Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

It is hard to believe that another year is coming to a close. This time last year, I was making the last minute choice to compete at Miss Flower City, and planning a trip to Rochester in the midst of a huge snowstorm. I didn't know what the future held for me in terms of pageantry, but my 2014 New Year's Resolution was committing to making the most of every opportunity that came my way. I had no way of foreseeing just how incredible the year ahead would be.

After months of hard work, many highs, a few lows, and countless memories made, I was crowned Miss Empire Star 2014. I never saw it coming. Throughout the pageant season, I had gone into almost every pageant feeling confident that I could walk away with a crown. The Empire pageant was the first competition where I felt certain I would not. There were too many girls competing, just one title up for grabs, and my confidence was faltering after placing runner up time and time again. I almost withdrew from the pageant, but the support and love that came from my family, pageant family, and friends gave me the strength to persevere. Winning the crown was not only an incredible honor, but also a humbling reminder that I don't always have everything figured out!

Being crowned Miss Empire Star 2014 was just the beginning of an incredible journey as a local titleholder. I have enjoyed each and every moment of making appearances in my community, supporting my favorite local charities, and visiting so many fun areas of the state.The journey hasn't always been easy. I have doubted myself, become frustrated, and even shed a few tears. Each bump along the way has been an opportunity to better myself, and I am so proud of the woman that I have become in 2014.

I have just a few short weeks left as Miss Empire Star, and I know that the days will fly by. My 2015 resolution? Just like in 2014, I intend to make the most of each of them.

Happy New Year, everyone! Wishing you a year full of love, health, and happiness!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bark for Life 2015

Seasons greetings, y'all!

It has been a fairly quiet December on the pageant front. I have been extremely busy with work, teaching Pure Barre, and working on obtaining my health coach certification. One of my planned holiday appearances was thwarted by a faulty GPS -- I drove all the way to Albany only to have my GPS and phone die as soon as I entered the capital region, with no way of figuring out how to get to my final destination! I also have been hard at work putting the finishing touches on an official website for the Miss Empire Rose and Miss Empire Star organization. I can't wait to share it with you!

As the end of the year approaches, so does the end of my reign as Miss Empire Star 2014. But, I intend on making the most of these final months of service! One of my favorite events from this year was attending Bark for Life last Spring.

 With one of the adorable pups from Adopt-A-Dog at Bark for Life 2014

Bark for Life brings together dog lovers and their furry friends to support the American Cancer Society. My dog, Duke, was a little bit TOO overexcited to be there last year, but I am hoping that this year I will be able to bring him back for some fun. I was delighted to hear from the Bark for Life team this week when they reached out via email to invite me back to the 2015 event and to their Kick Off Party on Monday, January 12, 2015. You're invited, too!

I hope that you'll consider attending this kick off event, and joining me to support the American Cancer Society this coming spring--Bark for Life 2015 will take place on Sunday, April 12, 2015 at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown. For more information, and to RSVP to the kick off party, email

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Beating the Cold During Winter Appearances

One of the occupational hazards of being a titleholder in New York is making appearances during our cold winters! Over time I have learned a few tips for staying warm and still managing to look very put together! Here are some of my favorite tips, clothing items, and accessories.

Staying warm during a parade during my year as Miss Westchester 2012

My basic setup for winter appearances is simple: I layer a "warm gear" sweatshirt over a thermal shirt. I tuck the thermal shirt into "warm gear leggings." I wear fur lined boots with a slight heel, and then put a dress coat over everything. The dress coat is fashionable and appearance-appropriate--you can't even tell that I'm wearing all exercise clothing underneath!

Lululemon Speed Tight *Tech Fleece - These aren't the exact pair that I wear. Mine are actually two years old! That is why I can highly recommend them, in spite of the high price. They're incredibly warm and mine still look brand new. The tech fleece lining really makes a difference and keeps the bitter cold wind from being too biting.

