Miss America

To bear defeat with dignity, to accept criticism with poise, to receive honors with humility- these are marks of maturity and graciousness- William Arthur Ward

           Through my year as Miss Idaho, my actions, thoughts, and discipline have been inspired by a very powerful and phenomenal woman. In fact, she even has a poem titled, “Phenomenal Woman”. As a novelist, Girl Scout, human rights activist, survivor of poverty, poet, and

many other roles, she chose to look at life in the best light and find the beauty and joy in any given circumstance, no matter how intricate it may have been. There was no person in her eyes who wasn’t worth a smile, and there was no day that wasn’t worth going out and making the best of.
I mentioned a brief part of a quote of hers in one of my previous blogs, but I thought what better way to start off my blog this month than to share the whole quote.

“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.
I’ve learned that making a living is not the same things as making a life.
I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back.
I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug or just a friendly pat on the back.
I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
And my personal favorite part of this quote
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

So will people remember that I told them I was “One hot potato!” during my intro or my opinions on the war in Iraq, who I thought was to blame for foreclosure, or what I said my favorite Girl Scout cookie was? Will they remember that I was the one who got taken out at the bottom of the Las Vegas Airport’s escalator with Miss Georgia or my killer dance moves that I busted out on the Miss America stage? Will they remember that I sat in the “Loser’s Lounge” the final night?
Honestly, most likely not. Well, possibly the “hot potato” part, since then I’ve had that mentioned to me quite a few times! But they will remember the way they felt as I fulfilled my childhood dream of playing “Rhapsody in Blue” on the piano in front of thousands of people. Or the way they felt as they watched our beautiful Miss America, Laura Kaeppeler crowned as tears of joy ran down her face. I know there are several moments during my 10 days at Miss America that I will never forget how I felt. And it’s all because of 52 other amazing women, a wonderful national board, as well as my own state board and incredible friends and family who helped to make those 10 days some of the most exceptional days of my life.
So how does one sum up the 10 busiest days of their life? You don’t. But here’s my best shot at it!

I remember sitting in the Boise Airport rambling in a text to a friend about how nervous I was and what happened if I tripped and ate it on stage. That’s what I do when I get anxious, I ramble and think worst case scenario. Then, when sitting on the plane it took everything in me to not squeeze the man’s arm next to me and exclaim to him that I was going to be performing on the Miss America stage in just a few days. I felt like I had a secret that I wanted to tell the whole plane! I WAS GOING TO BE IN MISS AMERICA!

As soon as I landed, I walked out to get my luggage and saw Chris, one of our security guards. The excitement that I had been keeping in me bursted out as ran over to say hi and give him a big hug. I then met up with Michaela, Miss Georgia, and in our eagerness to catch up, we found ourselves piled up at the bottom of the airport escalator with Chris telling us “feet up ladies, feet up!” and trying to get our luggage out from underneath us so we could stand up.

We then headed to Planet Hollywood where we had our Express fittings for our onstage question dress and fashion show. There we had some tips on how to walk the runway and also had an interview with Parker, Jay, and Tony. I don’t remember much from that interview since it was the beginning of the week, but I do remember them asking what my secret talent was and me bringing up how I can whistle through my throat. Which of course they then wanted to see, and I thought for sure they would think I was a freak of nature! Instead we ended up all busting out laughing, not a bad kick off to the week!

We had our welcoming ceremony that afternoon in our Express business outfits and I was welcomed with a rose by Joshua Strickland. We then had a welcoming dinner with Sam Haskell, Art Mcmaster, Marc Angeli, and our producers. We have such a wonderful board. It meant so much that with 53 new women each year, Sam Haskell always greeted me with the warmest smile and called me by my name, not just my state. With that many women around, we all either go by nicknames (mine being Spud, or Hot Potato) or by our state names.
It’s actually kind of a weird transition to go out into the real world and respond to your name after the week is done. And Marc always made sure to converse with everyone and get to know each of us and how we were feeling about everything. That’s a board that truly cares about their organization which makes for a exceptional experience.

The end of our first busy day quickly approached and off we went.
My roommate was the lovely Miss Arkansas, Kristen Glover. We got along great, though we didn’t get along with our shower too well. It took us all week to figure out the perfect timing of getting a hot shower, I think we realized if you wait about 7 minutes the shower stayed hot for about 45 seconds. We got really good at washing our hair under the faucet in the bath tub after that.

