Sunday, May 5, 2013

Operation Prom

Spring is here! It's the season of allergies, warmer weather, and Proms! Ah yes, I remember my Junior and Senior Proms. There was so much excitement in planning the whole evening out. Who would be my date? What color dress would I wear, with which strappy high-heeled sandal? Hair up or down? And which lovely duo would win prom king and queen? Most high-schoolers have been looking forward to this event for years, and it's no different for teens who have been living in a hospital, being treated for terminal illness.

We decided on a red called "I tripped on the red carpet" haha
Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the Montefiore Children's Hospital in the Bronx. Operation Prom wanted to make sure that these sick kids got the same prom experience as healthy peers had. Operation Prom was founded in 2005, and their mission is to "provide resources, opportunity and mentoring to students in need." This organization helps those who are in poor financial standing or health celebrate the right of passage that is prom. And help they did. When I arrived, I found a group of beautiful young ladies gathered around a large table covered in makeup, jewelry and nail polish. Many were still in hospital gowns with IVs in tow. There was a buzz of excitement in the air. What girl doesn't love to get all dolled up? My teen queen and I also made many room visits to those who wouldn't be attending prom, hoping to at least brighten up their day for a moment.

Impressed by the great nail art going on!
Man. Those two hours I spent at that hospital have had such an effect on me. For that period of time, all of my stresses and problems were insignificant. This experience puts it all in perspective. These are teens with hopes and dreams and crushes and insecurities same as anyone else. They are forced to grow up very quickly as they battle illness these young bodies shouldn't see for several more decades. So, we need to preserve their childhood anyway that we can. Yesterday, my mission was to make every child smile. I pulled out my one-liners, made fun of myself, and even told my muffin joke (for those of you who know it, it's not funny, and kids laugh at how bad it is). Seeing their eyes light up, seeing their parents' eyes light up is such a gratifying experience.

And then I started thinking about volunteerism. As Miss NY USA I get to participate in many  philanthropic projects that help those in my community. And after every time, I leave with a full heart and a renewed sense of faith in people. We should all spend a few hours a week focusing our attention and efforts on others. Because it's in that giving that we truly experience a return.

I encourage you all to visit . Your old prom dresses, suits, donations and time are greatly appreciated and can bring so much joy into the lives of those who need it most.

Loved their dresses!!
My best friend, Taylor! She lives in Hell's Kitchen too!
And now for my own embarrassing prom pictures...

With my date, John.

On Prom Court, making a stank face. Not sure why haha.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Two Months from Today we will have a New Miss USA!

June 16th. Planet Hollywood, Las Vegas. Live on NBC 9pm EST. Donald Trump's Miss USA Pageant. I will be there, representing the resilient, historic, and fabulous state that is New York... and the anxiety attacks begin now.

When I won the title of Miss New York USA 2013, I knew that meant I would be competing at the national level, but it didn't seem real until they announced it. I grew up watching the Miss USA pageant on tv. My wide eyes would be glued to the screen, in awe of the gorgeous gowns and perfect figures. While I loved the idea of pageants, it was never my life goal to become Miss USA. I knew I wanted to be a performer, but I never thought I would be considered pretty enough to compete with these seemingly perfect women. (The back-brace awkwardness didn't exactly fuel my confidence.)

However, if there's one thing I've always known about myself is that I am beyond driven. I have a deluded amount of self confidence. In 8th grade I was awarded the "Most Likely to Succeed" superlative. I knew how to get stuff done. Well, now I'm here. With the opportunity of a lifetime. An experience some women have been dreaming about and dedicating themselves to for their whole lives. And I want it.

This may not have been the path I envisioned for myself, but I believe that I am here for a reason. Every hardship and let down that I have endured has brought me to this moment. I didn't book those tv pilots I was so close to getting, because I was meant to be here and hungry for this experience. All those failed relationships have allowed me to stay focused on myself and be available to commit to this competition. Every time I was in despair over a set-back or let down, God (or the universe, or whatever higher power you believe in), was shaking her head and smiling down at me thinking, 'if only you knew the great blessings I have in store for you!' Things are truly falling into place just as they should, and knowing all this humbles me in an amazing way.
The "Seriously? What is my life" face, the night I won. Wow, remember my dark hair?!