Thermal Sweatshirt - Make sure you choose a specially-designed thermal sweatshirt for sports. Fleece will keep you pretty warm, but I find the thermal sweatshirts to be a bit warmer. They're also more breathable. Even when it's cold, you can work up a sweat and don't want to feel clammy. The sweatshirt I wear is from Under Armour, and I picked it up on a great sale at Dick's Sporting Goods. It was less than $30!

The piece that ties it all together? A fun jacket like this! I love jackets with a defined waist. I've had great luck finding pieces like this at the end of the winter season for a bargain. My favorites include a winter white pea coat with ruffles (classic!), a sleek dark pink coat (fun!), and a black and white tweed jacket with a hood (great for the colder days!). 

Knit Infinity Scarves - A good collection of scarves will help to get you through a winter full of appearances! Classic red (Christmas, Valentine's Day) and green (Christmas, St. Patrick's Day) will serve you well while keeping you cozy.

180s Ear Warmers - These keep your ears warm, but still allow you to wear your crown during winter appearances. My pair even features tiny rhinestones for a bit of extra sparkle. I picked them up at Kohl's and have had the same pair for years. They're very durable!

Leg Warmers - Leg warmers are one of my favorite winter accessories because you can pair them with both dresses and pants. When you match them with high boots, they are barely visible, but you can feel the warmth! I've been rocking my Pure Barre pair lately because of my exercise addiction, but there are SO many different styles and colors out there to try.

The following pictures are old, but I'm looking forward to making more winter memories as Miss Empire Star without freezing in the process!

I hope these tips were helpful for you!

Monday, November 17, 2014

I Came, I Saw, I Plunged!

This past weekend, I finally participated in an event I've always wanted to attend, but have been to chicken to try...

the Polar Plunge!!! (Can you spot me?)

The Polar Plunge is an event that raises money to support the Special Olympics New York. The premise is simple: gather a team (or choose to go solo), raise funds, and then run into the Long Island Sound on a cold winter (or in our case, fall) day. Compared to some years, this weekend's Plunge was fairly warm at 40 degrees. Some Plunges take place when the weather is so cold, the water has begun to ice over. Brr!

 I was excited to plunge with my alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, and their student athlete team! As a former student athlete (I played volleyball for the Gryphons) it was a blast to meet some of the current students and the new coaches and athletic director. It was also great to have a fun group to plunge with--I'm not sure I could have handled it alone!

 As promised, I pulled on my Miss New York swimsuit and plunged into the Sound. And to be perfectly wasn't THAT bad. Don't get me wrong--it was SUPER cold! But I think that because I was already cold just waiting to do the Plunge (we were outside from around 10 AM until noon when the Plunge happened) it wasn't such a huge shock to my body. My mom was waiting for me with a giant towel, and I layered up in my coziest sweats to celebrate a morning well spent.

So far, the Westchester Plunge has raised over $67,000 to support the Special Olympics! I'm already looking forward to (or, okay, at least just not dreading) next year's Plunge!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Kids & Crowns

You know those events that are so awesome and you're so busy that you don't have time to take as many pictures as you like? I've had two of those in the past week: the Miss Syracuse Triple Crown Pageant and the Westchester Children's Association Centennial Benefit. Here's a quick recap of both events!

Miss Syracuse

Anastasia Harisis was crowned Miss Salt City 2015, Willa Hahn was crowned Miss Erie Canal 2015, and Anneliese Trust was crowned Miss Syracuse 2015! I was particularly excited for Anastasia, as we competed locally together last year and I would have loved to have the chance to compete alongside her at Miss NY. She is insanely talented and I can't wait to see her rock the stage this year. I was ecstatic to see Anneliese take the Miss Syracuse crown, as I know that she is going to represent her city with style and grace this year. She is one of my favorite pageant sisters ever, has an awesome sense of humor, AND she introduced me to Pure Barre. Enough said.

Emma Silen was officially crowned as Miss New York State Fair 2015 and Kristina King was officially cornwed as Miss Central Square Apple Festival 2015. I had the chance to get to know both of these lovely ladies at Miss Syracuse last year, and I couldn't be happier to see them have the chance to compete at Miss New York 2015! Before they were even told they would have the chance to take their festival titles to the state level, they hit the ground running making appearances in their community and promoting their platforms. Keep rocking it, ladies!

