Monday, March 30, 2009

ASK Yourself | EMBRACE Love | AFFECT Change

I went to a Human Rights Campaign event on Tuesday called "Talking Queer Politics" where openly-gay republican John Chromczak (who ran for NY Senator) shared the importance of calling our senators and representatives to encourage them to vote for the passage of upcoming bills being proposed through legislature to legalize and equalize gay marriage in the state of New York. He challenged us to think "WHY?" Why do we support gay marriage? Share a personal story. I await the day when I can stand up to honor my siblings at their weddings: Sean and his wife...Sarah and her wife...Hannah and her husband - ALL equal, unique, deserved and fully recognized and legal.

On that note, I have a few things to share for inspiration. While I attempt to not overload you with media, I accept that I'll absolutely fail in this post. But it's worth it. Below are a few really, really important things for you to take a second to look at. I'll change it up as to which one plays automatically in the coming weeks just to bring importance to each. Otherwise, take your few minutes of free time (that we all have so much of these days) to take a a look at these videos, these peoples' lives, and your reaction to each, as your form your opinion and stance on gay marriage. I hope that I am providing you with stories that change or inspire you not only tolerate, but to embrace the beauty of love and its relevance to and inclusion of EVERYONE.

Kate Shindle speaks on Prop 8 at the "Join the Impact" Rally in NYC
I used to watch this daily, now weekly. It is a reminder for me to do what's right: To stand as a straight ally for what I believe in by being proactive for good, not reactive to bad. "I'm Catholic, I'm straight ... and I have never been more sure that there is a right side of this issue and a wrong side, and we are on the right side!" -KS This is the power that Miss America has the potential to have. I challenge you to take a confident stance on "the greatest civil rights battle our generation will experience" and I invite you to our side.

"Nothing More" sung by Scott Alan
This song talks about the need for and importance of family. Not riches or a house, but just a home with a husband and child. Gay and lesbian people aren't asking for anything special or additional ... just "nothing more" than I have naturally as a heterosexual.

Oscar-award winning movie "MILK" - Trailer
Staring Sean Penn, this movie is nothing short of powerful and life-changing, really. You should rent it, put it on your queue for NetFlix, or find a theatre where it is still playing, and bring a kleenex. Open your mind and your heart to change and take the challenge and responsibility of being the one who affects it.

And Dustin Lance Black's Oscar acceptance speech

Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi Wed
This is ceremony about love - Not flowers or dresses or how many chairs you can fill. Joshua Radin's "Today" is such a beautiful song and really epitomizes the feeling I hope to have on my wedding day. "Today is the day I make you mine...You are the one I've been waiting for." If love binds two people in the most honest and perfect fit, they deserve to love freely and equally.

Courage Campaign - "Fidelity"
"We, the undersigned, share President Barack Obama's view that for too long, issues of LGBT rights have been exploited by those seeking to divide us. It's time to move beyond polarization and live up to our founding promise of equality by treating all our citizens with dignity and respect. ... We know that, ultimately, love will prevail, no matter how hard they try to fight it."

You know Amanda Richie?


NLGJA, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, held their 14th annual NY benefit dinner: Headlines & Headliners last Thursday. As the guest of one of my former MAO judges, Marni Lemons, I went to the gala with the affiliation of PFLAG. Marni represented Eli Lilly and Company, one of the first major corporations to offer domestic-partner benefits in Indiana. The event was hosted by Soledad O'Brien and CNN. Last year's event raised over $160,000 for the NLGJA programs and scholarships. The great silent auction featured the original clothing that Sean Penn wore in the filming of the Oscar-award winning movie "MILK" -- that was pretty cool to see! Also a fun note, of course it was a networking event and we were meeting lots of people. One of whom says to me, 

Adam: So Daniel said you do pageants? One of my coworkers competed in a pageant here in NY about 2 weeks ago and got 1st Runner Up.

Claire - excited but confused:  No way....I did a pageant 2 weeks ago and I won! Amanda? (thinking Mason...)

Adam: Amanda Richie.

Claire: Ohhh, Amanda Richie! She was 2nd RU in the NY Sweeper and I was able to give her flowers in the awards! Small world!! Shout out to the 2nd RU Club!!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

VOTE for Miss America!!


Miss America 2009 Katie Stam is currently a finalist amongst notable figures in the world today such as President Obama, Pope Benedict XVI, Katie Couric and Oprah for Time Magazine's annual 100 Most Influential People List. The annual list asks the public to rate each candidate on their influence on the world. Those recognized fall in one of five categories: Leaders & Revolutionaries, Builders & Titans, Artists & Entertainers, Scientists & Thinkers, and Heroes & Icons. Within each category, the 20 most influential people are selected, for a grand total of 100 each year.


Ill give you a hint -- CLICK 10!! This is really exciting as Miss America strives to become more relevant and visible in the public eye and media. Katie's our chance!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Photographing Miss America for Indianapolis Monthly

Margo Wininger, Art Director of Indianapolis Monthly: "Would you be interested in photographing our 'Day in the Life of Miss America' story?"

Me: "YES!"