We had great hostesses who kept our hostess suite stocked with the essentials (bananas, greek yogurt, toast, a hug when you needed one, I felt right at home!) And some wonderful security guards Rodney and Chris who made sure we were never put in an uncomfortable position and even were up at 5:30 am every morning to work out with us. There were a couple of mornings Chris met me halfway through the hall as I put on my shoes running to the escalator. He said if we signed up, he would come banging on our door to make sure we actually made it to the gym. Where were you the last 6 months I’ve been training, I would have never missed a cardio morning!

The next couple of days consisted of learning choreography and walking patterns with Stacey and Brian, who even helped choreograph for Michael Jackson, Justin Beiber (who would have thought that those two names would have been in the same sentence!) and many more. They made it so much fun, not a single rehearsal was super stressful or dry though they were all quite the work out!
Sunday was amazing, well, not the waking up at 5 am to get ready for a day of traveling all over Vegas to film our final night opening number for parade of states. The whole day we went to places that had been closed down exclusively for us to dance, it was like having a Miss America Flash Mob all over Vegas.
Places like the Bellagio Fountains, Palms Ghost Bar (which had the best view of the mountains and all of Vegas, Freemont, Le Rêve at the Wynn, and finally ended up late that evening at the top of the Cosmopolitan which is the most beautiful hotel with its crystal chandeliers.

We also had an IHop breakfast with the Children’s Miracle Network where we got to sit down with some of the children and learned the art behind the perfect pancake, had dinner at Buca di Beppo and got to dip our hands in marinara sauce to be part of their “Hollywood Walk of Fame”, watched an amazing performance of the Phantom, and got to be in the Express Fashion show at Fashion Show Mall. We also got to do interviews with Artistry by Amway and have makeovers done by people from all over the world, one man was even from Africa! It was refreshing to be able to converse with people outside the pageant world and hear about all of their experiences traveling with their occupations and the people that they have worked with. Hopefully working with the Miss America contestants has been one for their books as well!

We got to do commercial shoots as well throughout the week with production. My favorite place was Serendipity’s, probably because Serendipity is one of my all time favorite movies, and I have the biggest sweet tooth known to mankind. We were presented with their treasure chest dessert, an $88 dessert with a chocolate chest that opened up to cheesecake, ice cream, fruits, cookies, and every other sweet you can imagine. It was, to die for. Or at least worth giving up a swimsuit preliminary award! Wait, Miss Texas and I devoured that thing and she still won swimsuit! Guess that goes against “you are what you eat”, or just shows how many calories we really were burning running all over Vegas!

Monday marked the start of interview for the Mu group and I was contestant number 9. Despite the late evening we had the previous day, I was determined to start my day of interview on the right foot! So up I was, getting my run in early that morning trying to calm my nerves and catch up on any last minute current events to make me feel as confident as I could going into my interview. I wore an Antonio Melani black interview dress with a high collar and modern belt. The best part about my outfit, the shoes of course! I wore my favorite shoe designer Vince Camuto who happened to name the shoes “Genevieve”.
It doesn’t get more perfect than that! 30 minutes prior to your interview, you are dispersed into different rooms and halls so you aren’t interacting with any other contestants and have quiet time to yourself. Well, with 30 minutes one has an awful lot of time to think! I always bring a Time Magazine so my thoughts can’t wander, my notebook of people I’ve met and stories I have from my year, pictures of people and things that remind me who I am and why I am where I am today, as well as notes from friends and family and some of the girls in my self-esteem workshops. Do I have time to read all of these? No, but just knowing that they are there makes me feel centered and in control of how I feel.
Typically I still feel slightly anxious and as if someone else is in my body, but after reading some of my notes I felt suddenly at peace with everything.

It’s like I had an epiphany right before I went into interview. I have made it, I’m here representing a state that I absolutely love and even more so, I am here representing the best me that I can be.
I am confident in my actions and the potential that I have to be a great “me” no matter what role I’m fulfilling. I am going to walk into that interview making 6 new friends, and those 6 new friends are either going to think that I am the best person for this job, or they are going to think “Gosh, we sure did love talking with that Miss Idaho. Bring her back for more laughs and chit chat!” (That’s what was going on in my mind at least!) As soon as I walked into that room I felt at ease and as if I really was just having a conversation. Chris Powell started off poking fun at me for Boise State beating his Arizona State boys and asked me to apologize for them! I told him I wasn’t about to start this interview off with a rivalry but I also wasn’t about to turn on my Bronco boys, I had them all laughing with in the first 15 seconds of walking into the room and I don’t think we stopped. Was it the most difficult interview I’ve had? No, but I felt like I walked in there as “Genevieve Nutting” and was myself through the whole interview.
Lara Spencer had the most drilling questions, which I loved. Chris Powell was genuinely interested in his job and really did his homework; I loved every question he asked me. But the one person who I was really surprised by was Kris Jenner, a woman who I hope to someday run into again and have a conversation with. I felt like out of everyone, she was the most conversational and real. With each word I said she would nod, smile, and respond with an in depth question. I also found out that she was a Girl Scout leader and that it was one of her proudest accomplishments. I felt rest assured that this panel of judges was going to find us a marvelous woman to be Miss America, and they didn’t fail that thought!