It was bittersweet to see my friends Nina, Adrienne, and Caitlin pass on their tiles. They were three of my absolute favorite people to spend time with at Miss New York. I honestly don't think I would have made it through the week without them! Special congratulations go out to Caitlin, whose boyfriend proposed as soon as the pageant was over! Wishing all of these ladies all of the best in the future.

WCA Centennial Benefit

For the past three years, I have volunteered at the Westchester Children's Association annual benefit dinner. This year's dinner was particularly special, as it marked their 100th year of working to ensure that every Westchester child is "healthy, safe and prepared for life's challenges." Their work is truly remarkable and encompasses so many areas, from supporting shelter for teens in crisis to creating a playroom for children attending court with their parents and so, SO much more. The dinner celebrated their success and also worked to raise awareness and support for the future.

I love that as the holidays approach, my calendar is filling up with fun appearances statewide. I'll be sure to keep you all updated!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Zumba and Zuppa

This past Saturday, I had the chance to take part in an event that was very special to me. First, it took place at my church, Holy Trinity Lutheran, in Yonkers. Second, it involved two of my favorite things: exercise and eating. Third, it was organized by my wonderful mother! She has spent the past few months working a project that she is passionate about: engaging the children from the community our church is located through fun events. This was her first planned activity: Zumba and Zuppa, an event to promote a healthy diet and exercise.

First, the children helped to cook two delicious pots of Zuppa -- soup! There was one vegetarian version, and a hearty chicken version. We were joined by a group of culinary and fashion students from Saunders High School, who volunteered their time to help in the kitchen. The kids had a great time peeling, slicing, chopping, and pouring the ingredients. We had two basic recipes on hand, but ended up just adding our ingredients to the children's specifications. They loved having control over their recipes!

While the soup cooked, I led the children in a short Zumba class to show them just how fun exercising can be. I had so much fun adapting some of my favorite Zumba routines to be child-friendly. That included substituting some booty shaking with jumping, group circles, and freestyling. They all had a blast, and were surprised at how tired they felt after just a few songs.

After Zumba, Pastor Rigobert stopped in to talk to the children. Our new Pastor is great at connecting with the children and engaging them with his stories. He also impressed the young men in the group by telling him about his experience playing basketball for the Gambia's national team. When he finished speaking with the group, I let all of the girls try on my crown and sash and spoke to them about the importance about being a beautiful queen on the inside. They loved it!

Finally, it was time to enjoy the fruits of our labor!

I am so glad that my mom's Zumba and Zuppa event was a success, and I can't wait to support her community projects in the future. Next up, we're planning on baking Christmas cookies. Yum!

For more pictures, check out the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Facebook Page!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sweating for a Cause!

I can hardly believe that it is already November! I have just 4 months left in my reign as Miss Empire Star 2014. It feels like I was just crowned yesterday. Keeping busy, both at work and making appearances, has certainly made the time fly by.

October was a wonderful month filled with raising awareness for the prevention of domestic violence. Two of my favorite events of the month included sweating to support My Sisters' Place!

First up was a Spinathon hosted at Kinetic Sports Club in Pelham!

With Tyson from Team MSP!

From 8 AM to 12 PM, Team MSP took over the cycling studio. I made my way over to spin at 9 AM with my good friend and pageant sister Megan. We had a blast during the hour class conquering a hill, racing each other, and taking part in team relays. 

Megan and I after the class -- filtered to hide the sweat marks on our clothing, haha!

Last weekend, I sweat in support of My Sisters' Place once again with at Pure Barre Bronxville! Remember the Pure Give Challenge back in September? As part of the silent auction, an 80s-themed private party was up for grabs. My mother was the high bidder, and was so excited to invite her friends to join her at the studio.


Hollis and Jill, two fabulous Pure Barre Bronxville instructors, kept the 80s energy going as we lifted, toned, and burned to some throwback tunes. I was really happy to recognize all of the songs, and loved dressing up in my crop top and leg warmers!

