CT, MA Make Top 5

Miss Connecticut Bridget Oei and Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras definitively showed that the New England states are indeed pageant states as Oei finished as first runner-up and Taveras placed as 4th runner-up at the Miss America finals competition on Sept. 9.

Oei impressed the national television audience with her high-energy Irish Step Dance that included a moonwalk tribute to the King of Pop, among many impressive movements. Taveras shined while singing a soulful rendition of “Rise Up,” a song that expresses much of the obstacles overcome by the Lawrence, Mass. native.

Both women impressed judges with their stage presence, as well as how they spoke in the competition’s red carpet phase, on-stage question contest, and a new phase, that included questions from the other contestants.

Taveras was asked, by Miss Wisconsin Tianna Vanderhei, about how people can improve face-to-face interactions in a world obsessed with social media.

“Simple put, it’s time to just put them down. Unfortunately, technology has made us dehumanize one another,” Taveras replied. “We start to look at people as Democrats or Republicans, black or white — there’s no grey area anymore and that’s really important in 2018. We’re not just one kind of person. We’re a multi-faceted, complex people, and the women on this stage — we represent that.”

Oei, who had developed a tracheal implant that powers pacemakers using a patient’s own breath, was asked by pageant judge Carnie Wilson what she wishes she had invented.

Oei replied by saying that a friend of hers had a stroke years ago, and she did not recognize the symptoms.

“I would like to invent an app that allows a person, when they see red flags, to go through the symptoms, [so] they know whether they need to get that patient some medical care,” Oei said.

On Friday, Sept. 7, New England Pageant News was able to sit with both Oei and Taveras for a second time during pageant week, and asked both how they were getting ready for the finals, and how it was to perform their talents on the Miss America stage during prelims.

“It was so exciting. So invigorating,” Oei said. “It was very honoring to perform on that Miss America stage and show America what Irish dancing is all about. I’ve had the time of my life since I began and I am just enjoying that stage.”

“Honestly, I don’t know what happened on that stage last night,” Taveras said. “In every phase of competition…I’ve kind of not been really there, which is interesting. I know I’m present, I know I’m there, but afterwards, I just kind of blacked out the entire thing. It’s like an out-of-body experience. When I went back and listened to my song on video, I was like ‘Oh, I really did do a good job.'”

About her chances of making top 15, 10 or 5, Oei said it was very much up in the air.

“Who knows,” she said. “I think that I’m giving it everything I’ve got, ad that’s all I can do. There are some things that you can control, and some things you can’t. I can only worry about Bridget. I’m feeling excited, feeling ready. Can’t wait to get out there and speak my truth.”

Taveras had a similar thought.

“I genuinely have no idea, because everyone had a great interview, and everyone is so accomplished. It’s really going to come down to what the judges are looking for. If you want someone who has a PhD, I’m not your person, because I don’t have a PhD. All I can do is hope that the judges saw something in me – that they saw how genuine and authentic I am, and just listening to my story and where I come from, and the impact that it can have on people.”

Oei’s first runner-up finish means that she did the best she could do, and still gets to go back home, which she was looking forward to.

“There’s so much more to do when I get home,” she said. “I have appearances set up. Schools are in session, so I get to talk to them about my STEM initiative. I really get to make an impact in Connecticut, and that’s what my year is all about, so I’m so excited to do that.”


Conversation With…Miss Maine

In full disclosure, this reporter was one of the panelists at the Miss Maine pageant in June, but I can tell you for sure that Olivia Mayo deserves the experience of being Miss Maine and competing for Miss America. Between nights 2 and 3 of prelims, Olivia said she is relaxed, calm and having an amazing time.

How is it going and how was it performing your talent on the Miss America stage?
Really good. I feel good. I haven’t been nervous at all. I just feel so at peace. I’m just soaking it in. It’s a once in a life time opportunity, and I’m just living in it. I got positive feedback last night, and I’m just kind of rolling with it. It was really cool to see all of my hard work come to life. I’ve been performing since I was three years old, so it was one of those moments where I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is where it brought me.’ Regardless of the outcome, I want to leave here knowing that I did my best, and last night validated that for me.

