”, LIVE performances of music from the soundtrack, and Supermodel Ronnie Kroell’s 28th Birthday.

Hosted by Randy Jones of The Village People and featuring DJ Justin Dawson, Tom McBride, Margot B, Netousha Monroe, Blue Hill, James Calvin, Travis Taylor, Adam Esparza, and more… 

Tuesday February 1, 2011
7:00-11:00 PM

Hudson Terrace
621 W. 46th Street NYC
Btw: 11 & 12th Avenue

General Admission $20.00 online ($25.00 at the door)
VIP Admission $75 or Two for $100

Complimentary food prepared by Chef Bill Seleno of Albert Hall Tavern, drink specials, and a celebratory toast for all guests. VIP includes Gift Bag and special seating. 

Space is limited, so please reserve your tickets in advance online:

Proceeds will benefit the Ali Forney Center, for homeless LGBT youth.

As the visibility of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people grows in our society, more and more LGBT teens are finding the courage to come out of the closet.Tragically, as many as 25% of these teens are rejected by their families, and many end up homeless on the streets. Homeless LGBT teens are more likely than straight homeless teens to be subjected to violence on the streets, and in the homeless shelter system. They suffer from inordinate rates of mental illness, trauma, HIV infection and substance abuse. The Ali Forney Center (AFC) was started in June of 2002 in response to the lack of safe shelter for LGBT youth in New York City. We are committed to providing these young people with safe, dignified, nurturing environments where their needs can be met, and where they can begin to put their lives back together.

Watch the Ali Forney story...

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!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

See ya later, NY!

Wow, New York, you have sent me off in style with unbelievable support, encouragement and motivation.  Last night was the final send off party at Therapy in New York City before I head to Vegas.  My mom was here for a few days to help me pack; I had a final rehearsal and walk through with directors and friends; and I was back on national television with Thomas Roberts.  How lucky am I?  

So many people came out on Monday night to support me - huge thanks to Appolonia Cruz and Scott Alan for performing, as well as my surprise from John Flannigan.  You picked such perfect songs to sing with such beautiful thought behind each one.  Thank you to the Miss New York board of directors who were all present, in I <3 Miss NY t-shirts, and just full of warm hugs and wishes.  Thank you to my roommates who have put up with dresses and suitcases strewn about our little NYC apartment, and JoJo for helping me make that mess! I said it at the party, but every single person that was there who evening and those with whom I have come in contact in the past 6 months has affected me in a way that will make me a greater person in life, and at Miss America.  I can't believe it's here, but I am ready.  (Ok, I still need to finish packing, get an airbrush tan, manicure and pedicure, but I'm pretty ready.)

In New York, I have the world at my fingertips, and that, almost more than anything, has prepared me for this job of Miss America.  I am humbled, honored, ecstatic, and fired up to represent the best state in this country with a message that resonates in New York and must spill into the rest of the country.  Because I'm in this great city, I have access to things like national television outlets and fantastic people like Thomas Roberts, who has supported me unconditionally in this venture.  So on my day before departing for Las Vegas, I headed over to Vartali Salon for a new cut and color, and there was an MSNBC car waiting for me downstairs to take me straight to Rockefeller Center for this live interview.   

Thanks for watching, thanks for voting, thanks for supporting and thanks for loving.   I'll be tweeting, [hopefully] blogging, and maybe even some v-logging with the amazing girls at Miss America - check in during this exciting week!  See you on the flipside :) 

"Pack up all my care and woe,
Here I go
Singing low
Bye, bye, blackbird."