Leigh Payne Crowned Miss Rhode Island 2021; Alexa Johnsen new Miss RI Outstanding Teen

Leigh Payne was crowned Miss Rhode Island and Alexa Johnsen was crowned Miss Rhode Island’s Outstanding Teen at the competition held in Providence on June 13.

“It’s surreal,” Payne said, describing the camaraderie and closeness with the volunteers and other candidates over the three days of rehearsing and interviews. “It’s amazing to have family and loved ones around. The Miss America Organization is one that supplies mentors and support. It’s a common theme, but it’s true. I’m just incredibly grateful.”

Payne, a student at George Washington University, had competed once before, in the Outstanding Teen competition in 2016, and said this experience brought back memories and good feelings of that one.

“I was surprised at how similar if feels all these years later,” she said. “The board is truly a family, and these girls are very supportive.”

Payne, a Barrington native, said she’s learned to appreciate what her new title means, and hopes she can bring people together.

“My appreciation has grown over the years. People have become more individualized, and the Miss America Organization emphasizes community, as people drift further and further away from that. So, it emphasizes social involvement, and a love for your state and community. I love the Ocean State and it will be an honor to represent it nationally.”

Payne said her social impact – supporting small businesses – is something she hopes to become even more involved in across the state.

“I heard the statistics are very dire for the success of small business, and job growth is on track to do better in Rhode Island, but it could be better [than that],” Payne said. “I would love the opportunity to meet with the governor. I would love to meet as many people as possible who are involved with the economy of Rhode Island. I am an economics major and it would be an honor to meet with them.”

Johnsen, a junior at North Kingstown High School, said it took a moment to sink in that she had won.

“I thought they called the wrong name at first,” she said. “It took a second for me to realize they called my name. I walked forward but it felt like a dream. I couldn’t believe it happened.”

In about six weeks, Johnsen will compete for the title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in Orlando, Florida.

“It’s crazy. I started thinking about it when they put the crown on my head, and I said, ‘I have to prepare hard now,'” she said. “When school ends on June 24, hopefully I’ll have more time to prepare.”

Johnsen said maintaining her social media and recruiting other future candidates will be some of the things she’ll be working on soon. She’ll also push her platform of cleaning up the oceans of plastic marine debris – suiting for the Ocean State titleholder.

“I’m going to try to get some legislation passed to reduce the plastic footprint in Rhode Island,” the ambitious teen said.

Johnsen said she plans to take the advice Molly Andrade, Miss Rhode Island 2019 and 2020, gave all the candidates – to relish each second of her year.

“I’m looking forward to the entire experience….because it really will be gone in a flash.”

For more information, visit http://www.missri.org.

Third Time’s A Charm For New Miss Rhode Island

Molly Andrade won the Miss Congeniality award at the Miss Rhode Island competition on May 5. She also happened to win the title of Miss Rhode Island 2019.

Andrade, 20, had competed the past two years, and was first-runner up in 2017.

A competitive Irish Step dancer, Andrade wowed the crowd (which included Miss CT Bridget Oei, also a world-level Irish stepper) and earned the points from the judges to also capture the dance and overall talent awards.

“I’m incredibly grateful and so excited for this opportunity,” Andrade said, adding that if she doesn’t capture the national title, one of her main goals is to increase participation in the Rhode Island program.

“I want to bring as many women as possible to this organization and increase the amount of scholarships we give out,” she said.

She also has plans to help implement a self-defense course at every high school in Rhode Island. She developed her platform after a friend was assaulted.

“My best friend was sexually assaulted in high school,” Andrade said. “After seeing the lifelong effect it’s had on her, I knew I had to do something. I took a self-defense class in high school. One in eight women Rhode Island will be sexually assaulted. We need to act.”

Andrade said she’s also excited for everything, including appearances and the partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

“I’m just excited to have a great year and a wonderful opportunity,” she said. “It’s incredible. I’m excited to see what the next steps are for Miss America.”

Caroline Parente, 17, was crowned Miss Rhode Island’s Outstanding Teen at the same pageant. She said she decided to try a pageant for the first time, after seeing the effect it had on her childhood friend, Miss Rhode Island’s Outstanding Teen 2018 Macie Johnson.

“I just saw how much the program did for her, and how it was an amazing program, basically through social media, and I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of,” she said.

Parente is from South Kingstown, and goes to South Kingstown High School. She was also enthused about the year ahead.

“This is absolutely incredible. I am so humbled. This opportunity means the world to me, and I can’t wait to get started,” she said. “I’m looking forward to working on my platform and working with Molly, because she’s so intelligent.”

Parente’s platform is The Ripple Effect: Rising To Initiate Prevention and Positive Lifestyles Through Education.

“Basically, I want to educate all youth on how to educate their peers about substance abuse, because youth really do make the difference in this,” she said, adding that she is an intern for a national government coalition for the program.

For more information, visit http://www.missri.org. For more photos, visit http://www.stevephotographysmith.com.

 

 

 

 

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.