June 22, 2009

The Finale.

I'm probably not making this any easier on myself by prowling through the videos of the 2008 titleholders being crowned on TLC.com and currently watching a dvd of Miss America. But at the same time, it's kind of like I'm being surrounded by the gals that are going through the same thing. So, here it goes ...

(I just stared at a blinking cursor for about 5 minutes.) Last year right about this time I was one of the lucky 52 ladies crowned a state representative in the Miss America Organization. But, it didn't just happen. I started competing in the Miss America Organization 4 years ago. I won some, and lost the big one. Twice. Perhaps losing isn't the best choice of words (sorry, mom!). Rather, I participated in complete self-improvement course, and took in a lot of scholarship dough being third runner up two years in a row at Miss Virginia. I pulled myself up by the boot straps and moved to a box, or er I mean a studio, in NYC.

I won Miss Brooklyn (which the Miss America girls thought was fairly hysterical based on stereotypes given to the big BK). And I got heat because I was actually from Manhattan "by way of Virginia". Then I won Miss New York. And man did the storm begin. "THE GIRL FROM VIRGINIA!" I've learned to take that in stride and I'm proud to say I have totally learned how to deal with criticism of all kinds. But, ps, it still isn't nice! Several people both here in NY and in Virginia (slash a LOT) have asked "do you secretly wish you were Miss Virginia?". My answer has not wavered one bit. No. God had totally different plans for me. I grew a lot in Virginia. But I blossomed here in New York. And there have been many, many people that have pushed me forward in this process. And I take pride in knowing I've given all of myself to this job. But this job is much bigger than me. It is not defined by power or prominence, but rather by people. So please allow me to give them a shout out ...

Tom Whitfield. You have played such an instrumental role in my journey towards allowing myself to feel comfortable in my own skin. What an unbelievable feeling it is. Just keep those coffee cups coming. ;)

Tim Morehouse. I'm so happy to be able to call you a friend. Not because of your status as a silver medal Olympic fencer, though that is cool, too. But because of your determination, insane work ethic, and consistent ideal of putting others before yourself. Thank you for taking me under your wing.

Tim on the left, Jason on the right. Both Olympians. Both fabulous.

Wendi Gruninger, phone calls, phone calls. Thank you for your love, friendship, and belief in me to do whatever I set my mind to.

Chip and Scottie, I love you both so much. Phone calls at midnight, break ups and new discoveries, y'all are always on the other line. You two will remain my big brothers far beyond pageantry. But, please, for Pete's sake, lock Abigail up. I kid. I kid.

Fake smiles don't look like any of us. But, okayyy. Maybe you two like good. xoxoxo

Pi Phis and Belles alike. WOOOOOHOOOO!! I love all of you from the bottom of my heart. Carly, Liz, and Allie: LALA4LYF.

Miss NY girls that have been with me each step of the way. You girls know who you are and I thank you for your support on this journey. But please know, you will be my friends far beyond Miss NY. XOXO

Ashley Wheeler. Thank you for always being on the other end of the line. I will never forget our New Year's Eve pep talk as I cabbed it uptown. Those memories will continue to accumulate. I just know it. I'm sending positive mental vibes and virtual hugs your way as you give up your crown this week.

Ellen Carrington. Although I'm really sad you said I've lost my Southern accent, I still love yours. Thank you for being genuinely interested in what is going on in my life. The good, the bad, the ugly. Give Grant a hug for me, and come visit SOON! (You too, Emily. Or you're dead meat!)

Kate Marie. Girl. Thank you for pitching Paul to me like some kind of product. But also, please thank your boss for the amount of time he allows you to be on gchat. Seriously. Those talks were a source of sustainability for me throughout my year. Thank you, thank you, thank you. But, I see you soon anyways. So, I'll give you a hug in person.

To the whole Miss NY board, each of you has played an immeasurable role in my success. I cannot begin to thank EACH of you enough. But, the program, my speech, and thank you letters will all be made public this week. Lots of love to each of you.

KATE. Holy crow. Read the program. And listen to my farewell. But, hey, basically, thanks for changing my life. And life trajectory.

My Paul. You're crazy for sticking around through all of this. But because you did, and for many, many other reasons I'm crazy for you. Thank you for always holding me accountable and being there for it all. Not just for the fun times at Miss America but everything in between. Because those are the moments that really matter. I am 110% sure I won the boyfriend lottery.