That brings us to the question, why do I want to win? I've always had a very competitive spirit, but even more than that, I feel a strong sense of responsibility. Being Miss USA is a job. Yes, photo shoots are fun, and red carpets are glamorous, but millions of young impressionable women, like 12-year-old back-brace wearing me, are looking up to you. As Miss USA, you are given the privilege of having a voice that others will listen to. It is an opportunity to do good work that last through several successors and change the lives of many. I am willing and prepared to take on that job and represent a hard-working, educated, and beautiful woman.

All that said, I'm still one of the biggest cheese-balls you'll ever meet. I love to make people laugh and laugh at myself. So, I need to find the humor in this. Otherwise, I will most likely go nuts. Yes, I want to do everything in my power to be prepared and be my best, but all that pressure on myself will take it's toll. For those who really know me, it's absolutely absurd that I wound up here. I must remember to enjoy the present moment, and not take myself too seriously. My quirkiness and animated spirit is what will set me apart, make me relatable to the public, and award me the Miss USA crown!
Stealing focus since the age of four :)

For all of you who have been there through my mini melt-downs and panic attacks, I appreciate you and thank you for your support and encouragement. I <3 NY

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Theatre and Activism. My Tuesday Night.

Who doesn't love a provocative piece of theatre? Classic musicals will always have their toe-tapping charm, but there's nothing like a play that leaves you inspired and perturbed. On Tuesday night, "Hit the Wall," an exciting play by Chicago playwright Ike Holter, did just that.

Steppenwolf Theatre Company of Chicago describes the play like this:

"It's the summer of '69 and the death of music icon Judy Garland has emboldened her gay followers. A routine police raid on an underground Greenwich Village hotspot erupts in to a full-scale riot, the impetus of the modern gay rights movement. That's the well-known, oft-rehearsed myth of Stonewall, anyhow. Smash that myth against the vivid theatrical imagination of playwright Ike Holter, add a howling live rock 'n roll band, and you get the world premiere play, Hit the Wall. Remixing this historic confrontation reveals ten unlikely revolutionaries, caught in the turmoil and fighting to claim 'I was there.'"

"Hit the Wall" was first produced by The Inconvenience in Chicago, and then moved to the Barrow Street Theatre, just steps away from the Stonewall Inn. I walked down those very streets where the riots  happened only a few decades ago to get to the theatre. Talk about surreal. Even more surreal was watching one of my close high school friends perform with this brilliant ensemble cast. I always knew Arturo Soria would have a brilliant career. I also knew him when he was just Arthur. Sitting in that audience, I was so proud of his selfless, honest, and intelligent performance.

This production is a must see. I don't enjoy writing theatre critiques; I did enough of them in college, but I do enjoy discussing the experience. So please, go see this highly relevant and passionate piece of theatre, and then we can go get coffee and talk about how fabulous it was. I will, however, leave you with a few comments about the performance.

I felt helpless at many times throughout the show. This play is very up-front about our society's view of homosexuality in the late 60's, and as an audience member you realize how not much has changed today. Yes, we are making progress when it comes to equal rights regardless of sexual orientation, however, equality is more than a law. Equality is a viewpoint, and unfortunately, many American's still choose to be blind. Barrow Street Theatre could not have picked a better time to produce this play. As the Supreme Court hears cases on marriage equality, we are reminded of all the work that still needs to be done.

I loved the experimental space, the lighting, the poetic use of language, and intimate blocking. I also loved looking at all the extremely handsome men in the audience. Although, let's be serious, I wasn't their type.

There he is! Arturo Soria! So proud!