Tuesday marked the first evening of preliminaries. I had onstage question where I was asked about how Girl Scouts helps to develop confidence in girls. I answered by talking about how Girl Scouts will be celebrating their 100th year anniversary (March 12!) and how even after 100 years they have still stayed relevant with keeping up with girls wants, interests, challenges they face, and their needs through the Girl Scout Research Institute. I talked about the badges, awards, and projects girls can work on to learn about respecting themselves and others, gain leadership skills, give back to the community, go outside their comfort zone, and they do all of this is an atmosphere where they are surrounded by positive role models so they feel comfortable to express themselves and develop into strong, confident young women. I felt pretty great about my answer and had a blast saying my intro, “From Idaho, you better believe I’m one hot potato! I’m Miss Idaho, Genevieve Nutting.”

I loved going to visitation each night. I was so blessed to have friends and family from all over the country come out to support me. The nice thing about competing in this system for so long is that you get to know people from all over the country who have previously been your judges. It was a blast to see some of my judges all the way back to nearly 5 years ago when I did my first state competition. We had so much fun reminiscing and it was the best feeling to still have their love and support.
I also got to meet Tony Bowls, the designer of my beautiful evening gown who was so sweet and helpful in making the most beautiful dress! Of course two of my absolute favorite people to run into are David and Carry from Regalia, they never fail to bring a good laugh and make you feel like you already won the Miss America crown. They helped me to find a beautiful cobalt blue gown to play for my talent piece and I felt absolutely angelic playing in it.

Wednesday was my fun day of competition, but also the busiest because I had to do swimsuit and evening gown. One would think that would be an easy day, because all you have to do is walk right? On the contrary, there is a huge thought process that goes into it. You have to walk with enough energy, but not too much that you look like you are all over the place. Smile, not trip down the stairs, flex every muscle possible, spin and make it look smooth and like you do this every day, pose, not slip on the stage, remember to breath, oh, and make it look like this is just natural and doesn’t require any thought behind it. We walked out to Pitbull’s “Pause” which made for a fun beat that added much energy, this week it came on while I was running and I couldn’t help but add an extra little bounce in my step!
Evening gown is the moment where you just soak everything in. Once you make it down the stairs (I think after this week I will have officially developed a phobia of steps and escalators) it is your moment. We walked out to Coldplay’s “Paradise”, a very powerful and moving song. Well, when you add all the adrenaline going through you and a song as powerful as that and then you look down at Kris Jenner and Teri Polo and they are beaming back at you with the most genuine smiles, it provokes some deep emotions! I remember talking to my good friend, Miss Kentucky after she finished evening gown in a beautiful Heather French Henry dress and she said “I just bawled my eyes out in front of Kris Jenner!” I remember hugging her and thinking “I’m going to keep it together when I’m on stage”, well in those 40 seconds that I was on stage, it was like the last 5 years of my experience competing flashed through my mind and I felt so overwhelmed with the fact that I was finally walking on the Miss America stage.
Needless to say, emotions got the best of me, and cliché pageant girl came out! I have to say, it was funny to look out at the judges and see Mark Ballas grooving in his seat and tapping his pen to the beat of Paradise. You can take the dancer out of the dance, but you can’t take the dancing and grooving out of the dancer. I’m surprised he didn’t jump out of his seat and bust a move on stage!

Each night, Miss Indiana and I would brainstorm intro ideas, that was probably the funniest thing during rehearsals was to hear the intro’s each state would come up with. Washington and Nebraska had me laughing so hard I could hardly catch my breath! I’m just glad they went after me! Kayla, you really did “Git errr done!”, Miss Congeniality! And Washington, thanks for getting me addicted to Starbucks coffee this week…“Your Welcome!” My intro Wednesday night was “Whether you call them potatoes or potahtoes, you can call me Miss Idaho, Genevieve Nutting!” Though all the girls were convinced that I should say “This potato is now accepting applications for her Mr. Potato”. I think that was the point of the week where we were all starting to get delirious from lack of sleep.