Sorry ladies, hands off. He's mine.

Bryan, Laura, Shannon, Tracy, and Natalie. I just started to tear up as I wrote this part. I hope each of you knows how much I look up to you. The examples you set in your daily lives has encouraged me to strive to better myself on a consistent basis. Bubby, I meant what I said in the Miss America program book.

Mom and Dad. Thank you for allowing me to dream the wildest of dreams, and to sincerely believe in them with me. I've never felt like there was anything I couldn't do and that is a direct reflection of how I was raised. I can't wait to spend a big chunk of July with you. Thank you for not giving me away when I was 4 and running around everywhere.

Mom and Pops.

Finally, everyone at Hampton Baptist, thank you for insuring that I knew who got me here. There are many people here that did. But we all know this is all part of a larger plan for my life. I thank each of you for allowing me to realize that someone much bigger than me is molding me into the woman I should, and will become.

PS: Some more but I'm pooped. Have a good day on your far side, P. :)

June 17, 2009


That's what I've called my big brother Bryan since I could talk. Apparently I had trouble pronouncing his name. I'm not sure though, I think my mom wanted me to call my brother by a cute nickname. You know how moms do that sometimes? Obviously by naming my first baby doll (stay with me here... let's put those phonetics to use...) OH-BA-DIE-YUH. I'm not even kidding. At that point my mom was probably more concerned I would soon be living in a padded white room, not that I would one day compete at Miss America.

Bub and me at my graduation shin-dig.

When Bubby and I were little we used to drive to my grandparent's house on Christmas morning everyyyy year. It was about a 7-8 hour drive and I would read the entire way (my mom called me a nerd at that dinner the other night with Paul, Steve, and Kate Marie. I was not amused.) and my brother used to play whatever hand-held electronic game playing thing had come out that year or before. When we would stop for gas my generous father would allow us one choice snack. Obviously we went for candy (as if our stockings hadn't been packed full that morning). It was like clock work. My brother would always ask me for a taste of mine. I would give. I would then ask for a taste of his. Denied. I got the point when I turned, uh, 13. But when I was 15 or 16 I assumed he had gotten over his Indian giving. No dice.

Anyways, we grew up and became friends. Actually, I adore him. And even cooler: his wife Laura. We all like to play, and Laura and I make up songs such as one titled "Home". We will give you a personal rendition if you catch us together.

This morning Bubby sent me a link: http://community.livejournal.com/ohnotheydidnt/36225342.html. He thought I would find it "amusing". And I did, it is pretty amusing. But it's also clearly well thought through. Perhaps brimming on true intellectual capabilities. Although society is changing women still feel like they need a man to complete them. Or maybe they have to work overtime because they don't have one. To fill that "void" in their life. Or society's severe perspective on beauty. Cough, cough, rather perceived beauty.

This isn't all so different from how the year has been for us as state contestants. I know we aren't considered "celebrities" at their true definition. But, we do go through a lot of the scrutiny that they face. But we're also representative of real women, from the real world. Women who care about changing our communities for the better, that are focused on scholarship, that work towards physical fitness. But we're not perfect.

And neither are fairy tales.

Lawng Aylahnd.

Phonetics. They're weird. Was that acceptable?* Come to think of it, I wonder who qualifies to write the phonetic suggestions for words. And definitions. And synonyms.

Moving beyond my wandering mind right about ... now. I went to visit Big Al's Gym. They were the generous folks that gave the scholarship for the Miss New York Swimsuit Preliminary winners last year. So, I went for the membership drive on Monday night to hang out, sign some autographs, and cause some general calamity. But, nay, the calamity was not caused by me. It was actually caused by the insane children in their natural habitat. The play haven built by the likes of McDonalds. But cooler because of it's cleanliness. There was this one little rugrat that had just turned 2, just had stitches taken out of his face, and just ran around screaming. Throwing himself on the ground when he felt necessary and playing with all of the big kids. Physically. He was worthy of the term baller. And you know I don't just throw that word around like pennies. I also must point out, 10 minutes in there was worth a lifetime of birth control.

Anyways, I think the event was successful. I did a radio spot about the gym. Actually, the guys from the radio asked if I was into "freestyle". So I said, I respect people that can freestyle but I myself am pathetic. I was really confused when they started laughing in my face (though, not the first or last time that will happen to me). Apparently freestyle refers to 80's music. Am I the last one to be clued in on this?

