Since 1945, the Miss America Pageant has given opportunities to young women to build confidence, attain leadership skills and earn scholarships to further their education. You may recognize Miss New Jersey, after placing 2nd runner up this year when she competed for Nationals at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.”
Miss New Jersey, Kaitlyn Schoeffel grew up in Atlantic City. “So the Miss America Organization has been a part of my life since I was a child. So to get to represent my state at the Miss America Competition was the most incredible thing in the world. I saw so much support and love from my community, and being Miss New Jersey – it’s a dream come true.”
Each year, more than 10,000 young women participate at the local, state and national levels, where they cultivate the 52 finalists who will compete for the title of Miss America.
So I wondered what it was like to compete for Miss America right here in New Jersey. Schoeffel explained that “it’s such a wonderful tradition that we have here in New Jersey. We will continue to preserve that tradition. I know were celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Miss America Competition, so I really hope we do everything we can to make sure that we keep it here in Atlantic City, because its it’s home.”
This is a tradition that New Jersey holds to a high regard and one that brings people from all across the nation back to Atlantic City each year. We took a tour outside Boardwalk Hall where Schoeffel showed me the famous Miss America Statue.
“People travel from all over the world to take their picture and pretend to be crowned Miss America, so this is truly an iconic statue that’s here, right outside boardwalk hall which is where the competition takes place.”
Then, we walked over to see Bette Cooper, a former Miss America from New Jersey. She was crowned in 1937, which was 80 years from this past competition. Then, they have another New Jerseyian, Suzette Charles, who took the crown from Vanessa Williams when she was Miss America. The protocol is that when a titleholder has to give back the crown, it then would go to the runner-up.
In spite of the stigma of beauty pageants, the women you see on stage have been carefully selected for their class, community service and poise. Yes, the contestants strut onstage in a swimsuit, but over time, the competition has grown to be increasingly political.
Schoeffel describes it to be nerve-wracking. “You're answering a question on live television that will determine whether or not you’ll be Miss America. Honestly, there was some kind of calm that came over me and realized that I really just need to listen to the question and then answer it how I feel. So if the question was to take a stand on a political issue, statistically half of America is not going to agree with me. So just understanding that fact, that really helped me just express my true personal opinion.”
This was a moment that was talked about after the competition by many. However, the true takeaway of the experience was when Schoeffel kicked her heels back in the talent round.
“What is the takeaway for the next portion of the year where you can enjoy your reign as Miss New Jersey?”
“I’m so excited to get back to work as Miss New Jersey and not having to prepare for a competition. I’ll be traveling throughout the state of New Jersey and the surrounding states too, promoting my platform which is Operation Empowerment, which gives equal access to the arts for all children.”
“What advice can you offer to young girls?”
Schoeffel advises to never give up. “I competed for Miss New Jersey six times before I won New Jersey. “
“What made this time different?”
“It was my last year eligible to compete. So there was nothing to lose. I relaxed, I was mindful and enjoyed my time and I knew this was the last time I could ever compete for Miss New Jersey. So whether I win or lose, I wanted an incredible experience.”
Speaking to Kaitlyn was a pleasure. I really enjoyed getting to learn more about the Miss America Organization. In 20 days, I will be competing for Miss New Jersey USA for the second time. I am ecstatic!!
We live in a world where young women rely on strong female leaders, and pageantry is certainly a platform that provides so much more than the glamour and a crown.
Check out the full story that aired this weekend at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ie8YFVXpwp8
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