Thursday was the final night of preliminaries and I was performing my talent, “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin on the piano. I felt like my intro for the evening was appropriate for my talent by saying “From the first state to use atomic energy to light up their towns, I’m here to light up this stage tonight. I’m Miss Idaho, Genevieve Nutting!”Now I love my stage crew back home (Monae and Matt, you have been my lifesavers so many times!) but I have to say the Miss America stage crew was absolutely wonderful. Talent evening I am a nervous wreck backstage, I remember pacing backstage and talking about some football game with one of the crew members. I just kept jib jabbing about a team I wasn’t even familiar with, anything to keep my mind off my nerves!
Chris was definitely my favorite though and was so helpful, always made sure the train on my dress lay just right, held my rings for me that I had forgotten to take off before going onstage, and also helped to calm my nerves more than ever. As I was preparing to walk on stage he asked me “What’s your name? Where are you from? What are you going to do tonight?” I just sat there and looked at him blankly. I couldn’t even tell him my name! I took a few deep breathes and finally was able to translate and relay back to him what he had just asked me. “There, now you are focused!” he said laughing. I walked out to the piano and took everything in. I looked up at the lights, out into the audience, I looked at the way the chiffon on my dress flowed, and at how beautiful the stage looked with its silver beading and bright blue backdrop.
Let me back track a little bit to explain why this minute and a half was so essential for me to soak in. When I was 8-years-old, I went to my very first piano recital. I remember sitting there, my little feet dangling over the chair and swinging back and forth as I listened, completely awestruck, to the most beautiful and complex piece I had ever heard. I told my mom I wanted to play it, so we went right over to the music store. Well, that piece was “Rhapsody in Blue”, and when the lady brought the sheet music over to me she brought the abridge version.
I told her I wanted the full piece, so she brought me back the 31 page piece and told me when I learned to play it, to come back and perform it for her. I then made it my goal that one day, I would perform that piece on a stage in front of others. 14 years later, I was sitting down to a Steinway grand piano in my one shouldered, stunning beading across the back Tony Bowls gown. I had just laid the long wisps of chiffon that draped over my one shoulder and off of the back of the piano bench.
Chris sat there and waited for me to get situated, checked to make sure the lighting was just right on the piano keys, and gave me a smile as he said “This is your moment, enjoy this and show them everything you have worked so hard for.” Suddenly all my nerves vanished and it was like I was performing and that little 8-year-old mini me was sitting there, grinning ear to ear in happiness. When I finished, I stood up and just basked in the state of bliss that I felt. I have never felt more proud, than I did at that moment. I walked off the stage, no tears this time, but just a feeling of satisfaction and joy.

Two of the highlights from that week were the day of the press release where they announced the Fourpoints Scholarship Winner as well as the Quality of Life Finalist. I was called into the press conference along with Miss New Hampshire, Miss Michigan, and Miss Kentucky. They announced myself as the Fourpoints winner, which is given to the contestant who embody’s what the fourpoints of the crown mean- Service, Style, Success, Scholarship and practice it in their lifestyle. I felt so honored to be selected for that award after filling out pages of paperwork and essays.
Because I truly believe that it’s not about simply wearing the crown, but truly knowing what it means to wear the crown. My gracious and beautiful friend Miss Kentucky was awarded the Quality of Life for her dedication to her platform Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness. I couldn’t have been more proud of her as she walked on that stage to be given her award. That’s one thing I love most about this organization is the passion and genuine desire to make a difference in our communities.

The other highlight was the day Teresa Scanlan, the previous Miss America, came into our room before getting ready the final night of preliminaries. She talked to us about how only one of us will be Miss America, but we all have what it takes to be Miss America. We all have something special to give and we are all here for a reason. Then she gave us the most meaningful and thoughtful gift. We opened up a little red jewelry box to see a tiny rhinestone on a silver necklace.
She told us each rhinestone was a part of her crown, and that each of us is a part of the crown. I couldn’t believe anyone could be so thoughtful as to give up part of their crown, and the meaning behind that. I wore my necklace the whole night of the finals and have worn it almost every day since. It’s one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever been given by one of the most beautiful people inside and out. Teresa definitely left her mark in a positive way and will be looked up to by many for years to come for her hard work, drive, and the way she stayed true to her ideas and who she was.