I had already planned on returning to Indianapolis for the Miss America Homecoming celebration in honor of Katie Stam, once Miss Indiana, no Miss America 2009!  And then I get this opportunity! [Thanks to Bridget Bobel, Michael Nash and Editor David Zivan] I arrived at the Statehouse around 1:00 to meet the writer, Daniel Comiskey, and photograph the "behind the scenes" moments of Katie meeting members of the House and Senate from the entire state, following her lunch and workout with the Governor.  One the Senate floor, she was presented with the Sagamore of the Wabash award, the highest distinction given by the Indiana Governor. 


After leaving the Statehouse, we went to the University of Indianapolis where Katie was interviewed by the school radio, television station and an additional documentary.  Not only was Katie home in Indianapolis, but she was home in the studio in which she had spent so much time during college, preparing herself for her career in broadcast journalism.  After a quick meeting with her advisor about - oh that little thing called graduating - we went to a reception where she was given a standing ovation and wonderful words from Beverly Pitts, the University President, and her academic advisor.  Katie was very touched by the reception and took that time at the podium to remind everyone that she is still just Katie, who yes, happens to be Miss America, but crown/pin/title/sash aside, she is just Katie.  A long line awaited Katie to personally greet and congratulate her, ending with her Miss Indiana successor and fellow UIndy grad, Megan Meadors -- and a big hug from me :)
We don't yet know what will be published, so take a look HERE.
P.S. It's not REALLY a cover story ... but we can wish, can't we?

Miss America Homecoming


For those who do not know, I was in Miss Indiana this past year, placing 2nd Runner Up to Katie Stam, who went on to become Miss America!! I was in Las Vegas to first-hand witness Katie's amazing journey of achieving her childhood dream of becoming Miss America. The week was one of the most inspiring and motivating weeks I have ever had!

March 5, I flew back to Indianapolis for Katie's Homecoming and the crowning of the new Miss Indiana. Talk about a fantastic weekend! I began by photographing Katie for Indianapolis Monthly Magazine on Thursday and picking up Miss California, Jackie Geist at the airport. Friday, I visited my college campus & favorite, irreplaceable hairstylist Bryce before picking up Leigh-Taylor Smith, Miss NY to head to the Homecoming rehearsals and show. I am loving getting to know this girl better - what an amazing [& absolutely hysterical] person! We arrived and were greeted by 10 other Miss America contestants and the rest of the Top 5 from Miss Indiana. Tech rehearsals, visiting with the girls, photos, and of course, FOOD.


For the program, it began with the video of Mario Lopez announcing that incredible moment...."Miss America 2009 is..... Miss Indiana, Katie Stam!!!" The moment was recreated as Katie rose from below the stage in her beautiful white evening gown, an arm full of roses and of course, the Miss America crown! She performed followed by performances by MAOT Taylor Fitch, MIOT Megan Thwaites and the Top 5 of Miss Indiana, during which I performed "Wonderful" -- in front of the Miss America girls. Quick change into evening gowns and the Top 5 as well as all the former Miss Indiana's stood on stage to witness the crowning of the new Miss Indiana, Megan Meadors. Megan, a very close friend, is the most deserving person of this title and job! SHE will be a Miss Indiana to remember!! People may look at Ashley, Katie, myself and Nicole and think we're nuts for passing up the crown, but it could not be more perfect. Katie performed with the princesses and then the Miss America contestants spoke and performed (IL, OK, UT, KY, AR, MI, TN, CA, FL, NY, IA) All are incredible, beautiful and talented women and it was SUCH a pleasure to get to know them a bit!


Performing in that company reminded me of my goal: to be Miss America. Having been a part of Katie's journey since the beginning of her involvement in MAO has made this goal attainable. The weekend made me so proud of the Miss Indiana Organization! Congratulations and Thank You to all who made the weekend possible!

After dinner with the "Pageant Posse" and hotel-hang-out time with the MA girls, I headed home at 2:00 AM only to leave at 5:15 AM for the airport on Saturday to return to my NY Sweeper interview. Let's just say - it was a difficult flight experience. The short of it - obviously with that kind of sleep, I didn't shower in the morning - which eventually found itself to be a mistake since my flight was delayed twice and then cancelled - got a new flight but I ended up getting ready (recurling my hair and redoing my makeup) at the airport, changing into my interview outfit and tennis shoes only to find my luggage didn't make it to NY, so I just ran straight to my Miss Manhattan/Metropolitan/GG interview, arriving with 5 1/2 min to spare in the last girl's interview!!! If I've learned anything in Miss America, it's BE PREPARED and BE FLEXIBLE!! I soared through the day and the weekend on the adrenaline from the Miss America Homecoming and the encouragement of all of the Miss America Contestants, especially my good friend, Katie Stam. A weekend to remember!!