Arturo, my sister Mary, and myself. Friends for about a decade!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pageant Bootcamp!

Pageant Bootcamp. This combination of words sounds both thrilling and terrifying at the same time. It also sparks images of America's Next Top Model type challenges where beautiful girls in gowns and stilettos must scale walls and flip tires. Thankfully, the "pageant bootcamp" I attended was a little less intense, although just as dramatic (wink).

My New York pageant directors also produce the California and New Hampshire State Pageants. Their headquarters are in LA, so every year, they fly out their titleholders for an eventful weekend. Seriously cool. The idea behind bootcamp is to prepare us for our national competitions while also getting to know our sister queens better.

First time in the Pacific!
oh hey palm trees!
I had never been to California before, so needless to say, I couldn't wait to soak up some west coast sun. We all stayed in a gorgeous beach house on Manhattan Beach that was just steps away from the Pacific. We spent most of our time in that house taking lessons and training, but we did manage to sneak in some beach time as well!

Our first day was photo shoot madness/gloriousness. I had the privilege of working with Gail Bowman. She has an amazing editorial eye that makes every woman look like a Victoria's Secret model. We did a beauty look, a swimsuit shoot, and an editorial look. I can not wait to show everyone my swimsuit photos. Two years ago, if you told me I'd be modeling in a bikini on a California beach, I would have laughed in your face and then reached for another donut. I never thought I would be at the level of fitness or confidence required to do what I did this weekend, but I am just constantly surprising myself. And I love it!

My Miss NY Teen USA and I getting primped :)
Keylee's cooking class!
The fruits, or veggies, of our labor!
This weekend we stuck to a super healthy diet. Now, I love vegetables and lean protein and fruit, but I'm often just eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because I am both worthless in the kitchen and poor. So, our director Keylee not only prepared some amazing meals for us, but taught us how to make them. There should have been a video camera there when all of the girls were cooking together. I'll just say, thank goodness we have other talents and day jobs.

On Sunday, we were invited to the Santa Anita Racetrack to watch some races as well the announcement of the new Ms. Racing Queen finalists. I grew up by a racetrack, but had never actually been inside one before. We were able to stand right by the finish line and take pictures with the winning horses. Best part of it all, my New York fans expressing their loyalty despite being in California ;)

I was gifted one of the jockey's goggles...and left them in Cali. oops.
I am really bummed that this weekend is over. Of course, it stinks to be heading back to cold weather and bartending shifts, but the thing I'll miss most is having days full of doing things I love. I have a goal for myself. I have a focus and I'm committed to a plan that I will work to make happen. Every day, I feel more and more grateful to be where I am. I am proud to be a part of the K2 Productions family, and I'm so thankful to them for this unforgettable experience.

Best Directors ever! Keylee and Mackenzie!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Back to School!

This past week, I was very fortunate to visit two outstanding schools and meet some amazing kids. The Lewis School of Princeton and the Block Institute of Brooklyn are true pioneers of education. They use different creative methods of teaching in order to accommodate those with learning and developmental disabilities.

Ashley or "Ms. Aliano" and myself :)
Ashley, one of my friends from high school, received her Masters in speech pathology and now works at the Lewis School of Princeton. The Lewis School is a small private school that works with elementary age children on up to post graduate youth. These kids have language-based learning disabilities like dyslexia and auditory processing. When Ashley heard about my win and arts advocacy platform, she asked me to come in and speak to her students. The School's music department had just been cut, and we want to make sure no more cuts happen to other avenues of performance.

I talked about Daniel Day Lewis a lot, ha.
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect upon my arrival to the Lewis School. I knew I'd be speaking to the drama club, but had no clue how interested they would be or what they would ask. Turns out, the group of about 16 teens were very excited to see me. Their enthusiasm made me feel like I was being interviewed on "Inside the Actors' Studio" rather than a small classroom. We discussed favorite plays I've seen, roles I've performed, methods of acting, and audition/interview skills. They seemed genuinely interested in my advice and opinions. I really hope that my visit inspired these kids. The aspect I love most about acting is the opportunity to affect an audience, and even if one student left reenergized, driven, and more committed to drama club, then I have done my job.

