Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fleet Week & Memorial Day

Hello, everyone! I can't believe it's already Tuesday. Miss New York Week is over (more on that in future posts), Memorial Day has passed, and summer has unofficially begun. I'm still catching up on so many things: work, cleaning my room, and most importantly sleep! Still, I wanted to share some pictures and stories from my Fleet Week and Memorial Day experiences.

With Miss New York week taking place just before Memorial Day, the timing aligned perfectly with Fleet Week's return to NYC. There were two warships docked on Staten Island, and the Miss New York contestants were able to visit the USS Cole.

We were given a brief tour of the ship. I found it to be fascinating--did you know that these ships hold missiles that are three stories high? I really admire the sailors who protect our nation onboard the USS Cole and similar warships.  They put their life on the line for us each day, something you can't help but be hyperaware of when visiting the USS Cole. In 2000, the Cole was attacked by suicide bombers in Yemen and 17 sailors lost their lives. They were on my heart as I got a better idea of life on a warship.

On Memorial Day, I headed down to Brooklyn to join the Peekskill Pageants family for the 147th Annual Kings County Memorial Day. 

With Miss Cinco De Mayo Arianna, Miss Italia Nadia, Little Miss Cinco De Mayo Shay, and Little Miss Italia Jennifer, I joined what is one of the oldest Memorial Day parades in the nation. The organizers put together an absolutely beautiful morning of remembrance. The Grand Marshals of the day were three Gold Star Mothers--mothers of servicemen who lost their lives serving our nation. With their families, current servicemen, veterans, police officers, fire fighters, government officials, and members of the community, we honored their legacy.

I had the opportunity to sing the National Anthem at the start of the remembrance ceremony. As cheesy as it sounds, it was such an emotional moment to share my pride in being an American through the simple song. I know that I do not have what it takes to serve in the military. The men and women honored yesterday have more bravery in their pinky toe than I do in my entire body. And so I respect them. I honor them. God Bless our service men and women, and God Bless America. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Miss New York Day 2 - Photo Dump & Quick Updates!

Hello once again from Staten Island! It was another busy day for the Miss New York 2014 contestants. I've been awake and on the go since 7 AM, which is typical for me on a work day. What isn't typical is being in rehearsal until 9 PM! We spent the entire day learning production numbers and walking patterns that we will proudly put on display for Friday night's prelims and Saturday night's finals. We also had the chance to visit the Eger Harbor House, a retirement community here on Staten Island. They treated us to a delicious lunch (I feasted on grilled chicken...and a few chocolate chip cookies, shh!) and then we spent some time visiting with the residents there. I even had the chance to perform a shortened version of my talent song for them! 

Tomorrow will be another long day of rehearsals, including a full run through in our pageant wardrobes. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone's outfits, especially the evening gowns. I'm always impressed by the sparkle and style my friends bring to the stage!

Photos from Staten Island Live:

With Gloria, who made each of us a beautiful bracelet. Thank you, Gloria!

Showing off our bracelets!

The Eger House even had these posters made for us. So sweet!

Andddd they decorated their BINGO hall for us to dine in.

With Mary, an 101-year-old resident at Eger.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Miss New York Day 1 - Photo Dump & Quick Updates!

Hello everyone! Well, Miss New York Week 2014 has officially kicked off! Today was busy, but so much fun. We were told to arrive in outfits that were "hot and funky," and all of the girls looked fantastic. On the schedule was a busy day in NYC. First, we had lunch at the Common's Cafe on Staten Island. Owned by the Nicotra's, the restaurant features tasty treats (I had a black bean burger...YUM!) and 100% of the proceeds are donated to charity. We stopped by City Hall and had the chance to tour the building before meeting Mayor De Blasio. Next, we headed uptown to the Pink & Pepper showroom. They had their Fall 2014 collection on display, and it was so fun to get a sneak peek at the styles to come. Finally, we finished the day with dinner at the American Girl Place. Miss New York 2014, Amanda Mason, and her mom, Wanda, had arranged for the American Girl Cafe to be open after hours so they could host all of the contestants for a lovely meal. The food was delicious, and it was so sweet to run into girls who were shopping who wanted to take pictures with the "princesses." Speaking of running into people who were interested in the contestants--you should have seen the looks we got as we traveled through the city! I would think that nothing made New Yorkers think twice, but I was wrong.