Friday was a bizarre day; you rehearse and go to a nice dinner where you meet all the sponsors and directors from across the country. But the whole time all you can think about is Saturday night. The top 15 has already been chosen, and at that point there is nothing you can do but just wait to see what happens.

Saturday finally came, but unlike Friday, I wasn’t anxious. I knew whatever was meant to be would be. I had my friends and family there to support me and to look forward to seeing afterwards and I knew either way, they would be proud of me. Backstage, my group of girls all held hands as we gave each other pep talks. I talked to the girls about how proud I was of all of us and how blessed I felt to be in such a high caliber group of women. I then told them that whoever won Miss America has the most amazing year ahead of them, and as for the rest of us, we each have incredible states to go back and represent. States that love us and couldn’t be more proud of the work that we did. We had a quick dress change after opening number (2 minutes is not a lot of time to completely switch outfits!) before we headed out for the top 15 announcement.
I didn’t hear my name called (well, at least not out loud, though I was ever so hopeful that I would be the first Miss Idaho in 40 years to break the curse of not making it into the finals night!) The remaining 38 contestants who weren’t called all sat in what they call the “losers lounge”. I don’t know if it was more difficult to not have any private time to get your feelings together and come to terms with what just happened or have to sit on stage for an hour in a lounge called “loser lounge” that had no back support, trying to keep a perpetual smile on your face. All I know is, luckily I had stuck some Milky Way’s and Twix bars in the back of my pants pocket which Kentucky and I devoured and thanks to Express, we all looked awesome on stage in our sparkly tanks and skinny jeans!

So here is what I’ve learned during my week at Miss America.
I’ve learned that no matter what the outcome of your goal may be, it’s about what you have learned and how you have grown along the way. It’s about the people who you meet, and the impact that they have on your life in return.

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things:
Waking up at the crack of dawn for a full day ahead of you and looking like you are ready to step out on the red carpet while dancing in 5 inch stilettos all across Las Vegas in frigid weather….running off a mere 5 hours of sleep and 3 cups of Starbucks Coffee.
A collision at the bottom of a busy escalator while in those darn 5 inch stilettos again.
Not just a bad hair day, but a bad false eye lash day, a bad crown day, and a bad butt glue day.

I’ve learned that regardless of your state’s political relationship with another state, that doesn’t mean that you won’t end up being the best of friends with that Miss State. I’ve learned that sometimes you only have one chance, so you better make the best of that chance and look back with nothing but smiles and no regrets.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life taking short strides and fear falling on life’s stage, you should go out there with all the confidence in the world and own that stage every second you are on it.
I’ve learned that whenever I go into something being the best “me” I can be, I usually walk away with the best experiences, the best friendships, and the best memories from it, with no regrets.

I’ve learned that even when my feet are in massive pain from those darn stilettos, not even all the pain killers in the world can make them feel better. Sometimes the best option is to just pull out the comfy tennis shoes.

I’ve learned that Aerosmith isn’t the only one who can give me goose bumps when they sing “Dream On”, a beautiful lady in Missouri could give them a run for their money! I’ve learned that as long as you have your BOISE STATE fleece blanket (thanks mom and dad!), you can take a cat nap anywhere at any given moment….yes, even under massive bright lights on a stage where you will be performing on that evening.

I’ve learned that I have 52 couches I can crash on if I ever find myself stranded in some part of the country, or just looking for a vacation away from home! I’ve also learned I’m going to have a rather difficult time deciding where to go first on Spring Break; Disney World, the lovely beaches of Hawaii, the land of the Huskers, or pack up my finest hat for a trip to the Derby.

I’ve learned that every day you should share a fortune cookie with someone. People love to have a good message delivered from someone who can make them smile or laugh so hard they start crying.

I’ve learned that you don’t have to win the crown, to embody what it takes to wear the crown.
Thank you so much to everyone who made my week as enjoyable and memorable as it was. To the Miss America Class of 2012, you are the most amazing sisters that god forgot to give us initially and I am so blessed to consider you all dear friends of mine. If you ever find yourself in the beautiful state of “Hot Potatoes”, don’t hesitate to give your Spud a call! Love you all and God Bless you with the rest of your year and with whatever may come to you in the future.

So I leave you all with two quotes that I think are suitable for our week we spent together

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.” Zig Ziglar

and one that I think we all can relate to!

“If you think back and replay your year, if it doesn’t bring you tears either of joy or sadness, consider it wasted.”- Ally McBeal

Much love and hugs,

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