What did you get out of your interview?
I came out of my interview with happy tears. I was so over the moon with how it went. It seemed as though they were looking to figure out who could be Miss America and who could handle the job. For me, it wasn’t too politically-focused at all. They did throw those political questions in there, but I think it was just to see how you react to them. I think I touched upon all of the points I wanted to touch upon.

How do you feel about your fellow contestants?
I love them. All of them. We were talking at breakfast and saying ‘What are we going to do without each other?’ Our class has been through so much together, it has made us so much stronger. We’re sticking together and supporting each other. Everyone is here for the title of Miss America, but it doesn’t feel like a competition at all.
I look at all of them and I see a different Miss America in every one of them — any girl could do the job — which makes me even more at peace. I think that’s why I’m having such an easy time competing, because I look around and think any of these girls could be Miss America and I know the crown would be in good hands.

Do you imagine yourself winning that crown?
I do…especially because Maine has never produced a Miss America. I think that eventually, it will. If Maine did make it to the top 15, and we were seen on national television, it would get more girls to compete. So, I’m keeping those girls in mind when I compete.

What are your words for Maine?
Every time I hear “Olivia Mayo, Maine” I am so elated. It’s just been an honor to represent Maine, especially with my social impact initiative relating to domestic violence. It’s a huge issue in Maine, and I think I can make a huge impact, especially if they do see me on ABC, talking about openly. I think it’s a perfect role for me to play for the state of Maine.

Who was your favorite judge at the Miss Maine competition?
You were, but you were also the most intimidating. You didn’t make as much eye contact and you’d squint a lot and cross your arms.

Miss Massachusetts Nabs Two Big Awards

Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras took home a STEM award worth $5,000 in scholarships and the preliminary award for on-stage question and private interview, worth another $1,000, in the Friday night competition at Boardwalk Hall.

“I”ve almost paid off my student debt with these two plaques right here,” Taveras said, excitedly, in the press room after that evening’s competition.

“I don’t really remember what happened on that stage, to be honest,” Taveras said, still somewhat in shock. ”

Taveras was asked what message, should she travel abroad as Miss America, would she bring to the world about our country.

As for the STEM award, Taveras explained that her mission was to hush people who doubted her.

“The reason I went into STEM was because I was told I couldn’t. I was told I wasn’t smart enough, and that I wasn’t going to be able to do it, so I said, ‘Well, watch me!'” she said. “Years later, I got my Bachelor’s degree in neuroscience.”

Describing the moment she learned she won the preliminary award, Taveras said she had something else on her mind just before that.

“I’m so surprised. I was standing there when they were announcing the interview winner, holding my breath, thinking ‘I just really can’t wait to order Chinese food later,” she said. “I’m just really blessed and excited to have this opportunity, and to show all the kids who are like me that you really can do whatever you want to do. I’m just so fortunate.”

Taveras thanked her local organization, the Miss Boston organization (she held the title of Miss North Shore when she competed for Miss Massachusetts this year, and was Miss Boston in 2017).

Miss Massachusetts was also asked how she was going to prepare for the finals, and keep her focus.

“Just have fun,” she said. “God has already chosen who Miss America is, so I can’t get so focused on the competition. I’m just going to have as much fun as I possibly can. If I’m the woman for the job, I’m the woman for the job. I’m just going to enjoy my friends, my sisters, for the next 48 hours.”

Conversation With…Miss Massachusetts

Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras just had a few quick minutes between rehearsals to chat with New England Pageant News. The Lawrence, Mass. native said she’s extremely luck to be at the competition, and is taking it all in, while realizing that conquering her fears, and her difficulties growing up, have made this moment so much more worthwhile.

Despite being a little tired, will you be ready to perform your talent in tonight’s prelims?
I feel like adrenaline just takes over your body. You’ll be wired and just feeling like “This is your one shot, you’d better do it.” In rehearsal, the lights were on in Boardwalk Hall, so I didn’t feel like I was competing. I could see everyone. It was kind of boring.