The drama club!

Later in the week, in honor of Read Across America, I visited the Block Institute of Brooklyn with a handful of my Miss New York pageant girlies. The Block Institute is "dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities and their families"( We visited different classrooms all day, reading to children ages 4-8 who have special needs. These kids were so excited to meet "real princesses." Many of them have difficulty holding their attention, so when they kept their focus on me for the entirety of a picture book, I felt it was a little victory.

With my teen queen reading to the kiddies!
Now I must end this by saying I was in awe of the educators I met this week. Both of my parents were school teachers, and I had even entertained the idea while growing up, but there is no way I could do what these teachers do. The patience, enthusiasm, and energy I witnessed last week was remarkable. I give credit to all teachers, but especially those that work with special needs kids. I'm convinced that their hearts are of twice the normal size, and they deserve twice their actual paycheck.

Friday, March 1, 2013

My Live Interview on Fox News

Remember those dreaded pop-quizzes in school? You try desperately to absorb as much of your scrawled out notes as possible in the five minutes your teacher graces you with. The cool teachers were always the ones who warned you about the pop-quiz the day before. My life as Miss NY USA is one pop-quiz after another. Events are scheduled last minute, plans are changed, and interviews pop up without much notice. But that's just the nature of the business. And I love it. It keeps me on my toes and hungry for more. So when my Fox News tour/ meet and greet, turned into a live on air interview with an audience of a couple million, I was thrilled! Thrilled and absolutely terrified at the same time. However, there was no time to be nervous, I had some serious studying to do.

If you happened to watch my interview with Neil Cavuto, (and if you haven't you totally should) we discussed Mayor Bloomberg's ban on large sugary drinks. I was told this would be the topic, and I was asked to pick an opinion. While I knew about Bloomberg's actions and the uproar in response, it's not a topic I go preaching about. I don't drink soda, or ice-tea, or Gatorade even. It's not my thing, but we all pick our poison. As Miss New York USA, I am an advocate of health and fitness, so undoubtedly, I agree that no one needs that much soda. I splurge like everyone else on treats, but I do so in moderation, which is something not many people think about. Upon picking my side to debate, I did as much research as I could. Who wants to feel stumped on live tv?

Now, I am very happy with my entire experience at Fox News. The staff was more than accommodating, the crew was beyond professional, and the hosts/anchors made me feel very comfortable. Neil Cavuto definitely challenged me and my opinion, but I think the segment made for excellent tv. Who doesn't love a debate? I learned that I deflect to jokes and charm when I don't know what to say, and I say "umm" entirely way too much. We can fix the "umm"s.

Then, I received my twitter/ Facebook responses. This was not something I even thought about. I didn't have time to. Who might I offend with my opinion? Apparently, quite a few people. I joked with my publicist about the hate tweets. That means I've really made it! I'm not upset by the less than favorable comments. These people are entitled to their opinions as much as I am. Not everyone is as lucky to have their views broadcast to the country, so they do so in whatever outlet they can. I love learning about all sides to an argument, so please, if anyone really wants to educate me, you are more than welcome to do so in a private message. I will read it.

However, in response, just a few things. I am actually very educated. I graduated summa cum laude from a great university. While I was a theatre student and do not know much about business or politics, I opted to take classes in social and medical ethics, biology, and personal finance, because I actually enjoy learning new subjects. I consider all sides to an argument before forming an opinion. I'm a libra. It's what I do. And my grandfather ultimately died from type 2 diabetes. He was a naturally thin man, but his high sugar diet really took a toll on his health.

I hope that this post gives everyone a little more insight into my first experience with a live tv debate. I may even want to have a media/ hosting career in the future. Who knows!

Watch the Live interview here!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

BK has some serious talent!

