Hi everybody! Well, it has been a month since the final night of the Miss America pageant so I thought it was about time to write a post about my experiences in Atlantic City.
Overall, I loved it. I loved every single woman competing and felt so very blessed to be there! It wasn’t always easy, but I’m so happy that I did it.
I left on September 2nd for the journey of a lifetime. It was just my second time taking a trip all by myself (my first adventure alone had been to the Outstanding Teen pageant in Orlando in August!) so I felt like an old pro navigating the airports.
On the way to the airport in Sioux Falls! Just slightly freaking out…
Sure, this is all I brought to Miss America! Kidding…I also shipped three big trunks. Oops!
I made it allllllll the way to Minneapolis (45 minute flight, what what!) before my flight to Philadelphia was delayed. Thankfully, I just happened to be on the same flight as Miss North Dakota (Laura) and Miss Idaho (Sarah) so I was in great company in the airport and on the plane. Laura and I traded seats with other people so we could sit by each other! When we arrived in Philadelphia, we were picked up by our awesome security team on our own special Miss America Jitney. These are what we traveled in every single day from the hotel to Boardwalk Hall and to any event we went to.
Wee! Made it to Philly!
Pretending to be Kirsten Haglund outside of the Jitney
I had my own room that first night in Atlantic City since the “official” arrival was the next day. It was nice to get settled for a night before the craziness began. The next morning, we arrived at Boardwalk Hall bright at early at about 8:00 am for our fittings with the production staff. They checked through each one of our outfits that would potentially be shown on television and made sure they all looked up to Miss America standards. During this time, we began to notice the 20/20 cameras following us around in the dressing room. We had met some of the filming crew in Orlando when we were at the teen pageant and now they were back to film us basically each day leading up to the Miss America finals and the showing of the 20/20 special, Pageant Confidential.
I was a little surprised when they were in the dressing room with us and found myself getting filmed when I least expected (adjusting myself in dresses, getting zipped into outfits, etc.) it was pretty bizarre and something I was definitely not accustomed to. We all learned to be on our best behavior when the cameras were around because you didn’t want to get caught on film doing or saying something unfortunate that the entire nation would potentially see! Yikes!
Later that day we had the official Arrival Ceremony right in front of Boardwalk Hall on the boardwalk. Each of us introduced ourselves to Atlantic City and signed a giant map which Miss America (Nina!) will get. During the arrival ceremony they announced two different scholarship opportunities. The first scholarship was for women in STEM majors or careers. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math and 30% of our class was majoring in a STEM related area. 5 finalists were chosen by a panel of 5 professionals and I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the five! It was an amazing and complete surprise as this wasn’t a scholarship that any of us had applied for. The other scholarship opportunity was the Quality of Life award which is based on platform work!
After that first day, REHEARSALS began!
Our beautiful rehearsal theater. What a sight! This is also where we got to see our families each night after competition.
During our time in Atlantic City, we had schedules every day basically planned down to the minute. We woke up each day very early and were dressed and ready to get on the Jitney to Boardwalk Hall usually at 7-7:30am. When we got there, we would typically sit in the dressing room until around 8am when we would begin rehearsals. Rehearsals consisted mainly of learning the opening number and learning the dances that would make up the Parade of States montage at the top of the show. Our choreographers were the best of the best and were absolutely amazing. They could always tell when we needed to “take 5″ or needed some comic relief. We love you, Brian, Stacey, and Barry! Truly the best.
Not joking, I fell asleep sitting just like that shortly after this photo was taken in the middle of a dance. Talk about lack of sleep!
Rehearsal with my lovely SD state necklace from my mother! Unfortunately this got lost at Miss America :(
After rehearsals ended around 3-4pm depending on the day, we would get 30 minutes to change into our outfit that we brought that morning for the event that would take place that evening. The events were always amazing but we wouldn’t usually get back to the hotel until anywhere from 10pm to after 11pm every night which became harder and harder each day as the lack of sleep started to take its toll. Each night when I got home, I took off my makeup and took a jacuzzi bath to relax. Sometimes I didn’t get to bed until 1:30am but it was worth it to me to have this relaxation routine in place and to go to bed mentally prepared for the next day.
Some of my favorite events:
Dancing and afros at Boogie Nights with my girl Miss Hawaii!
First time visiting the Liberty Bell!
My first MLB game! Not too shabby!
On my way to one of the best nights of my life! We had dinner at Buddakan and received over $800 worth of goodies! Yippee!
Spent an evening at Steel Pier amusement park!
Saturday and Sunday of week 1 consisted of filming our Parade of States introduction that would air at the top of the telecast on September 15th. These days were very long as we would start with a 6:30am Jitney pick up (Meaning you had to be hair and makeup ready outside your door at 6:20am) and we would end around 9pm. Over the course of those two days, we filmed at 7 different locations and had a different dance routine and setup at each location. Let me just say, our Joseph Ribkoff outfits did not smell very nice when we were done! I washed my dress in my hotel sink :)
Filming on the beautiful beach right after sunrise. My favorite location!
Hey Mt. Rushmore! Make room for a new face — This one!
Filming at the Lighthouse!