As part of the Pure Give Challenge, Pure Barre Bronxville raised over $5,000 for My Sisters' Place! I am so thankful for their generosity in supporting an organization that is doing so much to prevent domestic violence and advocate for survivors here in Westchester County. I also have to give a huge thank you to my family and friends who made donations throughout the challenge. Together, we raised over $1,000. 

Exercising isn't always easy, but it is always more fun when it supports a good cause! I'm looking forward to future events with Team MSP! 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

DV Video Spotlight #3

This popular PSA made the rounds earlier this year. I find it especially powerful for two reasons. First, it shows the reality that this is what some women experience every day. Abusive relationships can be very difficult to leave for good, and women often go through days, months, and even years of abuse until they (hopefully!) are able to walk away from their abuser. Second, it shows the reality that domestic violence can happen to anyone--even someone you view as having a completely "normal" life. Many victims of abuse go about their daily routines without ever letting anyone know what they are experiencing at home.

I hope this video inspires you to be more aware of the problems your friends, coworkers, or neighbors may be experiencing. While none of us could ever force someone facing abuse to leave their abuser, we can certainly be there to provide support and access to the resources they need to come to that decision on their own.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Miss Queens 2015

After a short break in September, the Miss New York 2015 local pageant season resumed on Sunday, October 12 with the crowning of a new Miss Queens! This was a particularly exciting pageant to attend, as it was the first year for a new Queens Board of Director and the start of a great legacy for the borough. 

6 young women from Queens and Long Island competed in interview, lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit, talent, evening gown, and on-stage question. The show was fast-paced and entertaining. For the second time at a local pageant I've attended this season, all of the talents were different! I love when this happens, especially when it introduces me to new types of talent presentations that I haven't seen before. The Queens pageant featured a hula hoop performance, lyrical dance, spoken word performance, Haitian dance, tap dance, and dramatic monologue. 

I even had the chance to entertain the crowd with a rendition of "Don't Rain on My Parade!" One thing the Miss America Organization has helped me overcome is my stage fright when performing a song in front of a crowd. In spite agreeing to sing at the last minute, I enjoyed myself and didn't stress out over having a flawless performance.

After a brief intermission, it was time for crowning!

2RU: Tiffany Farrell
1RU: Catherine Manett
and your Miss Queens 2015...

Dieusita Jean!

Dieusita had a natural grace on stage, got the crowd going during her talent, and was extremely well spoken! I know she will do an incredible job representing Queens this year.

One fun part of the evening was reconnecting with some of my Miss NY 2014 sisters! It was so nice to catch up with Claudette and Jillian. Claudette continues to succeed in law school and make many appearances to support her community and platform, and Jillian has hit the ground running as our new Miss New York! Can you believe that just a few hours before the Miss Queens pageant, she was giving a TV interview in Syracuse? They are both such pageant rock stars. 

I'm so glad to have attended the Miss Queens pageant, and can't wait to follow Dieusita's year of service. Congratulations to the entire Miss Queens Organization on a wonderful first pageant!

Friday, October 10, 2014

DV Video Spotlight #2

This is one of my favorite PSAs addressing domestic violence, because it focuses on teen dating violence. Teen dating violence can be a particularly tricky issue to address, because many teens are unable to identify  signs of abuse masked as care. For many teens, being part of a relationship is new, and having someone constantly reaching out to them makes them feel loved. Hopefully PSAs such as this one open the eyes of teens to realize that a constant barrage of texts messages--Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing?--isn't a sign of overwhelming affection, but can be a sign of overbearing manipulation.

Friday, October 3, 2014

DV Video Spotlight #1

Would you complain to neighbors playing loud music late at night? Would you be as willing to complain to neighbors violently fighting late at night?