I love a good talent show. No surprise there. So You Think You Can Dance. The Voice. America's Next Top Model. I love seeing young people work hard and doing something they have a real passion for. I myself, am a talent show veteran. In middle school, I always looked forward to spring, when I would inevitably perform a dance to a Michael or Janet Jackson song, choreographed by my sister. I became known as "that girl who can moonwalk." Talent shows taught me how to be professional, how to captivate an audience, and was a way to define myself apart from "back-brace girl."

All that said, I love seeing these kids perform in the All Stars Talent Show, and I love being a judge! It's cool being on the other side of things. This was my second time judging the show. I feel like no matter how many times I may be involved, I will never quit being in awe of these kids. The creativity, effort, and professionalism they bring to the stage inspires me. We don't censor our performers, so their rap lyrics and dance moves are their truest form of self expression. And to top it all off, it feels great being surrounded by such a positive and supportive audience. The community is gathered together creating one giant performance of appreciation.

Yesterday's winners were a rap duo. I likened them to Jay-Z and Drake. They were my top scorers because of their energy and confidence. They looked and acted like pros up there. Hopefully they will invest their $500 winnings in themselves, and I'll see them on the Grammy's some day soon!

Here are some photos from yesterday's show! If you want to learn more about The All Stars Project or even become a volunteer, check out their website.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I'm on a Boat! Love and the Caribbean

With a sun kissed glow on my face and about five extra pounds on my hips, I write this post, post wedding cruise/vacation extravaganza.

I had the amazing privilege of witnessing one of my oldest friends marry the man of her dreams on the ship where they first met.

Sarah and I grew up dancing together in a competition dance troupe. We met back when she couldn't tap dance and I couldn't stop lip syncing to all the music. If you had told seven year old me that 17years later, I would be at her wedding on a ship, I would have called you a liar and said boys are gross. Thankfully, we stayed close throughout the years, boys became less gross, and I was able to be a part of this special day.

Sarah and Tom met on a Celebrity Cruise ship. She was contracted as their aerial performer, and he was an officer. A safety demonstration brought the two together, and after four and a half years, long distance contracts couldn't break them apart. The happy couple decided to make it official, and where else should the ceremony take place but on a cruise.
In front of family, friends, curious onlookers and staff, the captain married his former employees on the steps of the grand staircase.

The ceremony was beautiful and not strictly aesthetically. As soon as Sarah started down those marble steps, a sort of laugh-cry began and carried on throughout the vows. This, of course, made tears well up in my eyes as well. This is a couple that is truly made for each other. There is a sense of ease and joy that constantly radiates between them. Their playful energy is balanced perfectly with passionate stolen looks. They are two good people who found someone they want to be great for. How could I not choke up?

I've been to a few weddings, but this one in particular really got me thinking. My good friends know that it has never been a real goal of mine to get married. Of course, I love the idea of being in love, but my priorities have always been on my career. Gearing up for the Miss NY USA pageant, I would constantly say, "Who needs a man when you can have a crown!" My sense of independence can be sickening at times. But this view definitely is a way of hiding my fear. Fear of commitment. Of rejection. Of failure.
And that's no way to approach things, especially matters as vulnerable as love.

Being around Sarah and Tom has really made me change my perspective on relationships. I would love to find the kind of love they share. I appreciate what it has done for my old dance friend, and I look forward to what it can do for me.
That being said, let the parade of marriage proposals roll in! Just kidding...unless there's a really nice ring...or a pair of shoes.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Fitness Gala!

So I apologize, but this is going to be a short one. I am waiting to board my flight for vacation!

Today I had the privilege of attending an amazing Fitness Gala, hosted by my sponsor Dasha Libin from Kettlebell Kickboxing and the talented Megan Hilty.

This event was to support the Joyful Heart Foundation, which helps women who have been affected by domestic, sexual, or childhood abuse.

