Through the halls of the Genesis Center at the Miss USA Pageant in Gary, Ind., GW alumnae Liane Angus and Ivette Fernandez walked around proud to be Miss Washington, D.C., and Miss Alaska, singing GW’s fight song.
For three weeks Angus and Fernandez spent time rehearsing for the pageant in the small town traditionally populated by steel workers. For the first week the contestants visited local universities, high schools, hospitals, malls and hotels where they held receptions to meet people and sign autographs.
The rehearsing period began the second week, which both Angus and Fernandez said they found very tiring, even though the pageant preparations were not as busy as previous years because of some taping completed before the live telecast. It was not unusual for a day to run from 6 a.m. to midnight.
“It was very exhausting, and it was easy to constantly eat because there was nothing else to do,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez did not make the top-10 cut, but Angus did, and eventually nabbed the first runner-up title for D.C.
Angus said making the first cut was one of her favorite parts of the pageant. She said she was so excited she was screaming in her head. After she made the top-five cut, she said she was more calm and comfortable on stage, and at that point she began to really compete. Angus said she was thrilled to receive the first runner-up title.
“It is the first time in 34 years that the District has done that well,” she said.
Angus said she was happy to see how much the audience and a lot of the women backstage were cheering and supporting her. But her competition for the title did not come without snags. Her gowns, dresses and competition outfits were sent late and arrived in Gary just two days before the pageant.
“I can’t even begin to tell you about my experience with not having my dresses with me,” she said. “It was such a big stress.”
Angus said she was also disappointed with what she called a lack of support she got from her home city. She said she felt many people did not realize how important the pageant was, especially after she was crowned first runner-up.
“People want to know about D.C. and we should want to dispel the stereotypes that come with the city, but there was no support from the District,” she said. “It was such a shame.”
Angus and Fernandez met for the first time at the pageant, and said it was a wonderful coincidence to find another GW alumna. Angus said it was nice having someone at the pageant who understands where she came from. She said she felt proud to be from GW and that GW was finally getting the respect it deserves.
According to Fernandez, interviews matter most in the competition. The first two days of the rehearsal week were devoted to personal interviews, followed by the swimsuit and evening gown competitions. Fernandez said she knew once she got out of the interview portion of the competition that she probably would not make it to the top 10. If she could go back and redo the interview, Fernandez said she would try and be less rehearsed and speak more spontaneously from the heart.
Although Fernandez did not get to meet Miss Texas, Kandace Krueger, who was named Miss USA, she said she felt that Krueger deserved the victory. From what she had seen of Krueger, she was poised, reserved and extremely focused, Fernandez said. Both Angus and Fernandez said they believe Krueger will do a good job representing the country.
Fernandez said she thinks the judges were fair in their decisions and that they seemed to try and see through all the pageant stereotypes.
“They were looking for `today’s woman,’ who is simple and down to earth,” she said.
Fernandez works full time for Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski and said althought it might sound like a clich?, Fernandez hopes to use her title to educate young students about breast and ovarian cancer. Fernandez also has plans to apply to law school.
Overall, Fernandez said she was glad she participated in the pageant but was also happy it was over so she could get back to D.C. and focus on other things. Fernandez said she was not one of the many women left devastated and crying backstage after the pageant because she knew she had tried her best.
“How sad to leave with that kind of attitude, to be so upset because you have nothing to go back home to,” Fernandez said.
Right now Angus is sifting through modeling offers but sees herself going back to school in the near future and hopes to have her own practice in sports medicine.
For Angus the worst part of all the pageantry is over.
“It’s always nerve-racking to walk around in high heels and a bikini,” she said.