To be perfectly honest with you, my reaction to the situation would depend on a few things. If I felt comfortable with my neighbors, I would go to them directly if they were playing loud music late at night and talk to them about it. If they were strangers, and it only happened once, I probably would let it pass unless it was ridiculously disruptive--in which case I'd probably ask my father to say something or file a noise complaint. However, if I took the same approach to overhearing a violent fight, the consequences could be more serious than a disrupted night's sleep. If I heard a violent fight, my first reaction would be to contact the authorities--no matter what. While it might make for an uncomfortable situation the next time I saw my neighbors outside, I'd rather err on the side of caution with someone's physical well being on the line. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Pure Give Challenge -- We Did It!

Well...we did it!

Thanks to your support, and the support of the incredible Pure Barre Bronxville family, we were able to raise $5,061 dollars (my screenshot was bit premature) for My Sisters' Place through the #PureGive Challenge!

This is a huge deal for two big reasons:

1. All of that money is supporting the incredible programs My Sisters' Place offers: from resources for survivors of domestic violence to education programs for local teens.

2. We placed 8th in the nation out of hundreds of Pure Barre Studios...and Pure Barre Bronxville has been open for just 3 months!

Bronxville Studio Manager Hollis Morris was really the driving force behind this incredible outcome! From organizing a screening of 'Fed Up' to promoting the challenge in class and online to finding amazing items for a silent auction and raffle, she was a rock star. I am so grateful that she and the rest of the Pure Barre Bronxville team chose to support My Sisters' Place!

Thank you again for all of your donations...I really cannot thank you enough for your support! Special congratulations to the lovely Miss Syracuse Executive Directors, Kristy Lee and Linda, who won my raffle of a Pure Barre tank top and DVD!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Madison Avenue Street Fair!

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of joining my lovely director, Miss Janet, at the Madison Avenue Street Fair in Albany!

Janet and I at the fair -- it was an absolutely beautiful day!

Miss Janet, a former Rockette, teaches dance classes at local community centers. On Sunday, her "Timeless Tappers" were performing a number of dance routines at the fair. Four of her performers were able to make it out, and they wowed the crowd with their numbers. People were cheering, and children were dancing around! It is clear to see how much they love dance and the time and effort they have put in to perfecting their technique. Next weekend, they'll be performing at a show in New Jersey and I'm hoping to make it out to cheer them on!

I had the pleasure of hosting their performance alongside Miss Janet, and singing for the crowd. I chose to perform "Don't Rain on My Parade" and was truly touched when several people approached me afterwards to say they enjoyed the song. Singing has really been a major hurdle for me this year as I've competed in the Miss America system, and I'm glad my persistence and practice is paying off!

After the show, Miss Janet and I enjoyed walking around the fair and connecting with the community members in attendance!

Miss Janet and the Timeless Tappers

At the Albany Historical Society Table

Shopping with the Hudson River Shop

With an awesome poster of historical Albany landmarks!

Miss Janet and I headed to the Colonie Center after the fair for lunch together. She took me to Boscov's, a store with an important connection to the Empire pageant! For years, the Miss Empire Rose pageant was held in the store's auditorium, and the first Miss Empire Star, Laurie Jean Britton, was crowned here! It was so fun to learn more about the wonderful local organization that I am so honored to represent this year.

Overall, it was a great way to spend my Sunday, and I'm looking forward to returning to Albany soon!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pure Give Challenge - The Power of Your Donation

Hello, everyone! We are about halfway through the Pure Give Challenge at this point, and Pure Barre Bronxville has raised about half of our goal donation: $5000 for My Sisters' Place. Today, I thought I would share some of the ways your donation will make a difference in the lives of the women, men, and children who receive services from My Sisters' Place.