Today, we had around 200 women gathered together to celebrate fitness, empowerment, and beauty. As a pageant girl, this was entirely up my alley. With crown on and kettle bell in hand, I squatted, stretched, and sweat for women everywhere. I was honored to be a part of such an inspiring day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

25 Fun Facts about Miss New York USA!

Well, these past few days have been quite busy! Between work, performing, volunteering, appointments, and fittings, I haven't been able to blog for you all. Rather than overwhelming you with a detailed account of my hectic weekend, I thought we could do something a little more fun! Who doesn't love a revealing post? I'm going to share 25 interesting facts about myself, so my audience can get to know me better. Also, if I mention something that we have in common, let me know! Alright, here goes...

1. I was born and raised in Freehold, NJ. Just one town over from our 2011 Miss USA, Alyssa Campanella! (She is from Manalapan, NJ). Even though I grew up in Jersey, my home is NY. They say home is where the heart is, and I <3 NY!

2. I received my BA in Fine Arts/Theatre from Rider University. I moved to NYC right after college to pursue a career in acting.

3. I have one older sister who just so happens to be my best friend. Her name is Mary and she is a phenomenal tap dancer/choreographer.

4. I live in a very tiny apartment in Hell's Kitchen. It doesn't even have a living room! But a view of the Empire State Building from my bedroom window is an excellent trade off.

5. Top five places I'd love to visit: Barcelona, Greece, Sicily, New Zealand, and Australia.

6. I had severe scoliosis when I was younger, and wore a back-brace for 16 hours a day from age 12-16. I was that girl with the back-brace. I didn't like that I was different, but my mother often reminded me that everyone has their own fair share of problems, and things could always be worse.

7. My favorite movie is "Waiting for Guffman." Go watch it. Now. Thank me later.

8. "When things Fall Apart; Heart Advice for Difficult Times" by Pema Chodron, is a book that has truly affected my life. Last year, I was in a messy place, and a friend suggested I read it. Chodron is a buddhist nun who focuses on the ideas of impermanence and kindness. Love.

9.  I've been in love once. And I've had my heart broken once. I honor my past and look forward to my future :)

10. My favorite color is green.

11. My biggest fear is being blind...I'm also terrified of crickets.

12. I went to Las Vegas on a family vacation when I was 21, and won $300 playing penny slots!

13. One day, I want my own a vineyard. I'm such a wino.

14. Besides the USA crown (wink wink), I would like to be triple crowned some day. With an Emmy, an Oscar, and a Tony.

15. I will name my three future children, Emmy, Oscar, and Tony.

16. My favorite holiday is Black Friday. My sister and I make an event out of it every year. The rules are simple. Wake up early. Only buy things for yourself. And at least one impulse purchase is required.

17. My favorite actor is Daniel Day Lewis. His ability to transform into different characters is both inspiring and disturbing. If you have not seen the film, "My Left Foot," do yourself a favor and watch it.

18. I love shoes. My bank account does not. I'm sure one day, we'll all be in agreement :)

19. Billy Joel is one of my favorite musicians. In the future, I will walk down the aisle to an instrumental version of "She's Always a Woman."

20. One of the best plays I have ever seen on Broadway was Marsha Norman's "'night Mother." The premise is this... a middle aged woman tells her mother that she has decided to commit suicide, and then prepares her mother for life without her. Edie Falco played the daughter. Grown men were sobbing in the audience. When the actresses were taking their bows at the end of the play, I couldn't even stand and applaud them. I was still so affected by what I saw, that clapping seemed odd to me. It was at that moment I knew, I wanted to do great work like that.

21. I dislike pickles. And roller coasters.

22. I hate conflict. I was a peer mediator in middle school.

23. After a difficult workout, one where I really push myself, I will actually pat myself on the back.

24. I love sour cream donuts.

25. Two summers ago, I did background for the soap "One Life to Live." I was "bikini girl" and entered the frame getting out of a fake pool. The poor assistant who had to hose me off before each take was a real trooper!

