Sunday, August 30, 2009

Atlanta's Apparel Mart Modeling - Claire's Collection

Did you know you can die from trying on clothes? I didn’t realize it until I tried on pageant gowns for four days straight. Claire’s Collection gowns are custom-made with the most intricate beading and design imaginable. Their showroom at the market was a little different than most, as gowns were shown by private appointment, which meant I would try on all 120 gowns if the buyer wanted that. Most only wanted 20 to 30 of their favorites tried on, and of course, would discuss design changes and additions to make each gown unique for their client. As you might imagine, I quickly ascertained which gowns were my favorite, and was thrilled to design and order my Miss America evening gown!

I cannot thank Jane Engelke from Elizabeth Michaels enough for all she's also done for me. She introduced me to Daniel two years ago, and she has made certain I have all the best clothes to wear - plus I love having her and her mom as my friend!

It was fun to see several other Miss America contestants there. Miss Massachusetts and Miss Indiana were modeling with Tony Bowls, Miss Florida and Pennsylvania were there on behalf of Jovani, and shopping through the week, I saw Miss Virginia, Miss South Carolina, Miss Louisiana and Miss Tennessee. Joe Whiteko stopped in to take some photographs, and several of the other models wanted to try on my gown and sash, so here is my "mob" video!

Daniel gave me the day off on Sunday to shop for my Miss America wardrobe – what a day! I met some of the neatest designers who were willing to let me try on th
eir creations, and some of them even gave me clothes for free – so exciting! The most exciting part of the day came near the end of the day when we were feeling very pressed for decisions. I had tried on several things from a designer called Musani and absolutely LOVED everything I put on. Par to the course, their clothing was very upscale and expensive, which I’m sure is why I wanted it all! I had promised the Musani folks that I would make a decision on what I thought I might be able to purchase by late afternoon. When I went back to their showroom, the designer had UNBELIEVABLE news for me! He has a show in New York City next month, and in between my trying on and coming back, he had fired his model and wanted to hire me and become a sponsor by giving me free clothing – woohoo!!!! I’m off to The Big Apple!

Truly, becoming Miss West Virginia has been so far above and beyond what I could have ever dreamed – God is so good to me, I cannot thank Him enough for his blessings!

Dinner with Kyle Maynard

To top off this exhausting day, we had the best evening ever having dinner with Kyle Maynard, the congenital amputee that was a wrestling champion in the state of Georgia. Kyle has agreed to partner with me in my school tour to help me emphasize the message that you can accomplish anything no matter what life situation you are in. I am SO EXCITED about meeting him and telling his story. He picked us up in his vehicle, took Mom and I to Ted’s Restaurant in downtown Atlanta, where we talked and shared until midnight. He is amazing! Remind me never to complain again!

Off to Atlanta - Airport Fiasco

Tuesday morning began the “trip from you know where.” Whoever said travel is glamorous and exciting hasn’t traveled with us! The problem was: We bought too many bargains, I was given too many nice things as a contestant and had nowhere to pack them to get on the plane to Atlanta. We get this bright idea that we’ll just pack up what we can in a box and ship it home so we don’t have to fool with it (or pay for an extra baggage claim). Finding a box was a challenge, but once we got it, we rolled clothes and packed that baby tight as a drum. Feeling very proud of ourselves, we get up early, give ourselves an extra hour to drop the box off and drop our rental car. We plugged the Post Office address into the GPS, and off we went – and went – and went – and went – around and around in circles in the same area for an hour trying to find that “invisible” post office. Gave up and came up with Plan 2: We’ll call UPS and arrange for a pickup at the rental car company. We spend time getting that accomplished while speeding to the airport and missing every turn possible, fearing we’re going to miss our flight, but making it in time to just screech through the rental checkout, drop the box and jump on the plane.

We truly are not world travelers, obviously, because if we were, we would have thought through that little “leaving an unoccupied box at an airport” scenario and realized there was no way they were letting us do that. On top of learning that our box would be accompanying us everywhere we went, we learned we had come to the wrong terminal of the airport and we needed to walk about a half a mile to get to the correct place. Paid an extra $55.00 to check out bags and box, and took off at a run. When we get to the gate, we learn that our plane has been delayed, which was a good thing, because somewhere in this crazy mess of a day, I had lost my cell phone. I took off in search of it, and was able to find it 45 minutes later back at the beginning of the trek!