Tomorrow kicks off the first of many rehearsals. I am really looking forward to learning the production numbers and seeing the Miss New York show begin to take shape. I'll be heading to bed soon, but am leaving with with some great shots from the day. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with me and my fellow contestants on this busy week!

Staten Island Advance Links:

The Commons Cafe motto

We all started our journey together in August 2013 at Miss Thousand Islands. Reunited again at Miss NY 2014! 

Commons Cafe has donated well over $200,000 to local organizations!

Madison and I!

At City Hall

The beautiful City Hall rotunda, modeled after the Pantheon

Olivia and I!

A model of City Hall...in City Hall :)

Addressing the adoring crowds...kidding!

With Mayor De Blasio!

The lovely Adrienne!

Nina's, our own Miss America, fabulous 'Show Your Shoes Parade' pumps

Some fun Pink and Pepper sandals

All of the girls wanted these!

Surrounded by shoes, my favorite place to be :)

I LOVE these boots!

We all got a pair of Pink and Pepper sunglasses

All of the ladies at Pink and Pepper

Dessert at the American Girl Place

Enjoying my meal with a special friend

Hands are Not for Hitting Workshop at Alcott School

I can't believe I'm writing this blog post from Staten Island! Yes--it's pageant week! Check-in is tomorrow morning, and I spent all of today running my last minute errands to prepare for all the excitement that awaits. Well, almost all day -- first, I stopped by the Alcott Montessori School to visit my mother's extended day classroom. She has a group of eighteen 3-to-5-year-olds that I was able to share my platform with.

You may be wondering how I approach the topic of domestic violence with such young children. Well, I don't...at least, not specifically! Instead, I bring the book "Hands are Not for Hitting" to read, discuss the importance of respecting others and using your hands for productive purposes, and create some beautiful hand artwork with the kids. It is a great way to introduce them to foster healthy relationships with their family and friends. 

I had such a wonderful time this morning--there is something about the sweet spirit and funny comments of preschoolers that can always bring a smile to my face! I was even happier to hear that the children remained engaged in the idea that "hands are not for hitting" after I left, and continued to create hand art all afternoon! I hope that this foundation remains with them as they grow up (because, let's face it, it happens so fast!) and they begin to date.

Here are some pictures from the morning. I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

American Heart Association Heart Ride

Yesterday, I put aside my Miss NY packing and headed out to the Hamptons to volunteer at the American Heart Association 2014 Heart Ride with the fabulous Sarah Pierson, Miss Empire Star's Outstanding Teen.

I've really hit the jackpot when it comes to having fabulous teen queens. Sarah is a junior in high school, and she is SO well spoken and poised. We also have a ton of fun things in common--from our love of Star Wars to the fact that we both had our names pulled out of the hat first to make Miss NY placement choices. Sarah's platform is Heart U: Raising Awareness of Living Heart Healthy Lifestyles. She has done a tremendous amount of work not just to raise awareness, but to lobby for research dollars and more! I was so happy to accept her invitation to volunteer with her at the Heart Ride, a 100, 60, or 27 mile bike tour of the Hamptons (rider's choice). We manned a water stop at the 20 mile mark, providing drinks and treats to the cyclists.

Setting up the tent--a surprisingly challenging task!

Mission accomplished! 

Sarah with all of the goodies--drinks, sandwiches, fresh fruit, protein bars, and the crowd favorite: Swedish Fish!

The riders were are SO incredibly nice! Many of them were riding in teams, good-naturedly teasing each other and challenging each other to sandwich eating contests (we hear the record was 20 PB & Js last year)! In addition to their kindness, they all committed to raising at least $750 for the American Heart Association. I know they all surpassed that goal, as according to the Heart Ride website they are already up to nearly $230,000 raised!

Once the riders had all gone through, Sarah and I took some fun pictures together--with the beautiful beach just feet away, how could we resist?!