And there you have it! Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 25, 2013

From Pouring Red Wine, to Walking Red Carpets

Oh the beloved day job. How we all, at times, loathe thee. When I first moved to the city to pursue a career in acting, I knew I would need a job with a steady paycheck. And while, I knew my talents were worth big pay checks, it often takes others in the industry a while to come around. I had waited tables in the past and knew I was good at it. The flexible schedule made it the ideal "day job."

For the past 2+ years, I have worked for a great restaurant group. What sets my job apart from others is that we don't view our work as service. We work in the hospitality industry. We go above and beyond to accommodate our guests. We always like to answer with a yes, we keep a positive mental attitude, and we rely on our teammates to help create a great shift. It's amazing how these values seem so easy, and yet can be so hard at times. It's not uncommon to feel unappreciated and of lesser value than those you are serving. I remember after one particularly busy and mentally tiring shift, I told a coworker, "I just don't like when people ask me for stuff." But much like everyday life, when faced with difficult people or situations, one must persevere and move forward.

There are certain things I enjoy about waiting tables/bartending. I like quick paced active jobs. They make the time fly by. I love talking to people! It's especially nice when you develop your own set of "regulars." I like the idea of hosting and entertaining. Sometimes, I pretend I am throwing a party, and everyone who comes into the restaurant are my own personal guests whom I want to make feel at home. A little over the top, I know, but it gets me through the shift.

When I get down about not booking a role I auditioned for, or having to work on weekends and holidays, I just remind myself, 'this is not permanent.' One day I will be so far removed from pouring wine and shaking martinis, that I will look back on these moments and laugh. I must really try to enjoy these times more. You create the life you want, but you can only live in the present, and we must honor our day jobs. This job allows me to live and thrive in New York.

Jack, Leigh, me, and Amy-Louise
So even though I walked my first red carpet last night, I must still offer ketchup and spicy mayonnaise with an order of french fries. At least for the time being. Because I chose to live in the sexiest city in the world, and boy, she doesn't come cheap.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My first launch party/red carpet

Tonight, I painted the town red... and neon. I was thrilled to attend the L'amour launch party at the Hudson hotel. Nanette Lepore created an amazing line of clothes with her daughter to be sold at JC Penny's. It's the cutest collection ever. Lots of bright colors. Flirty with a hint of sexy. Simple lines. Both basic and statement pieces. The price point is right on. I grew up shopping at JCP with my mom, and wish this sort of style was around when I was younger!

The venue was spot on. We descended into a raw industrial space decorated with multi-colored slinkies and drapes of neon fabric. There was an Instagram station, where hash-tagged photos appeared on a large screen for all to see and later printed out as favors. The lollipop bar was my favorite area. The white chocolate/strawberry pops were so yummy. 

Since this was a launch party, there were tons of press and photographers. It was my first time posing on a red carpet as Miss New York USA! It was such a thrilling experience. My white cape from Pinky Otto definitely gave me a much needed boost of confidence. I felt like a rock star beauty queen. 

There was then a lot of mingling to be done. Something I'm realizing very quickly is that I need to be more business minded. It is how I will make the most of my year. You never know when someone you meet may revisit you in the future and offer you a wonderful opportunity. So, I am doing my best to remember people's names and create a great first impression. 

It's still hard to believe that this is only the fourth day of my reign. I feel like I've learned a ton of interview, publicity, and beauty skills already. I'm looking forward to many more exciting opportunities like this one. But for now, I will enjoy my weekend of bartending at my day job. I like to think it keeps me humble... while paying my rent :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My first day on the job!

Yesterday was a whirlwind first day as Miss New York. After four hours of sleep, I was in hair and makeup, getting ready for my first live television appearance on the CW 11. I had a blast! I did pretty well for my first interview and loved being on set.

I didn't have any more scheduled appearances after that, so I decided to stop by The All Stars Project. They were have their Open House/ Registration day for their University X classes. Basically, it's free seminars and classes in areas like public speaking, acting, improv, woodshop, and poetry.