By the time we got on the plane, we were exhausted and wondering what we were thinking! When we arrive in Atlanta, gather up our luggage (picture this: each of us with one huge suitcase, two travel bags hanging off of each arm, one small suitcase, a LARGE box, and two purses) – when we get to the taxi stand, the guy takes one look at us and says there’s no way we’ll fit in the car, so he makes us wait to get a taxi big enough for all of our junk. We had intended to ride the subway in to the hotel to save money, but by that point, we didn’t care what it cost – we were getting rid of that box (and the fourteen other bags!) When we arrive at the hotel – guess what – NO LUGGAGE CARTS! Three trips later, our stuff is stowed away and we are ready for our market adventure.

Saturday – MAO Teen Pageant Finals!

This morning, each of the contestants taped a minute-long promo commercial for “Being Green in Beautiful with GreenT,” one of the sponsors of the Miss America organization. We each had to come up with an eco-friendly tip based on personal experience. That was easy for me, as my grandma has washed aluminum foil and plastic bags my whole life, and if any of us throw anything away that could have been washed up, we feel guilty!

Mom and I had lunch with Leah Summers, WV’s Executive Director, and Jen Garten, WV’s Outstanding Teen Executive Director. Good times, lots of laughs, and great food! Saturday night was the final pageant for the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, and as promised, it was a showstopper. I sure am glad I wasn’t a judge. At the end of the night, Miss WV’s Outstanding Teen, Jackie Riggleman, received the Community Service Award, and Miss Wisconsin’s Outstanding Teen was crowned the winner. We are so proud of Jackie, as her award highlights the most important part of the Miss America organization, giving back – way to go, Jackie!
Sunday and Monday, Mom and I rested and shopped at the outlets. I have never tried on so many things in such a short period of time in my life. Neiman Marcus and Saks had outlets there, and their clearance racks were actually affordable, so we spent a good bit of time looking for cocktail dresses and things I might need in January. By Monday night, we both were so exhausted, we could hardly walk.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

MAO Fundraiser

Last night, we went to a marvelous estate owned by a couple who have been profitable in time shares. The wife was a previous model, now married to a man 40 years her senior. They have seven children. Their home was 25,000 square feet, and the new home they are building will be 90,000 square feet. There was food from all kinds of different restaurants, and we were able to tour some of their home, which included separate suites for their children and their nannies. Certainly a far cry from what we in West Virginia are used to!

Enjoyed my time with the girls - sat with David Lang and Gary O'Neal of Regalia who own an amazing shop that specializes just in pageantry. I always love time spent with these guys!

We ended off the evening by all the contestants dancing (Electric Slide, etc.) while everyone watched! Tomorrow morning is Miss America orientation, then the final night of the Miss Teen pageant. These teens are TOTALLY AMAZING, so it will be a hard pick, I'm sure!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Miss America's Outstanding Teen - Last Prelim Night

Last night, we went to Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant (which, unbelievably, mom and I went to for lunch just two short hours before) - but it was great, so no biggie! Anyway, entertained everyone at dinner with my famous WV bowlers story and they all got a big laugh out of that.

After dinner, we proceeded to the MAO Teen pageant for the last night of preliminaries. California and Rhode Island won last night's awards, and Jackie Riggleman, our Miss WV Teen, looked awesome in evening gown. I sat by Miss Maryland, Oklahoma and Arkansas and had a great evening.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Miss America Photo Op and Meet and Greet

5:30 came very early! The humidity, even at 7:00 a.m., has us all drenched in sweat. We took a photo shoot in the pool (which, by the way, was as hot as the humid air!) My group doesn't have interviews today, so I'm off to the mall until a dinner this evening. Love meeting these girls!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Miss America's Oustanding Teen Prelim 2

The talents were outstanding! I was mesmerized by each contestant's ability to capture the audience in their performance. The talent phase started out with “Angelical Cat” from CATS and her costume was amazing! She was so agile and added in dance, gymnastics and theatre into her routine. From there it just got even better. Jackie Riggleman, Miss WV’s Outstanding teen, performed a captivating lyrical dance to “Butterfly Kisses.” She made me and WV so proud! California’s OT ended up winning the talent portion with her Ballet en Pointe and New Jersey's OT won evening gown. Both very deserving!

I sat by Miss Maryland and we had a blast exchanging comments and excitement for the teen contestants.

