Miss Indiana, Lydia Tremaine, took home a talent award on Friday at the final night of Miss America preliminary competition in Atlantic City. But when she started competing for her state title, she was told she could never even make it that far.
Tremaine received the honor, which comes with $2,000, for singing Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.”
One of her favorite lyrics: “Each time I find myself flat on my face/I pick myself up and get back in the race.”
“It’s all about trying again when you fail,” she said of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ song after the pageant, which continues with the televised final at Boardwalk Hall on Sunday night.
“I was told I could never be Miss Indiana because of my size,” she said.
More memories here at Miss America[?] pic.twitter.com/hptcyr2O5F
— Miss Indiana (@MissAmericaIN) September 1, 2018
Tremaine, 20, who hails from Kendallville, Indiana, is an education major at Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, Utah. She’s one contestant in the 2019 pageant who rejoiced upon hearing that Miss America would drop its swimsuit competition. No fan of walking the stage in a bathing suit — though she did for several years — Tremaine said it was a relief that the pressure to change her body and become thinner would no longer be part of her pageant experience.
“I’ve had a great fitness journey in my time competing,” said Tremaine, who lost 40 pounds in the process and preferred to wear one-piece swimsuits when competing.
Gretchen Carlson, the chairwoman of the Miss America board, came under fire after announcing the pageant’s decision to relegate swimsuits to the past after nearly 100 years of competition. Representatives of 46 state pageants (51 contestants will compete) and 23 former Miss Americas have called for the resignation of Carlson and pageant CEO Regina Hopper after claiming they misled pageant board members about why they had to vote in favor of ditching the swimsuit strut.
The host of Friday’s preliminary competition, Susan Powell, Miss America 1981, started things off with a nod to the pageant unrest.
“I think it’s time for me to address the elephant in the room,” she said, as the audience of pageant volunteers, parents and titleholders waited with bated breath.
“Don’t I look fabulous??”
Miss Massachusetts, Gabriela Taveras, won the $1,000 award for onstage question — an honor new to this year’s competition. She was asked to reply to a prompt about how she would use global travel to her advantage as Miss America. Taveras, 23, said she had traveled to Swaziland, Cuba and Greece on missionary trips.
“I just have really been able to share my heart with other people,” she said after the pageant, adding that she is loathe to tailor her answers to what she thinks the judges want to hear. That, she said, is one definition of the pageant’s rebranding of “Miss America 2.0” — someone who isn’t afraid to express themselves without reservation.
That seems to come with a caveat, however, since the reigning Miss America, Cara Mund, is engaged in a conflict with Carlson and pageant leaders, alleging that they bullied and silenced her for months. One of her complaints is that she was not allowed to use her voice beyond talking points the Miss America Organization gave her, saying she was sidelined during media appearances in favor of Carlson.
But for Taveras, a graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston — where she majored in biology with a concentration in neuroscience — Miss America has already been paying off in a tangible way. She was also announced as one of the winners of Miss America’s $5,000 STEM scholarships (recognizing achievement in science, technology, engineering and math).
“I almost paid off my student debt with these two plaques right here,” she said, holding her awards and thanking Jesus.
The last night of preliminaries saw a wide variety of talents including clogging (Miss Kentucky), poetry (Miss Colorado), speed painting (Miss Delaware) and ventriloquism (Miss Texas).
Other preliminary winners at Miss America have been Miss Wisconsin, Tianna Vanderhei, and Miss Virginia, Emili McPhail, for onstage question, and Miss Florida, Taylor Tyson, and Miss Louisiana, Holl’ Conway, for talent.
The 2019 Miss America pageant airs at 9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9 on ABC.
Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.