Finally I met an awesome couple, and the woman makes jewelry. Her name is Aggy and she's Polish, and hysterical. She gave me a set of earrings, necklace, and bracelet of my choice. AND threw in an extra necklace because I had tried it on. They're beautiful! I'm going to rock 'em at Miss NY.

John Giglio accompanied me during my last two visits to Big Al's and I have the greatest time with him. He is hysterical. And through our 8 hours spent together over my two trips to Big Al's we realized we have the following in common: Bambi freaked us out (his mom took him back to the movie theater a second time because he was so hysterical the first go round, had him watch while Bambi's mom was still alive and ran him out before she was shot, hahahaha), clowns freaked me out/still freak him out, the entire concept of Willy Wonka freaked us out, and we both adore peanut butter. There were more but my tired brain is incapacitated from filling out these monotonous RJR reports.

*Yes, I realize that is not phonetically correct for the words Long and Island. I was pretending I had the accent. And if I did, that would be my attempt at phonetically creating the proper pronunciation.

June 16, 2009

Have you ever been to Corning, NY?

I have!

But, before I tell you all about my adventure to the glass blowing capitol of the world, I did something pretty fun before that too.

My mom came to visit! And on top of that, Kate Marie (Miss DC) came up to surprise her boyfriend Steve. Which means, I got to hang out with both of these rad women on Thursday. ALL DAY! That night we all went out to din, and Paul came too. So do you want to hear the funny thing about all of this? Well, I think it's funny. You may not. Steve and Paul are brothers. Not like, good guy friend brothers, but they share a mother and father type brothers. And about that I do not lie.

Anyways, I got up the next morning and started my journey to (Cary, my roommate, is currently singing broadway showtunes and commercial jingles at the top of his lungs in the shower. If some of these sentences do not make sense it is because I am halfway laughing. Internally.) Corning, NY. Or to be more accurate, the village of Painted Post. Soon after my arrival the Mayor of Painted Post, Sandy, Miss Finger Lakes, Lorna, and a CMN representative, Sarah, all picked me up and took me on a tour of Painted Post. We then headed off to an awesome family run restaurant where everyone seemed to know everyone. Then the Colonial Days pageant. Starting teeny, going to Miss. I love being on the other side of things. It means I can relax! But these girls were pretty awesome.

Just hanging out with the ladies at the Colonial Days Pageant.

But get this ... after I left the pageant I got to go to .... drum roll please .... WAL MART! I really like Wal Mart. Specifically their America's Choice sparkling Peach and Black Cherry Water. So I bought two cases FOR ONLY $2. That's how much my ATM charges me to take money out of my account. Cloud 9.

After a quick rest we headed to the Colonial Days Parade. On the contract it said that approximately 20,000 - 30,000 people head out to this parade. And not to think people were exaggerating, but y'all, this is a small town. An awesome man, Greg, drove me in a smokin' silver Mercedes convertible and as we turned the corner the contract was verified. At least 20,000 people there. As we passed the grand-stand I was definitely called out for not having shoes on. Kind of like the reverse of a "show me your shoes" parade.

I also visited a whiffle ball tournament that, by word, goes on day and night for 3 days. Lots of food, bats, and beer. I stopped by to say hey to all of the people participating. And one of the men admitted to having cut the article out of the paper that prefaced my visit to the village. In my bathing suit. In his wallet.

With that said, I hopped back in the car and began my trek back to Manhattan. Apparently I was speeding because I got pulled over for that. Un-luckily, I was also on my phone talking to Ken my business manager after my appearance. In true stealth form I quickly pulled out my crown and banner into the passenger seat of my car. Inconspicuous for the girl who only wears her crown and sash at pageants and parades. Unfortunately, Officer Jason Fletcher still gave me a ticket. Notice I made that a non-plural ticket. It was for the cell phone. Not my speed. (Thank the Lord.) I'm having it sent to Ken Nelson's home address. Kidding, kidding.

Back home it was for an early Sunday morning winding up paperwork and loose ends as Miss New York. It's insane this is almost over.

Wah wah wee wah.

PS: Lisa, I forgot to tell you about the ticket. Though I was not hiding it. Like that one time I hid something and you found out after Bryan and Dad and didn't think I loved you the most anymore. But I did. And I do. Promise.

I know my phone is ringing in five minutes.

June 10, 2009

While I'm At It ...

