Who will be the next Miss Vail Valley
VAIL – To find your fruit, you must go out on a limb. Former beauty queen Nicole Whitaker lives by the motto. “The only way you can succeed is by doing so,” said the 27-year-old Utah native, who credits much of her life’s success to competing in pageants in her youth. “In Utah, it’s just a thing girls do.” Whitaker, who wants girls in the Vail Valley to have the same opportunities she had, will host the first Miss Vail Valley pageant in October. “The connections it has given me have helped me to pursue the career of my dreams,” Whitaker said, who, along with earning thousands of dollars in scholarships to put toward her college education, which she had to pay for all on her own, has made lifelong relationships through competing. “I love to see a girl who somewhat believes in herself but doesn’t think her dreams are fully obtainable. I love to show her that these dreams are reachable – and you don’t even have to win.”If eight girls commit to the competition, Whitaker will be able to crown Miss Snow Country in addition to Miss Vail Valley. The winner(s) will be awarded $3,000 in scholarship money and would go on to compete in Miss Colorado in 2007 and from there, Miss America.The first attendant will receive $1,000; the second attendant will win $500; Miss Congeniality and the talent winner will be awarded $250; and Miss Photogenic will receive a professional portrait of herself.When Renee Crouch, 18, heard about the scholarship money, she signed up right away. “I really need the money for college,” said the recent Battle Mountain High School graduate who will attend the Colorado Christian University for vocal performance in the fall.
But it’s not just about the money, Crouch said, she’s always wanted to be in a pageant. “Getting together with all the girls. It sounds like fun.”Eighteen-year-old Megan Brooks said she’s also looking for money for school, but she sees it as a good way to interact with the valley one last time before going to college. The 2006 Battle Mountain graduate will attend the University of Colorado in the fall and will join the CU Express Dance Team. “Growing up in the Vail Valley, all I’ve seen is sports and more sports, not anything like pageants,” she said.Brooks is attending orientation Wednesday to decide if she is interested in competing.Lauren Prewitt, 17, has decided to trade in her uniform for an evening gown, also enticed to earn some money for school. “I’m usually on a basketball court or on a field somewhere. I’ve always been the athlete, the daddy’s girl, the team captain,” Prewitt said, who will attend Colorad State University in the fall. “It will be a different transition to be doing my hair and wearing a dress, but it’ll be fun. I’m excited.”
Contestants are judged in four categories: talent, evening wear, swimwear and interview, just like Miss Colorado and Miss America. The judges will not be local because the community is so small, Whitaker said.Leading up to the pageant Whitaker and assistant director Natalie Carneal will work with the girls to help them prepare for the four-part competition.”Talent,” Whitaker said, “is an area that freaks a lot of girls out. If they’re willing enough to get on stage and daring enough to do it, we can help them.”The evening wear competition is not so much about how the girl looks as it is about presence and how a girl carries herself. “Judges are instructed to look for grace, poise and posture,” Whitaker said. You don’t have to have the best body to win the swimwear competition. “Judges want to know, does she work out? Does she take care of her body?”In Whitaker’s opinion, it’s the interview that’s the most important part of the pageant. “This is your personal time to shine and really be yourself. I tell girls to laugh and smile a lot.”Brooks will dance for the talent contest and isn’t as nervous for the eveningwear and swimwear competitions because she’s used to performing based on appearance, she said. The question part of the process is what makes Brooks most nervous.”If I’m in front of a lot of people and I’m put on the spot without rehearsing, my mind goes blank,” she said. “Dance is very similar but you’re usually in a group. The question is different because it’s about you. You’re judged on yourself.”Brooks hasn’t decided if she will compete, but she’s going to the orientation Wednesday “with an open mind.”
Miss America is not what is used to be, Whitaker said. Last year at Miss Colorado, one of the contestants demonstrated how to prepare for a mountain biking excursion for her talent. “Miss America’s still class, intelligence, articulate and pursues charitable dreams but she’s a woman of the new millennium.”Pageants today also focus a lot more on charitable work than they once did. Each Miss Vail Valley contestant must choose a platform or a charitable cause that they support throughout the competition. The present Miss America, for example, supports Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The girls will also be responsible for raising funds for the pageant production as well as the scholarship fund. Whitaker hopes to raise a minimum of $12,000 through various fundraising projects including a fashion show, car wash and contestant calendar in which the contestants would participate.In addition to a platform, each girl will be asked to find a local business to sponsor them for the pageant. The sponsor will pay the girl’s $100 entry fee and from then on be known by the business sponsoring them, such as “Miss Vail Daily.”Whitaker doesn’t want girls to be discouraged by the cost of the pageant because it shouldn’t cost a lot, she said, and she’s willing to help every step of the way. She even has a wardrobe full of dresses she’s willing to lend, sell, or let the girl’s alter. “Just remember one thing,” Whitaker said. “It’s not how much you spend on a dress, it’s the person inside of the dress that counts.”Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached 748-2939 or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado