It seems a bit cliche to say that I can’t believe it had been a year already, but I truly can’t. So much has changed for me in the past 12 months, personally, professionally, spiritually and emotionally.
When I competed at Miss New York last year, I knew I found “the shoe that fit” in regards to pageant systems. The Miss America Organization felt like home immediately. There is a different sort of camaraderie within this system that most people on the outside could never possibly understand. On the other hand, I felt ill-prepared and knew I needed help if I was going to continue competing at that level. Watching Allison Carlos compete all week, not only was I envious of her wardrobe, but I knew she must have had an amazing support system behind her. Cue meeting Shelby, Gary, and Sue. After meeting the Miss TI team, I knew that if I had a shot at winning Miss NY, I would need them in my corner.
This by far has been the most rewarding, but difficult, year of my life. Without the help of my Miss TI team and my family and friends I would not have grown in the way that I have. I want to thank a few people for making this year so special. Mom, thank you for giving me your honest opinion and many swift kicks in the behind when I needed them. Gary and Sue, thank you for truly being my home away from home. Thank you for always making me feel comfortable, for gas in my tank, and granola bars in my tummy. You are like another set of parents to me and I love you both dearly. Ran, thank you for being there when I needed you and keeping Mom sane. Thank you to my sister Elle, and my best friends Jesse Ladoue, Katelynn Smith, and Mary Beth. Mallory Hagan, thank you for making me eat Wegmans at an ungodly hour, being an amazing friend and making the concept of being Miss America more attainable to myself and the world. Huge gratitude also goes to Deltra and Stan, my team at the Ritz Salon and Day Spa, Barbara Yerdon, my friend Dave, Mike Folsom, Kristina Blackford, and Priscilla James.
Kathy Lettiere, thank you firstly for my gorgeous gown and earrings and even more than that for treating me like a daughter. I never felt more like a queen than when working with you. Julia and Vern, thank you for accompanying me on this journey, and being my comedic relief. You both have so much ahead of you and I can’t wait to see where your lives take you. Joelle, my sister, I am so blessed to have been paired with you. You are talented, smart, beautiful and mature beyond your years. Thank you for always being an amazing friend and making me smile. Always keep your faith close to you and you will be unstoppable. Stella, thank you for making my experience with the Children’s Miracle Network an unforgettable one. As the great Taylor Swift would say “If you’re lucky enough to be different, never change.” Thank you for being you.
Shelby, you have helped me to grow in ways I never could have imagined. Thank you for never giving up on me or asking me to change myself, but instead helping me to flourish and perfect who I already am. My advocate, my friend, I am forever grateful. To my family, thank you for your never-ending support and undying love. Each of you were an integral part of my success at Miss NY, and I love you all so much. Thank you for the things you did on a daily basis that made this year an extraordinary experience. Aaron, thank you for being my 24/7 counselor, for making me eat right and take breaks when I needed them. You make me so incredibly happy and I am so excited to see what the future brings our way.
I spent a large part of my year explaining why Miss Thousand Islabnds lived in Buffalo. Not being a native of the Watertown area, it was hard for me to explain. Now, I find myself being so excited to show my family and friends my favorite places: Clayton, The River and Boldt Castle. I am so proud and grateful to have spent a year of my life representing this beautiful region. Now, when people ask me if the Thousand Islands is my home, I simply say “yes.”