"Just about every other school in Virginia likes to bash UVA kids for being 'pretentious' and 'snobs.' In other words, they get called out for thinking they're better than everyone else. Well, if you went to the school in Virginia with the most stringent admissions requirements, best overall athletic program, most beautiful campus and coeds, most successful and famous alumni, the most storied social scene, was founded by Thomas Jefferson, and all that happened to be in what was voted the #1 city to live in America, well...you'd think you were the too."

And no, I didn't write that. Actually, ESPN's review of college campuses did. It fills my heart with glee. Okay, okay, I am joking. Seriously. But we are also known to produce really proud alumni and I'm going to explain (at least partially) why ... and I'm going to venture to say it doesn't have much to do with what was recognized by ESPN. Though I did hear people were shaking it down with Katie Couric at Reunions last weekend ...

We have a place on Grounds (that's what we call our campus) at UVa called the Madison House. It's essentially a house where volunteer organizations can call "home base". I have been searching online for about 30 minutes for an image I saw from the Fall of my second year where the line to the Madison House stretched sooooo far. There were literally thousands of students in line wanting to volunteer. Everywhere I turned I had friends that were heading up organizations within the Mad House; I even got to meet some of their little sisters from Big Siblings. Dorfy anyone? (Sidenote: Dorfy was Carly Brown's wee one. She was not know to have the greatest manners ever, but she really was sweet. Until she came up to me and said "You're LT? GGGGurrlll. You look 14. How tall you be?". I wish, just wish I could voice record it for you).

That makes a University special.

But you know what else does? These girls.

Many a Pi Phi sister that showed up to Miss America. But that isn't even all of them!

These girls flew in from around the country to cheer me on, and obviously play in Vegas together, too. But how cool? But then I look back. And I'm not surprised. You see, the sense of community that is encouraged at the University of Virginia is, in my opinion, unparalleled. And I would specifically give a thumbs-up to Pi Phis. Every Belles concert there were a load of Pi Phis. And at the same end, I tried to go to any event scheduled to support my sisters.

Okay, by this point you're wondering why I'm talking about this? Please continue. Or continue to stare at my hot sorority sisters. Either one.

My mom, Kate Marie, and I grabbed dinner before our Beauties for Boobies event on Friday night and literally as soon as we walked over there (about 5 minutes before the event started) Shah BAM ... UVa awesomeness. Of course the dudes were there first. They weren't leting one minute of the grey goose open bar pass, understandably so. But you better believe the girls were there shortly after. It literally warmed my heart. They go above and beyond to not only support friends, but to support a good cause. So guys, thank you. And hey, you should think your friends for being awesome too. Sometimes it's just good to hear.

Know what I've realized throughout this crazy year? No matter how busy and non-communicative I have been with close friends from school, they're still around. And they still care. And believe me, we are going to play come July!

Did that make sense? I hope so. This blinking cursor may become my only visual for the next few days.

PS: I also think UVa is special for a couple of other reasons including, but not limited to: it's honor policy, the ideal of student self-governance ...

I know, I know ...

I haven't written in a while. But, I mean, come on ... my year's almost over. Cut me some slack! I've been here, there, and everywhere.

Last week I had several meetings working towards getting a rockin' non-profit based in NYC into our schools here. One year ago, there is no way I would be able to help with this and speak with the people that can make it happen. It is a perfect way for me to begin transitioning out of my role as Miss NY and into a life of normalcy. Though, my mom continues to remind me, my life is never even close to reflective of normal. (But, aren't most moms supposed to say stuff life that?)

Next on the list was our Beauties for Boobies fundraiser in DC. I've got to say, through adversity and beyond, Miss America girls define this organization through their continual strive for progress, for justice, and for change. At the heart of this we are incredibly determined women, and when we set our minds to something we can most certainly get it done. Why am I saying this? Because we took it to breast cancer's face this weekend.

Here are some photos of our fundraiser ... sadly Tara didn't arrive until the mere end due to some insane traffic ... happily Kate Marie and I are both scary when drunk people try to tell us they're not going to hand over the dough. All in the name of Susan G. Komen. All in the name of Susan G. Komen

Kate Marie (DC), Tara (VA), Leigh-Taylor (NY)

With Chip and Scott, my favorite men around. They were my local ED's as Miss Arlington 2007. Then Tara's ED's before she won Miss VA! We keep it in the family :)

Then, mere hours later I peeled myself out of my brother's uber comfortable bed. Contrary to what that my have sounded like, my brother and I were not snugging. In fact, my brother gave me my first public hug at Christmas 4 years ago. And that happens once a year. He loves me, but does not feel the need to touch me. ANYWAYS, Lisa and I drove into DC, parked really far away from our "meeting" spot, and finally spotted Kate Marie and her 10 ft long legs on the corner of 7th and Independence. After Tara arrived in her baller tall pink socks we were off. And if you think I just left this 5k to pictures you'd be wrong. I definitely video-taped. Please enjoy the footage.