LOTS OF PHOTOS!! [click the X to see the entire album]


Saturday, March 21, 2009

2009 New York Local Competitions

February 22, 2009:  Miss Brooklyn
This was the first NY local that I attended, and I was so excited!  I went to the pageant with Katie Martin [duh.] to watch my newly added Facebook friend, Keelie Sheridan.  Here, I also met '08 Top 10-er Melanie Hildebrandt, caught up with Leigh-Taylor and was able to truly meet Erin Kennedy, the new Miss NY Executive Director as well as LaToya Evans, Director of PR.  Miss NY OT Alexandra Mazzucchelli is an absolute delight and extremely talented!  After a wonderful pageant of both Miss and Teen contestants, Keelie Sheridan was named Miss Brooklyn 2009 and Melanie Gowrie is Miss Brooklyn's OT!  Congratulations girls!
March 1, 2009: Miss Westchester County . Miss Hudson Valley . Miss Suffolk County
Congratulations to Alyse Zwick, Miss Westchester County!  Katie Martin, Miss Hudson Valley!  And Marina Montes, Miss Suffolk County!   This was a fantastic weekend.  I really got to know some of the girls better and met even more new friends!  It had been a while since I competed, so it was wonderful to get back on stage and get geared up for this "pageant season."  Congratulations to the 3 winners and good luck in your preparation for Miss NY - I know we'll be seeing lots of each other :)
March 8, 2009:  Miss Manhattan . Miss Metropolitan . Miss Greater Gotham
I had already interviewed for this pageant, the NY Sweeper, but turns out I didn't get to compete in it!  Miss Jubilee ends - clear the auditorium [take lots of pics and eat something] then it's on to pageant #2 for the day! haha  As my first "appearance," I guess you could say, as Miss Jubilee, I was able to crown these next 3 [very tall] women!  Congratulations to Amanda Mason, Miss Metropolitan!  Inga Schlingmann, Miss Manhattan!  and Danielle Roundtree, Miss Greater Gotham!  I admire your stamina, Danielle and Amanda!   

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Miss Jubilee 2009 is . . . Claire Buffie!  Yay!!   

OK, so let's take a step back.  
Back in January, there was a workshop held for Miss Jubilee.  This was the first time I was able to really meet the NY girls, and it was fantastic!  Theresa Tokarowski, Miss Jubilee 2008, set the bar high for all of us who were planning to compete in Miss Jubilee!  I have to highlight that this was the first day I met Katie Martin, who I now either speak to or see....umm everyday.  Beyond the goal of becoming Miss New York and on to Miss America, one of the major reasons I wanted to compete in NY was to establish that community of people and begin building friendships with the impressive women of the Miss America Organization.  When you meet someone in this Organization, you know that you are investing in a fantastic, intelligent, goal-oriented, strong woman - the kind of people with whom I want to surround myself.  My closest friends [in life] have actually come from MAO, so I could not have been more thankful for or influenced by my involvement in this organization.
So the weekend of Miss Jubilee was finally here!  It also happened to be the weekend of two other big events - the NY Sweeper immediately following, and the Miss America Homecoming just one day before.  (More on that in the Miss America post...)  After an adventure all in its own, just getting to the Miss Manhattan/Metropolitan/Greater Gotham interview, I came home from the MA Homecoming to reorganize and get ready for the big day on Sunday.  With the enthusiasm and motivation from the homecoming weekend, I was all warmed-up and energized for my Miss Jubilee interview on Sunday morning.  A fantastic, well-rounded and very prepared set of five judges gave me an opportunity to talk about my platform "Straight for Equality: Promoting Acceptance Through Dialogue" and its relevance to today's youth as well as my genuine passion for this Organization.  Interview is my favorite part of the competition, and this particular interview ranks high on my list of favorites!
Miss Jubilee was probably the most organized and efficient pageant I have seen or been in.  No frills, we came right out to start things off in swimsuit.  All that work at my gym, Synergy, is paying off! Talent - contemporary lyrical dance to "Wonderful" by Annie Lennox - was great! I just LOVE that song!!  We'll see if I can find anything better for Miss NY.  Evening gown, now I was excited for this one.  Not only did the Miss America girls help me pick out my gown at the homecoming, I knew that when I turned around in this backless dress, I had a surprise!  Yipee! (Thank you, JJ/Lindsey Roscoe!) On-stage question might have been one of my most favorite moments on stage.  The judge looked me right in the eye and said "Religion and the Bible ... and this whole issue of human rights-- how do you talk about the two?"  THIS was my moment to shine.  People,  you can be a Christian and support gay rights.  I'm living proof that the two can coexist, and this is an important part of my message.  As I shared in my answer, if you want to go to the Bible for advice on how to live and strive towards equality, take Romans 12:18 into consideration, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  I rest my case.  At this point, I had completed each aspect of competition, and I felt as though I had done my absolute personal best - all I can ask for! 
What a crowning moment :)  So, I'm 5' 9" + 4" heels = 6' 1"    Theresa is 5' tall.   I'm sure you can picture and understand how there was a bit of difficulty in this experience!! But after being crowned a total of 3 times, we were all set, and I could not have been more excited!!  Thank you for ALL of the "Congratulations" and "Good Luck" messages via every form of communication :)  Keep the good vibes coming!! Onward and upward, here we come Miss New York!!  
Although my camera was broken, my mom took some pics! See them and more, HERE!

Visit this blog often to keep track of my journey towards my goal in June!