During the interview portion of Saturday’s Miss Washtenaw County pageant, one of the contestants was asked this question: What is your response to those who say Miss America is outdated or irrelevant?
Her answer: “Come to a local pageant.”
The Chronicle was already in the audience of about 200 people sitting in the chilly auditorium of Chelsea High School. Most of them seemed connected to the pageant in some way, cheering on a friend or family member. Several audience members were wearing sparkling tiaras and sashes, as current or former title holders: Miss Oakland County, Miss Tip of the Mitt, Miss River Raisin Festival and others. The current Miss Michigan, Ashlee Baracy, and Miss Illinois, Katie Lorenz – both former Miss Washtenaw County winners – were on hand, as were the parents of the current Miss America, Kirsten Haglund (a Miss Michigan from Farmington Hills).
None of these audience members needed convincing that the pageant was relevant.
Lucy Ann Lance was the evening’s MC, leading contestants through a talent competition heavy on modern dance and singing (worth 35% of the total score), a swimsuit and evening gown competition and an interview segment. Here are the questions they were asked, one per contestant:
- What does being an American mean to you?
- What is the most important thing you wish to experience in your lifetime?
- What is your response to those who say Miss America is outdated or irrelevant?
- How do you handle being the victim of gossip?
- What is the biggest challenge facing working women today?
- What modern woman do you most identify with?
- Who has been an influential role model to your generation?
- Other than a family member, who is your hero?
- Do you feel that individuality is more of an asset or a liability?
- Do you feel the competitive nature of our society increases or decreases our self-esteem?
- Do you feel that politicians should be spending money on their campaigns, given the state of the economy?
- Do you think the media has been fair in the coverage of this year’s presidential campaign?
- After the economy, what is the first issue that you would like our newly elected president to tackle?
The answer to that last question was childhood obesity, which also happened to be the contestant’s platform issue.
The evening culminated in a bit of drama: The five judges – including Ben Edmondson, principal of Scarlett Middle School, and Michael Yi, a former Pittsfield Township trustee – had ranked the finalists so closely that the auditors needed some extra time to compute the final scores. Lucy Ann Lance smoothly stalled for time, calling over Miss Washtenaw County 1997, Laura Welling Abney, for an impromptu interview. The audience also learned that Gina Valo, Miss Washtenaw County 2003 and Miss Michigan 2007, now works for Google.
The final result was a tie for 1st runner-up between Missy Brown and Ashlynn McGill, with a tearful Stephanie Frey crowned Miss Washtenaw County 2008 amid a shower of confetti and balloons. She’ll receive $2,500 in cash scholarships, as well as more than a dozen gifts that include a wardrobe allowance, a bowling party at Chelsea Lanes and teeth whitening from Fifth Street Dental Care. She’ll compete in the Miss Michigan pageant next year.