For those of you who aren't aware, my personal platform is support the arts and arts education. The arts know no limitations. The self discovery that can come through art is profound. The All Stars understands this very well. It is a non-profit organization that focuses on youth and community development through performance. New York City has numerous cosmopolitan experiences to offer. From museums to Broadway shows, these opportunities are everywhere. It is such experiences that enrich our lives, inspiring us and helping to develop our character. Our poorer communities do not often partake in these art forms. As a result, they are not as developed, and development is the key catalyst in learning. It's what sparks an interest in learning. So, we need to bring artistic experiences to these minorities. The best way to do so is through performance. If a child can get up on stage and perform for an audience, he can perform in other areas of his life as well. He can perform the role of a good student. He can perform his way through a job interview. Performance is a necessary part of life. The All Stars Project is working toward a performance revolution, and I'm proud to be a volunteer.

Yesterday, I arrived just in time to watch the youth programs perform a MLK Day Show titled "Honoring Dr. King with a Performance Revolution." If there is anyone who understood social change, development, appreciation, and performance, it was Mr. King.

There was a surprise guest at this performance, and I was beyond excited to watch Ben Vereen enter the stage. This man is a performance icon. His career has spanned decades and all forms of art. Over ten years ago, I saw him perform in Fosse. It was my first time in a Broadway audience. This man understands the importance of MLK's work, performance art, and our youth's development. He then began to sing an impromptu version of "the greatest love of all", pointing out that this love is found in our youth. That moment made my day. The fact that these kids were sharing the same stage as this performance veteran almost brought me to tears.

The young performers then took the stage performing songs, dances, and excerpts of Dr. King's speeches. You could see how hard each kid practiced, and how invested they were in this performance. Their hard work certainly paid off, because as a watched each number, I became more and more inspired. Offering our youth avenues of healthy self-expression is vital in their success. And I am thrilled to be a part of an organization that provides kids with such opportunities.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Miss New York USA 2013 Pageant!

"You want it. Go get it. Period."

This is a quote from the movie, The Pursuit of Happiness. Will Smith's character says this line to his son during a moment of self doubt. There is something about this quote that has stuck with me since the first time I heard it. It's simple. It's direct. It's confident. I like to think that I go after things in such a way. Which is exactly what I did during the Miss NY USA 2013 pageant this past weekend.

I competed, along with about 120 other girls in swimsuit, evening gown, and interview. My pageant preparation began 8 months ago. During that time, I went to the gym religiously, shopped around for wardrobe, had my friends ask me the most ridiculous interview questions they could think of, volunteered my time with The All Stars Project (which I will probably blog about a lot in the future), and studied current and previous state titleholders. I was in it to win it.

It's amazing what happened to me during that 8 month journey. I became focused, truly focused on one thing. I had something to work towards. I could visualize myself on that stage, feeling so confident and beautiful. Then came progress. I starting seeing results from the gym. I actually enjoyed running. I felt stronger, more fit, and gorgeous than ever. This focus on myself really made me look inside and examine my strengths and weaknesses. And I discovered that I really liked myself. For the first time in my life I was in love with myself, and it's the best relationship I've ever had. 

This past weekend was really a test of my self confidence and self love. There were so many beautiful unique girls vying for the same title. It would have been so easy to start doubting my worth and undue all my hard work. But I just decided to stay positive and continue on with my plan. Like I always say, fake it 'til you make it. 

I left it all out on the stage that weekend. The best feeling is being able to say, I have no regrets. I showed the judges exactly who I am. I'm a theatre girl, with sass. I have a fit legs that carry me up to my fifth floor walk up. I like to entertain and make people laugh. I laugh at myself. 

I am so humbled to be Miss New York USA 2013. New York is full of girls with so many different backgrounds, struggles, stories, and dreams. I am honored to represent the New York woman and ready to bring the Miss USA crown back to this kick ass state!