Here are just a few of the ways My Sisters' Place impacts our community:

  • Residential Shelters: MSP has emergency shelters that provide a confidential safe haven to those needing to leave an abusive partner. These shelters cater to both individuals and families. While at the shelter, residents are given the support they need to begin a new journey to safety, including supportive counseling and planning for their futures.
  • Counseling Services: MSP has counseling services for adults and children impacted by intimate partner abuse and human trafficking. These services are provided even for those not living in residential shelters. Both individual and group counseling are available, and counseling services are free to those seeking support.
  • Legal Services: MSP's Center for Legal Services provides information, referrals, advice, counsel, and direct representation in family law, immigration, and human trafficking cases. 
  • Education & Prevention: MSP's Domestive Violence Education Program (DVEP) works with over 5,000 youth by providing over 450 presentations on healthy relationships throughout Westchester. They host an annual "Love Shouldn't Hurt" Teen Conference and provide teen counseling services along with other wonderful education programs.
  • Advocacy & Social Change: MSP is committed to working with the community to change the perceptions of domestic violence and human trafficking. Activism is a key component to achieve this goal and ensure healthy relationships for all. 
Information from

This is just a small sampling of the work My Sisters' Place is doing! As a volunteer for the past 3 years, I have had the chance to personally witness the impact MSP is having on the community. I have provided childcare support for mothers accessing group counseling, sat beside women for emotional support at their court dates, represented MSP at community events, and supported their teen education program. I hope that these examples and my experience have inspired you to support the work that MSP is doing. This is about far more than monetary donations--education truly the key to ensuring healthy relationships. Over the next week, I'll be posting two more significant blogs: one on identifying the signs of domestic violence and another sharing the reality of domestic violence in Westchester violence. Keep an eye out.

If you're interested in making a donation, you can do so by visiting:

or by placing a bet as part of the silent auction:

Remember, for each $5 that you donate to the cause, you'll be entered in my raffle to win a Pure Barre tank top and Pure Barre DVD!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Miss New York State Fair 2014

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of hosting the Miss New York State Fair 2014 pageant! This pageant was the result of the creativity and hard work for the wonderful Miss Syracuse Directors, Kristy Lee and Linda! Their Salt City Royalty program promotes confidence in young women, and is such a wonderful alternative to glitz pageants.

Emceeing alongside our stage hostess Cady Ruth, Miss New York's Outstanding Teen!

Across the 6 age groups, nearly 40 young women competed for the chance to represent the Great New York State Fair! Side note--this was my first time at the New York State Fair. I was amazed at just how ENORMOUS the fair was! When we ventured out to have lunch, I saw everything from a butter statue to the poultry competition building. I also tried my first deep fried Oreo--delicious!

Back to show -- the younger age groups (Petite Princess and Princess) simply competed onstage in their choice of formal wear. The older age groups (Pre-Teen, Teen, Miss, and Ms.) competed in their choice of formal wear and answered a simple on-stage question: Why do you want to represent the New York State fair? Because this was a natural pageant, the girl's personalities really stood out on stage, and their diverse choice of formal wear allowed them to express themselves. 

Congratulations to the 2014-2015 Fair queens!

PETITE PRINCESS: Aeowyn Holmes of Baldwinsville
PRINCESS: Zoyee Newton of Weedsport
PRE TEEN: Maria DeCaro of Syracuse
TEEN: Leah Xiao of Rochester
MISS: Emma Silen of Ithaca
MS: Jessica Carbone of Buffalo & Syracuse

After a quick lunch break, it was time to return to the theater for the "There's No Place Like Home" talent showcase. So many of my Miss New York sisters and pageant family where there, and it was wonderful to spend time catching up with them!

Anneliese, Miss Flower City 2014, and I showing our NY state pride!

Madison, Miss Upstate New York 2014, Anneliese, and I after performing at the talent showcase.

With Colleen, the new Miss Central New York's Outstanding Teen! This was her first official appearance, and she rocked her talent performance.

The gang's all here! The best part of my pageant journey this year, hands down, are the friendships I have gained and the amazing sisterhood that I am now a part of.

Overall, it was an incredible weekend! I can't thank Kristy Lee and Linda enough for welcoming me to their pageant family earlier this winter, and inviting me to be a part of this State Fair extravaganza! I may just have to compete for the title of Ms. New York State Fair next year. After all, I already know how I'd answer my on-stage question...Why do you want to represent the New York State Fair? Because I'd get to eat ALL OF THE FRIED OREOS my little heart desires! 

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