If you squint you can definitely see the pink banner representing the starting line. We were in the middle of the pack. That. Is. Awesome.

Just remember this as the "before".

Please watch in order ... And turn your computer sideways. Sorry.

After: Lisa threw each of us over her back and drug us home.

Those videos took far too long to upload. I can no longer think of anything clever to write. Enjoy!

June 2, 2009

1,100 Miles

... in the last 4 days. Once my year as Miss New York comes to an end I won't know what to do with all my navigational energies. But, until then, I will be doing a lot of driving.

Last Thursday night I went out to Long Island to visit the sponsor for my Miss New York Preliminary Swimsuit Scholarship, Big Al's, and hung out at their gym for a bit. I felt slightly over dressed for the sweaty environment in my peep toes and summer-y dress. But, hey. You do what you gotta do. The only lame thing about my trip was it took me over 2.5 hours to get to the gym (for what would normally be a 30 minute trip) and it wasn't even rush hour! Oh, NY, how I love thee.

The next day I left bright and early for Voorheesville, NY. For some reason 'Voorheesville' had me imagining it's residents as characters from "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas", like Cindy Lou Hoo. Anyways, Voorheesville is right out side of Albany. And while their residents didn't look like all the Hoos in Hooville they were really, really fun. I gave four presentations that morning and officially brought my RJR: Right Decisions, Right Now crusade to an end. Shelby, my fabu traveling companion that met me in Voorheesville for the day, took me out to lunch to celebrate!

Though, we didn't have too long for that ... that night I judged Mr. Voorheesville! 9 high school boys were the contestants ... holy cow. I couldn't help but giggle the entire time. The money raised by the competition was going towards summer camp scholarships for the students, funding for their women's volleyball summer team camp, and SADD. The boys were hyserical. But they were also seriously talented. And gentlemen to the nth degree (is that how you write it , mom? I'm assuming no). The win went to Max Schuster who was absolutely adorable. One of the judges told me he is such a gentlemen, a favorite around the school. So, congrats! I hopped in the car and made it back to the city around 1am.

This student forgot paper so I signed his shoe ... I made him promise me that his mother wouldn't be mad ... But, I'm expecting an email any day now.

Then the adventure to the South began. Whoever thought doing construction on a Saturday, specifically on anything ending in "95", is not the brightest crayon in the box. Actually, I would assume they're downright unintelligent. Thankfully I was only a few minutes late to ... drum roll ... CARLY'S BACHELORETTE PARTY! Carly, also known as Anne Carlton Brown, was both a Pi Phi and a Virginia Belle with me. She's also got a personality larger than Texas, the most hysterical laughter, and a brain that could kick Einstein in the face. We were insta-friends. But, the eternal question is, "when did we become friends?". Belles, any suggestions? Bahahaha. The maid of honor, Ashley Gibb, orchestrated a really awesome scavenger hunt around Richmond that included advice from women about how to sustain a marriage. Then we all went Downtown to continue the festivities. I am so freakin' excited for her. I can't stand it! She gets hitched the last weekend of June.

With the bride to be!

Then I drove to Hampton early Sunday morning to give my mom and dad a quick squeeze, say hi to our pups Piper and Star, and smell the ocean. They escorted me to and from Alana's wedding ... Can I just say when she walked down the aisle people's mouths literally dropped. I know I like to sometimes over-dramatize things for some flava, but I'm being completely serious. I will include a photo. It was absolutely beautiful. The WHOLE thing! It's such an awesome thing to watch people fall in love and see how it completely uplifts them. Eww, tingly!

The blushing bride, and a whole load of Pi Phis!

After waking up on Monday morning with Piper, my little rugrat, crawling all over me and giving me kisses I loaded up my car and headed back towards the big city! I sure missed it.

These next 3 weeks as Miss New York I'm fairly busy. It's so unbelievable that it's been a year since this all began. What a glorious year!