How has your stay in Atlantic City been?
So much fun. Everything is good. I told the judges [in the interview room] that I wasn’t supposed to be here. I was supposed to be dead by the age of 18, and now I’m at Miss America. It’s so cool. It’s such a good time.

The sisterhood with the other girls — with all of the changes happening, how is that?
We’ve had to support each other, because of all the things that are going on. It’s traumatic. We’re not really talking about it, because we’re focusing on ourselves. The way I interpret it is that we are the reset button for the Miss America Organization. So, we have the opportunity to make it what we want it to be. There have been plans in place for the new Miss America 2.0, but ultimately, we have an opportunity to also contribute to that new identity of who Miss America is supposed to be.

And what is that?
Well, it’s great, because all of the women in this class are extremely accomplished. We have people who are going to get their PhD or start their own business or non-profit organization. It’s time for people to actually respect them for what they do.

What do you have to say to all of your people back in Massachusetts?
The thing that makes Massachusetts so special is that we are willing to take what we can give. When tragedy happens in our state, we all band together and try to make it better. When anyone criticizes our state, we band together and defend ourselves. It’s been so beneficial to me, because it’s gotten me far. I’m so proud to be from Massachusetts.

Conversation With…Miss Connecticut

Miss Connecticut Bridget Oei (from this reporter’s home state) sat with New England Pageant News and spoke about the experience of being on the Miss America stage, as well as what she sees as her role as part of Miss America 2.0.

Are you excited for tonight’s talent prelim?
I can’t wait to do my talent on stage. A) It’s on the Miss America Stage, and B) It’s my talent, but also half of my culture, so I can’t wait to show America what Irish Dancing is all about. I re-edited the music to be a little more full and powerful for Boardwalk Hall. I had my competitive Irish Dance teacher, Dr. Colleen Griffith, choreograph it, so it is new, improved and very exciting.

What’s been the best part of being in Atlantic City?
Definitely meeting the other contestants. Never again will I meet so many girls from across the country…with the same goal, the same dream and the same motivation. It’s really a surreal moment.

How did your interview with the judges go?
Wonderful. The judges really wanted to know who I was, where I came from. I got to talk about my talent and my plan as Miss America. I really got to communicate my goals, and just who I am, which is a very excellent feeling when you don’t know these judges, but they are deciding your future.

What’s it like being on that famous stage?
There’s something so natural about it. You get very giddy. You’re either dancing or bopping to the music. It’s very exciting. That stage has a powerful magic to it. Whether it’s the old stage with the runway, or the new one, it’s just magical. I had the time of my life [last night in prelims] and if I was over-exuberant, I did not care. I just enjoyed it.

What is Miss America 2.0 all about and is that you?
They want someone who is charismatic, energetic and exciting, and can inspire and move the nation to get excited about the new, female future that we’re heading toward. How you translate that on stage is just being as bright and as completely yourself as possible. That’s what I really felt I got the chance to do when I walked on stage in evening gown last night, and that’s what I’m here to do.

Whether you become Miss America or not, how will this experience affect you?
There truly is no way to be disappointed with this experience. Meeting 50 other contestants, working with a world-renowned production crew, and the Miss America program in general, you gain pain perspective. You grow your understanding of the world around you. It’s very exciting to be a part of that. I’ll come home with a better understanding and appreciation of how the world works.

Are the changes in the Miss America program affecting you?
It can be stressful, sure. We all love the program so much, so we’re concerned for its future, but you just have to step back and say, “I am part of its future, so what can I do?”
Sometimes you have to forget about everything else that’s going on, and remind yourself that you have a job to do, and there’s no one else who is going to dictate how I do it.

What do you want to say to Connecticut?
Thank you for believing in me, and for giving me the opportunity to represent you. I truly believe I am a small part of a huge village. Whether I come back to CT or continue on as Miss America, I want to continue to make my state proud, by sending the message that I came with my goal to transmit, and that I’ll keep that message consistent. I was the same woman who I was before I competed for Miss Connecticut, when I became Miss Connecticut, and if I win Miss America, I will stay so true to myself.