I can't wait to make another trip out to the Hamptons in the future, and spend some more time with Sarah this year. You can bet I'll be one of the loudest fans in the audience cheering for her when she takes the stage on Saturday! The Empire is ready to strike back!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

May is for Miracles

May is for Miracles, and I have had a blast this month supporting my local Children's Miracle Network Hospitals! After last weekend's Walk and Family Fun Day to support Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in Valhalla, I spent today at Costco on Staten Island raising funds for the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York.

Not only is Costco a huge supporter of the Children's Miracle Network, they are also a sponsor of the Miss New York Pageant. They will be providing some delicious meals for the contestants during pageant week. Today, they provided a huge cake for shoppers and endless enthusiasm for the cause!

One of the best parts of the day was spending some time with my Miss New York sisters. There were many sparkly crowns to be found in the sea of weekend shoppers!

With Dominique, Miss New York City's Outstanding Teen

With Sarah, Miss Empire Star's Outstanding Teen; Jamie, Miss Staten Island; and Charista, Miss Richmond County's Outstanding Teen. Alexa, Miss Staten Island's Outstanding Teen, also stopped by for the morning.

It was particularly awesome to spend some more time with Sarah, Miss Empire Star's Outstanding Teen (and my sister titleholder for the year)! We had a blast talking about Miss NY prep, school, and Star Wars. The Empire is ready to Strike Back!

As usual, it was wonderful to spend time in the community and supporting CMN!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Pageantry on a Budget

This post is one that I originally shared via my old blog last year. Saving money never goes out of style, so I thought I'd share it here as well!

I don't remember exactly who said it, but I have heard of the idea that "Pageants are a rich girl's sport." Well...I beg to differ. The Miss America Organization is the world's leading provider of scholarships for young women. Competing shouldn't just be easy for "rich girls." It has to be accessible for all young women.

Pageants, inevitably, will cost you some money (unless you have absolutely fabulous sponsors who are willing to cover all of your costs). Going into most pageants, you have to expect the following expenses:

  • Interview Outfit (including shoes & accessories)
  • Swimsuit (including shoes & accessories)
  • Evening Gown (including shoes & accessories)
  • Talent Wardrobe (including shoes & accessories as needed)
  • Opening Number Outfit (including shoes & accessories)
  • Beauty Products (hair care, skin care, makeup, tanning, etc.)
  • Travel Costs (gas, food, hotel, etc.)
Of course, these are negotiable. Some opening number outfits are incredibly simple--I've had the option to wear jeans before! Sometimes you won't need to travel very far. You might have a sponsor for your tanning. The most important thing to remember about these expenses is that you never have to pay full cost. I rarely have. How? Here are my favorite money saving tips:
  1. Interview Outfit  Chances are you already have something interview appropriate in your closet! For my first pageant, I wore a simple sheath dress that I already had purchased for interning while in college. It was gray, but I jazzed it up with a fun necklace. Most dresses that you would wear to work can be worn in the interview room, so search your closet before hitting the store! If you do need a new interview outfit, check the sale racks at your local Lord & Taylor. They have many modern and trendy dresses that aren't too over the top, and they have amazing coupons!
  2. Swimsuit   Ladies, the swimsuits that the girls wore at Miss America this year were from Walmart! Let that sink in for a minute. While I love custom swimsuits (and I am fortunate enough to have a beautiful Kandice Pelletier number that she generously sponsored for me as Miss Westchester), you can definitely find a great swimsuit on a budget. For my first pageant, I purchased a Victoria's Secret Miraculous bikini top, and a Target bikini bottom. With fabric glue and beautiful golden beads, I was able to "bedazzle" the straps of my suit and some small hardware pieces on the bottom. It looked great on stage, and I still wear it to the beach!
  3. Evening Gown   While PageantResale.com is a fabulous place to find gently used gown, I've recently turned to eBay to purchase pageant must-haves. You can save thousands of dollars by purchasing a dress on eBay--I'm not exaggerating at all. I was able to purchase my latest gown for $1000 off the retail cost. You may not find something each time you search, but it is always worth a try. You're also able to filter by brand and size, which is helpful. Be sure to always check the item description before bidding--sometimes dresses have been altered from their original size, and you want to make sure it will fit you.
It really is possible to compete in a pageant while on a budget. Just remember--the judges aren't instructed to judge you based on the cost of your wardrobe. True story: I won Miss Westchester wearing a borrowed interview dress, an opening number dress from eBay, and an evening gown from an inexpensive prom collection! The judges are looking at the girl in all of these outfits, not the outfits themselves. Find pieces that best reflect your personality, that you wear with poise and grace, and that don't break the bank. 