Universal Studies with Miss America Contestants - Wednesday

Met all the Miss America contestants this morning and spent the day at Universal Studios with them - had a blast! Well, make that a HOT, SWEATY blast! I had to wear jeans (yes, EVERYONE ELSE had on shorts) because the bugs made a feast on my legs from Tyler's wedding, so needless to say, I was not the freshest face or body in the bunch! Had fun anway, made some new friends, and am anxious to attend the teen pageant this evening. Jackie Riggleman, Miss WV's Outstanding Teen, is doing a fabulous job representing our state, and I am so excited for her!

Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant and Miss America Taping - Tuesday

Tuesday was a crazy day, making sure I had everything I'd need for the next two weeks, trying to fit it all into ONE under-50-pound bag (can anyone say WRINKLES??), getting out the door and on the plane! Once we arrived in Orlando, we checked into the hotel, went to Wal-Mart for food, literally fell into bed!

WV Nazarene District Camp

Traveled to Summersville, WV on Monday evening to speak at the WV Nazarene Campground. This campground is where I always went to church camp as a child, had some of my earliest spiritual decisions made around that altar, and "family camp" in August is a family tradition where we all go to get revived, rested and fed by Grandma's great food. With my partnership with Massey Energy, I have the opportunity to speak to churches around the state recruiting for foster and adoptive families, so I wanted to approach my Nazarene churches with that opportunity. I spoke a few minutes about what my presentation would involve, and I took the "Heart Gallery" of children available for adoption to leave at the camp all week, in hopes that someone there may fall in love with one of them.

Cherry River Parade and Festival, Richwood, WV

Hopped up early Saturday morning after the wedding to head to Richwood for the Cherry River Festival. Their parade was well-attended and fun, and their festival was great also. Thanks to Michael Rader for being such a good, good friend and for inviting me!

My brother, Tyler Markham's wedding

Friday night was my brother Tyler's wedding, so I spent the week helping cook, decorate and organize. The wedding was outdoors, so we were worried about the weather, but God cooperated and it was absolutely beautiful! Check out their wedding video (we danced down the aisle - it was a blast)! One of the people from our church said their wedding made hers look like a funeral. Am tickled to death to have a new sister, Molli Markham, and I know she and Tyler will be very happy!

Mannington District Fair

Headed to Mannington for their big August event, the Mannington District Fair. My previous pastor and his family have moved to Mannington Nazarene Church, so I was excited to see them and their children, Jaden and J.T. I wasn't sure what to expect, but wasn't disappointed - their fair had all the best West Virginia celebrations all have: Good food, entertainment, and of course, the friendliest people in the country!

Hatfield-McCoy Football Game, Matewan, WV

I was invited by Massey Energy to crown their queen at the annual Hatfield-McCoy Football Game at Matewan, WV, which is near Williamson, WV, if you're not familiar with Matewan. This game has been sponsored by Massey for 14 years, and the players are the best high school seniors from WV and Kentucky in the border counties there. The weather was perfect, and the game was intense - another neat tradition in West Virginia! Each of the homecoming queens from the partipating schools vie for the title of Miss Hatfield-McCoy, and I was there to crown the winner. Katelynn Colegrove was the lucky girl of the evening, and all the girls were beautiful and nice as can be.

One of the biggest treats of the night was being invited to stay at the Massey cabin. "Cabin" is a misnomer, as it's more like a country castle! We arrived there in the afternoon and were greeted by these three HUGE dogs, one of them the Beethoven dog with slobber dripping from his jowls, which he got all over mom's white pants! We didn't know whether to get out of the car or not, but when we did, they sure showed they weren't guard dogs! They were all over us.

The housekeeper showed up shortly after to let us in, and what a sweetheart she was! She had cleaned this monster place spic-n-span, stocked it with every food imaginable - talk about the royal treatment! There were five bedrooms, four baths, all spacious and comfortable, fireplaces in almost every bedroom, and two huge great rooms to relax in. There was also another cabin that had a fitness center, raquetball court, pinball machines, pool tables, etc., etc., another full kitchen. There were several "stuffed" animals around the cabin, including a rattlesnake attacking a mouse, an albino deer, and a true bearskin rug (complete with head attached) as a rug in my bedroom! I was afraid I'd get up in the night, trip over that head, get my feet caught in the teeth and go berserk - I started to put it under the bed, but I took my chances and made it through! Never wanted to leave!