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And the tiara goes to...

Beauty pageant competitions take commitment

 by Leah Duran
 published on Thursday, October 12, 2006

Journalism sophomore Carly Campo was crowned Miss Washington County in her home state of Idaho last summer. /issues/arts/698229
Jeremiah Armenta / STATE PRESS MAGAZINE
Journalism sophomore Carly Campo was crowned Miss Washington County in her home state of Idaho last summer.
 

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Wearing a pageant crown requires more than balancing a tiara on perfectly placed hair. Some people spend a few hours watching televised beauty pageants, but competing beauty queens like ASU student Hilary Griffith prepare for months.

"Fulfilling my year of service as Miss Arizona is a full-time job," says Griffith, who won her title in June 2006.

A self-described tomboy growing up, Griffith, who practices putting on her makeup daily, says she never dreamed she would be Miss Arizona at age 20.

A broadcast journalism senior, Griffith would have graduated in May 2006. Instead, she is taking a year off to compete in the Miss America pageant. The pageant will be held at the Aladdin casino in Las Vegas from Jan. 25 through 29, 2007. It will air on the Country Music Television on the last day of the competition.

Griffith's personal platform is "Strength Over Silence: Rape Awareness and Recovery." A rape victim herself, she travels across the state, speaking at high schools, churches and prisons about sexual assault awareness.

"My big concern is the slow turnaround rate of DNA testing," Griffith says. She is working to change legislation involving rape kits for collecting DNA from those who are sexually assaulted. After a sample of DNA is tested, the attacker can be identified if there is a match in the system.

"There isn't enough money, resources or staffing," Griffith says. "I was raped in 2004, and it took eight months of persistent calling to get my test results back. Meanwhile, my attacker could have been doing this again."

Griffith is busy preparing for other parts of the pageant. Besides daily workouts, she takes voice lessons for the talent portion of the competition, where she will be singing a shortened version of "Don't Know Why" by Norah Jones.

"Singing gives me more of an opportunity to connect with the audience," says Griffith, who was a competitive baton twirler for 12 years. "Baton is a misunderstood pageant talent that judges can't score as easily as singing. On a stage, throwing a baton is limited by a low ceiling and bright lights."

Griffith selects her own outfits, including a "classy but trendy" evening gown and a "professional but not stuffy" suit for the interview. In past years, Speedo has sponsored the pageant, allowing girls to select from six bathing suits. Griffith has already picked her costumes but wants them to be a surprise.

Contestants are not allowed help with makeup backstage.

"It's hard because you have to find a balance between heavier stage makeup and lighter TV makeup," she says.

Griffith is trying to keep up with her schoolwork by taking one online Buddhism class despite averaging six appearances per week. "I do my homework on the move," she says. She recently sang the national anthem at an Arizona Diamondbacks game, was in Tucson at a Red Cross safety fair and appeared on "Inside Edition."

"Being Miss Arizona is going to help me in my future career in terms of connections, experience and exposure in the media," Griffith says. "I have a lot of practice with public speaking, thinking on my feet and being flexible, which are all skills journalists use."

Carly Campo, a journalism sophomore, was crowned Miss Washington County in her home state of Idaho last summer. She walks with confidence, her curly brown hair draping over her left shoulder.

Campo says brains play a large part in beauty pageants.

"There is a stereotype that intelligence doesn't go along with pageants," she says. "In the Miss America system, you find intelligent, well-spoken girls who have opinions, know current events and are well-rounded individuals."

Griffith plans to return to ASU next fall when she gives up her crown. Her tentative next step is to obtain her master's degree at Grand Canyon University, where she was offered a full ride for winning Miss Arizona.

"It would shake things up if I won Miss America," Griffith admits. "It would be worth taking another year off of school for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Miss America is a nonprofit volunteer organization that focuses on community service and is "the world's largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women."

The Miss Teen USA, Miss USA and Miss Universe systems are owned by Donald Trump and do not include a talent competition.

"A lot of girls in the Miss USA system compete to pursue a career in film or modeling, while those in the Miss America system work toward different ambitions," Campo says.


Reach the reporter at Leah.Duran@asu.edu.



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