Conversation With…Miss District of Columbia

I know, I know, she’s not from New England, but all are welcome here. The lovely Miss District of Columbia, Allison Kathleen Farris, sat down with New England Pageant News, to talk about her time at Miss America.

What has your experience been like so far?
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There’s nothing like it. Just getting to know everyone and getting to experience Miss America as a group, is a great experience.

How’d interview go?
It went well. I feel like they were able to understand who I was, as a person, and what I bring to the table for the job of Miss America. They’re wanting someone who is very motivated and driven to really give back to their communities and serve. I’m a software developer and I promote women in technology. It wasn’t until I discovered using software that I realized I could turn my passion for music — growing up as a musician — into a career through technology.

Are you looking forward to the on-stage question?
I’m very excited. It’s an extension of our private interview, but we get to bring it out on-stage, in front of the audience, so they get to see who we are as a candidate a little bit more.

What about the changes going on in the organization?
We’re very flexible. We’ve always known that the job of Miss State, or wherever we represent, requires us to be flexible and adaptable. I think that’s a very useful skill in the workforce, and incredibly important to understand and know. We’re very excited. We’re eager to know how it’s going to come out on camera and for the audience to see it.

If, by some chance, you don’t win, what do you hope to get out of this experience?

There’s so much you gain. First of all, you know one person, at least, from every state, and it’s important to network.  It’s all about your network, especially in the professional world. But also, it’s about the skills that you have to learn to get to prepare for this moment, and to be at your best. It’s kind of like the Olympics, in that it’s something that you have for the rest of your life.

What do you want to say to the folks back in D.C.?
I’m full of gratitude and could not be here without their support. It’s incredibly humbling to be able to represent the District of Columbia, the nation’s capitol, and that is something that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Conversation With…Miss Vermont

Miss Vermont Julia Crane spoke with New England Pageant News about her time in Atlantic City, friends she’s made and how well the organization has been taking care of the contestants.

How has your time in Atlantic City been so far?
It’s been really fun. It’s been everything I’ve ever hoped for. Participating in the arrival ceremony was really fun. That’s something I had always seen, and I got to sign the map. That was kind of a highlight.

How was the golf outing?
I had never golfed before, so that was a new experience. I was not good at it. Some girls had played golf before — they helped me, because they knew what they were doing. But, they had us sit with different families from the country club, and the family I sat with was amazing. They didn’t know anything about the Miss America program, but they were really supportive. We got to educate them, and they were really impressed with what we do.

What about these 50 other ladies?
Getting to know all the girls has been amazing, and I love every single one of them. Whoever wins Miss America 2019, the title and the job will be in good hands. Everyone could do a unique but amazing job at it. I know it’s going to be a challenging year, but I trust all of these girls with the job.

How were the judges in the interview room?
It’s really hard to know what they’re looking for every year, but this year especially. I walked away knowing that I was completely Julia, and  I got to say things I wanted to say, so I can’t be happier with it. I know they want someone who will be dedicated to the job and all of the challenges that come with it.

What do you hope to get out of this whole experience?
I was talking to Tiana V, Miss Wisconsin, and we were saying, “What a win-win!” You come in here and you get to represent your state, which you’ve wanted to do for so long, and then you get to know these 50 other amazing women.

How are the growing pains the pageant is going through affecting the contestants?
All of these things that have been going on within the organization, but outside of the competition –there’s all of this drama, and a lot of talk — it’s made us closer. With what we’ve been experiencing, the negative and the positive, we’ve had each other to lean on. Compared to other classes, I think it’s made us closer. We are a very tight class. So, if you don’t win, you still have 50 other sisters, and you can go back home and still represent your state. If you do win, you get to be the face of this class, which is so special. They have gone out of their way to make sure we are all so comfortable here.