Week Two Begins:
Week two brought the beginning of competition for all 53 contestants. Groups Mu and Alpha had their private interview with the judges on Monday and my group, Sigma, had interviews Tuesday morning. I felt prepared and confident going into my interview and I felt as if that came across to the judges. We touched on many different topics including my platform, healthcare, bullying, and gymnastics (and of course more that I can’t remember! ). Walking out of my interview, I felt happy and had a smile on my face. I felt that the interview had gone very well and was happy with what I brought into the room.
Right after interview!
Along with my interview, that Tuesday was the first night of preliminary competition. Since I was in the Sigma group, I competed in Lifestyle and Fitness (Swimsuit) and Evening Gown first. I felt that my presentations in these two areas were done well although of course being a perfectionist and a very competitive, I could have always done better
In our final pose on the runway!
Walking the runway in my Catalina swimsuit
Walking in my evening gown! Love this dress!
Wednesday morning I had my interview for the STEM scholarship. This was with a panel of three people who had the original job of choosing the finalists. The interview was very casual and was very fun and lighthearted. I spoke about my desire to obtain a master’s degree in kinesiology and how I could use my STEM related background to not only further the STEM program, but to enhance my time as Miss America. Wednesday night also brought the talent competition to the Sigma group! I performed basically the same routine that I had performed at Miss South Dakota except with a new, flashier costume and of course more skills! I had a blast during my routine and was wound so tight beforehand that afterwards I completely lost it. I was very emotional that day (I credit this to a lack of sleep and, um, BEING AT MISS AMERICA) and after my routine, I felt very bad about myself. I didn’t think that I had performed to the best of my abilities but, to my surprise, my parents and friends watching said it was the best they thought I had ever performed. Phew! No sense in being hard on myself, I guess :)
After completing my STEM interview
Performing my talent on the Miss America stage! Wow!
On Thursday, I had On Stage Question. I wasn’t concerned about this portion of the competition at all because we all knew it would be a platform based question. I spoke about Project Bookworm and Build a Book and my efforts to get parents involved with their children’s literacy efforts. I felt good about what I said and was confident that I answered to the best of my abilities.
On Stage Question
After each day of preliminary competition, we had anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to spend with our families and friends from our state who had come to cheer us on. I had a lot of amazing people there for me! Thank you all so much for coming and being on “Team Tessa”! I love you guys!
Friday was a day where we did a lot of camera blocking. This rehearsal and run through onstage wasn’t for us, it was for the camera and production crew. We practiced walking with the cameras and rehearsing with the different camera arrangements. To be honest I fell asleep on the stage that day and didn’t even realize I was sleeping until I looked at my watch and it was 45 minutes later! This was a long day!
Saturday was a day that we were all looking forward to – The SHOW YOUR SHOES PARADE!!!! Over a two-mile stretch, there were over 220,000 people there watching and cheering us on. It was an absolute blast and I had such a great time rocking my Sturgis inspired look! My legs were so tired Sunday morning from holding my legs up in my big, bedazzled boots!! Shout out to GK (aka Gramma Karen) for bedazzling these for me! They were quite a hit on the Boardwalk!
Sunday morning we got to sleep in!!! What! It was amazing and unheard of so I really enjoyed my relaxing morning. It was required that we pack all of our things up before we left for Boardwalk Hall that day in the event that we won Miss America and all of our belongings had to be moved to a different room very quickly. After packing up my three suitcases and three trunks and having a lovely breakfast in bed, I was ready to go!
I felt confident that I would advance to the semi finals to be able to compete for Miss America that evening. When each of the 15 names was being called, I was convinced one would be mine. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. At first I was in a little bit of a daze. We were rushed backstage to change into our Non-Finalist Outfits (One I thought I would never wear) and went back onstage. Once I was onstage in my “I’m Popular in South Dakota” T-shirt and jeans watching my friends continue to compete, I was crushed. It was very hard to sit in the Non Finalist Lounge (Or NFL as we liked to call it) and watch all of the girls continue to compete for a dream that I thought I could accomplish. My time working and prepping and competing for the dream of Miss America had abruptly come to an end and I just could not wrap my head around it.
Don’t get me wrong, I was and am so grateful to be one of the 53 women competing for the title of Miss America. It is such an honor to think that I graced that stage with so many accomplished young women. To be able to keep company with this group of ladies and to know that I could call 52 women and know they would do anything for me is so amazing. I have met some of my best friends from this time in Atlantic City and am so grateful for that. I can’t believe how lucky we all are to have the class we have. I think we were a little unprecedented as we honestly ALL got along. How cool is that? Sometimes as a “Miss State” I think it’s easy to feel alone or a little lonely but it’s refreshing and reassuring to know that if I ever need to talk or need a shoulder to lean on, I have 52 other women supporting me!
Even though I was disappointed I didn’t make the top 15, didn’t win a preliminary award, and didn’t become Miss America, I absolutely loved my time in Atlantic City and wouldn’t change a thing. I learned a lot from my time there and appreciate everything that happened; good or bad.
Thank you all for supporting on my journey to Miss America!!! And for your continued support as I continue my journey as Miss South Dakota 2013. I love you all so much and your support and love means more than you could ever know!
PS. Make sure to check out my Facebook page to see what I’m doing this year and check out all my photos from Miss America!!! Miss South Dakota – Tessa Dee