The Miss America Experience

What little girl has not dreamed of being Miss America? It is every little girl’s (and many big girls’) fantasy. For many of the fortunate participants it is not only a “dream,” but the result of lots of hard work.

Miss DC 2007 Shayna Rudd (right), with Misses South Carolina, Connecticut and Massachusetts

Shannon Schambeau, Miss DC 2005, Top 5 at Miss America

Miss Florida, Sierra Minott and Kate Marie Grinold, Miss DC 2008

“For me competing at Miss America was about more than a culmination of all the hard work I put in as Miss DC to prepare for this moment. It was the launching point for the success I would realize as an adult. The preparation that went into competing served me every day of my life. Plus, when else does one get to wear a fully sequinned evening gown that looks like the American flag?!”

- Sonya Gavankar McKay, Miss DC 1997

“Through the Miss America pageant, I met the most intelligent, exquisite and courageous women. I felt the process helped me discover my inner strengths as well as weaknesses. It built character and fortitude that I only imagined existed within. It help me to shape my career path as an educator as well as an artist. To date, I speak of the pageant, and more importantly the Miss DC organization, as an opportunity for young women to hone their crafts and speak freely on issues that affect our lives globally. It affords us the courage to stand before millions to represent and celebrate our cultures and exchange our ideas. Miss America was and still is one of the most profound experiences I’ve had. I’m so proud to be a former Miss DC and to educate others on the benefits and life changing experience I encountered. Thank you!”

- Toyia Taylor, Miss DC 1999

“As a little girl, I hoped to go to the Miss America Pageant one day. My dreams became a reality years later, and it was an experience that provided a myriad of opportunities for me to live my purpose. I am now part of a sorority of women that are truly inspiring! I will be forever grateful for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent our nation’s Capital, and be part of such a prestigious organization for women.”

- Rashida Jolley, Miss DC 2000

“My experience at Miss America was one of the highlights of my life. Not only was it a dream come true to compete on a national stage, it was an honor to represent our nation’s capital during one of the most challenging times in our country’s history – September 11, 2001. I acquired over $80,000 in scholarship money from the Miss America Program, which helped fund my law degree at Georgetown University. Being Miss District of Columbia opened so many doors for me – I will always be a proud ambassador.”

- Marshawn Evans, Miss DC 2001

“Competing at Miss America gave me lifelong friends, wonderful memories and a two-week experience that was an absolute blast! More importantly than that, however, the organization taught me to live as a woman for others by stressing the importance of engaging myself in the community around me. That, by far, has been the most lasting and valuable aspect of being a part of the Miss America family.”

- Lisa Ferris, Miss DC 2003

Above: Lisa Ferris at Miss America

“Competing in the Miss America Pageant reminded me to put 110% in every opportunity that comes my way. It was an incredible experience, and I’m very grateful to have had the support of the dedicated members of the MDCO family!”

- Therese Lizardo 2004

Above: Therese Lizardo at Miss America

“Competing at Miss America was a journey of years of focus, progression and perseverance. Winning the Preliminary Swimsuit Award was recognition for all the hours of hard work in the gym and the self-confidence I gained from being proud of the person I had become. Being called first into the Top Ten gave me an opportunity to absorb the moment as the other nine girls joined me at the front of the runway. Having my father escort me on stage in evening gown competition reminded me that I did not arrive at that point in my life by myself. The final blessing was being called into the Top Five. It was a memory I will always be able to cherish with my family and friends.”

- Shannon Schambeau, Miss DC 2005

Above: Shannon is called into Top 10

“Walking across the Miss America stage is incredible – especially for someone like me who craves the stage and spotlight! I enjoyed every minute of my Miss America experience – meeting new friends, performing in competition with 51 other beautiful and talented women, serving as an ambassador for my state, and feeling pride in the accomplishment of every young girl’s dream.”

- Kate Michael, Miss DC 2006

Above: Kate Michael at Miss America

“I was expecting an experience that would be remarkable! However, I wasn’t expecting an experience that would help change my mentality, vision, and ultimately the very soul of me; and Miss America was all that and more! I went to Miss America a girl from Philadelphia with a high level of expectancy. I came home a young woman with lifelong friends and a clear vision for my future!”

- Shayna Rudd, Miss DC 2007

Above: Shayna Rudd at Miss America

“My experience competing for the title of Miss America 2009 will forever remain one of the best and most exciting ventures of my lifetime. After months of preparation, self-discovery, and anxiety it all came down to one night in Vegas. I stepped out on stage in my evening gown and the moment quite literally took my breath away. With my entire family in the audience, I walked forward carrying with me all that I had learned in 23 years and presented myself to millions of Americans, flaws and all, confident, joyful and grateful. This moment, this experience marked a turning point in my life as everything I had ever learned, worked for, cried over, loved, became worth it. I did not win the title but I did win a lifetime of confidence and a priceless appreciation for life that I will carry with me forever.”

- Kate Marie Grinold, Miss DC 2008

Above: Kate Marie Grinold at Miss America