Thoughts for everyone in the Green Mountain state?
I have been trying to represent my state with the most heart and pride that I can. I want to put Vermont on the map. We are the only state that has never had a woman place in the top fifteen. So, I am trying my hardest to make them realize how special Vermont is. Vermont has raised me to be confident in who I am.

Conversation With…..Miss Rhode Island

New England Pageant News got a chance to chat with Miss Rhode Island Allie Coppa, as she was preparing for the first night of preliminaries. She said she is feeling rather surreal as she competes for the coveted title, and was surprised at how easy her interview with the judges seemed.

How has your stay in Atlantic City been so far?
Super exciting. It still doesn’t feel real to me. I had my interview yesterday, and I walked out saying, “Well, when’s my real interview?” I had so much fun and the judges were so amazing. I got to talk about my platform a lot. Interview’s one of my favorite parts.

Did you get any sense of what the judges were looking for?
I think they were looking a lot into who you are as a person. For Miss America 2.0, they are looking for the well-rounded girl. They’re looking for a scholar and a talented young woman.

Any thoughts on the sisterhood?
I love everyone. How am I going to be able to go back to Rhode Island and have a friend in every state across the country, and not be able to have a reunion every day? One of my new BFFs is New Mexico. I’ve met some of the girls from my side of the country, and we can stay in contact, but you want to have that connection with someone from the other side of the country. I’m so excited to be a part of this class.

What’s different about Miss America 2.0?
I think they want the same thing they have in the past, they’re just trying to make it more obvious. They’re making it more clear that Miss America has a voice, is a strong woman, is a scholar and is talented, and doesn’t need to wear a swimsuit in order to earn a scholarship. I don’t think that’s changed at all. I just think we’re trying to push that message more, so that more people are interested in being involved.

What is your message to all of your supporters in Rhode Island?
Thank you so much. I would never have been here without all of them. My mom and my dad, especially, have been so supportive throughout my life — through college, through the Outstanding Teen program, and now. I am just so grateful for the opportunity.

Conversation with…Miss New Hampshire

New England Pageant News was able to sit down with Miss New Hampshire Marisa Moorhouse, on Sept. 5, after she had completed her interview with the judges and while she was preparing to take part in the on-stage interview in the preliminary competition.

What has been the highlight of your time in Atlantic City so far?
I’d been craving an adrenaline rush, because, as a pilot, I haven’t been able to fly for a while. I went on the SlingShot. I was upside down – crazy experience.

How is the sisterhood among the contestants?
Everyone is awesome. I’m the youngest candidate, so it’s great to have 50 role models. We have party bus lights on our Jitney, so we have a party every night. They’ve been playing music from the early 2000’s, and I was saying things like “I was 1 when this song came out, or I was -2 when this one came out.” They played a Britney Spears song, and I said “I don’t think I was a thought at this point. So, they taught me about the culture and what things were like [back then].

How did your interview with the judges go?
They were awesome. It was a conversation. It felt natural and relaxed…it was fun. It was a lot about the job of Miss America, and how she’s going to use the media with that title — effective communication. It was mostly about the job. I was asked, if I could do one event as Miss America, what event would I do. I chose the CMAs, so I could meet all of the cool country singers, and talk about my platform on the red carpet.

Are you excited for on-stage question?
I’m excited. It’s going to be unusual, because there’s a new format. It’s more of an extension of your interview, but I’m ready.

How are the changes in the MAO affecting the contestants?
None of us are focused on the changes. We’re focusing on the competition, on what’s happening at the moment, and getting to know each other. We’re not really worried about the changes — that’s internal — that’s happening on the board — we’re focusing on the external, the competition.

How do you hope this experience changes you?
Just getting to know everybody from the other states. I want to be able travel and see everyone else throughout the years that come. I’m excited to go to everyone’s wedding. We already decided that we’re wearing the black sashes at the weddings, and that the bride will wear the white sash. That’s what I’m most excited for — the friendships.

What is your message to the people of New Hampshire?
New Hampshire has never taken home the crown, so it would be really cool to do it this time.  I’m really excited to have all of their support. New Hampshire has had my back this entire journey. They’re my number one cheerleaders.