What are some of your favorite ways to save money while preparing for a pageant? I can't wait to hear them!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

OMG...How Come This Site Didn't Exist 10 Years Ago?!

In 2012, I had the unique opportunity to "sit" (virtually) on the advisory board for girl-karma.com, a lifestyle website where girls could find tons of beauty and life advice tailored specifically to their needs. I loved girl-karma, because it provided a SUPPORTIVE network for girls to connect online. Unlike many social media platforms where bullying is prevalent, girl-karma was genuinely committed to providing a safe haven dedicated to self-love and growth.

Though I no longer serve on the advisory board, I have kept up with girl-karma because I believe in its mission. girl-karma.com was recently rebranded, and I love the new site, omghow.com, already! One of the most popular areas of the former girl-karma site was a 'Questions' section where girls could ask questions and have them answered by their peers. omghow.com is exclusively dedicated to providing girls with "How-Tos" on a huge variety of subjects, from how to make bananas last longer to how to write a love letter.

Isn't the website design awesome?

I recently decided to try my hand at writing my very own "how-to"...

It was incredibly easy to write, and I hope that it helps out teenage girls who are interested in pageantry, but don't know where to start when it comes to competing. I am currently in the process of writing a few more "how-tos" to submit to the site. They're going to address healthy dating tips, a topic that can be hard to talk about with your parents or even your peers. My platform, L8ER H8ER: Saying Goodbye to Teen Dating Violence is all about harnessing the power of social media to spread the word about healthy relationships and get teens talking about a topic that is often seen as taboo.

If you're a young woman looking for advice, or a young woman who already knows the ropes about a topic and wants to share her knowledge with others, I recommend you give omghow.com a try. I really wish this website was in existence when I was thirteen--it would have saved me a lot of youthful angst over uncertainties I had at the time!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Going the Distance for Maria Fareri Children's Hospital!

One of my favorite parts of being a Miss America local titleholder is the wonderful relationship the Organization has with the Children's Miracle Network. My local CMN hospital is Maria Fareri Children's Hospital in Valhalla, New York. Maria Fareri serves Westchester County, but also has patients come from Rockland, Orange, and Fairfield County to receive excellent care! Today, the community gathered to celebrate the 10th birthday of the hospital at the annual Go the Distance Walk and Family Fun Day held on the hospital grounds.

Singing Happy Birthday to Maria Fareri Children's Hospital!

Today, I joined forces once again with Mayra Avila, Miss Westchester 2014. Together, we signed up to walk with The Dreamster's Dreamers, the team of 2014 Go the Distance Grant Marshal Dream. Dream is a 4th grader from Ossining, NY. She has sickle cell disease, but has not let her health challenges slow her down! She is a singer, Girl Scout, and master hula-hooper. With the support of her incredible family (seriously, they are such a lovely group!) and the care she receives at Maria Fareri, she is ready to take the world by storm one bright smile at a time!

With the Dreamster and her friends! They came decked out in pink, Dream's favorite color!

Before the race kicked off, many of the past Go the Distance Grant Marshals joined Dream on stage. They all came to Maria Fareri for different reasons: open heart surgery, orthopedic injury, brain surgery, liver transplants, and more. But they all have something in common today: they are thriving and a shining example of resilience. In honor of them, and all of the other children who have been cared for at Maria Fareri, over $275,000 was raised to support the hospital at today's event!

Some of the past Grand Marshals, ready to kick off the race!

It was a really great morning! Dream and her Dreamsters led the way on a one mile walk, and once the teams crossed the finish line, it was time to make new friends, try some delicious treats, and have some fun!

Dream's team, ready to kick off the walk!

Dream and her friends were the first to cross the finish line!

Cold hands, but warm hearts--Mayra and I were so chilly that we purchased matching Go the Distance hoodies!

Taking on a new role as Miss Empire Star Wars...May the "4th" be with you!

For more pictures, check out my Facebook page

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