Monday, August 30, 2010

July 25th- August 1st

Hi Friends!

My nearly three months as Miss Delaware has been very busy, and to say the end of July was any different would be a fib! Sunday the 25th my favorite little girls came from New Jersey with their family to visit! Lilliana, Isabella, Donna and Matt joined me as I visited the Delaware State Fair. That day I was able to just be Kayla, and enjoy riding the rides, and eating typical 'fair food' with the Hakims! State Auditor, Tom Wagner and his daughter joined us while we rode rides and we had a blast! A local 4-Her was kind enough to give all of us a tour of the animal barns, and Lilliana and Isabella were able to ride a horse! Before we left, I was able to eat some of my favorite food, deep-fried Oreos and some homemade lemonade!

Monday I was at the Delaware State Fair once again, to judge the Chocolate Contest in the Dover building alongside renowned musician and fellow Delawarean, Joel Andrus! Check him out! For those of you who know me personally, you know that I was in my glory that morning! I LOVE CHOCOLATE!!! I tasted some of the best chocolate recipes and some of the most unique I have ever seen! I truly hope they will have me back to judge next year, even if I am no longer Miss Delaware! Chuck Ivins, Miss Delaware Board Member and Travel Companion escorted me that day and I was able to experience everything I love so much about the fair! I even rode in the parade in a beautiful horse carriage, courtesy of Representative Dave Wilson!

Tuesday I visited for four hours at Absalom Jones Senior Center in Wilmington. I was able to enjoy lunch with the residents, sign autographs, speak about my platform and perform a dance for them! I drove immediately back down to Dover to receive an honor from the Kent County Levy Court with Miss Delaware 2009, Heather Lehman. What a great day this was!

Wednesday was my most memorable day as Miss Delaware thus far. I visited the Children's Beach House in Lewes, DE where I was asked to speak about being "different" and turning it into a positive thing. Let me tell you- this is the most incredible place I have ever seen!!! Having thought I had seen every inch of the beach, since I grew up so close, I was beyond shocked to find this beautiful property! I expected a typical beach house, and ultimately found this grand facility that offers an overnight camp for children/teens with a disability. These children are given the opportunity to take painting and sculpting classes, play on the beach, enjoy the water from inside a boat, and so much more! If you are ever looking for a local cause to give a donation (other than the Miss Delaware Organization, CMN and NAAF, of course!) then please consider donating to this magnificent cause. They are run completely by donation, and every child who attends this camp has a life changing experience. Without the staff and doctors/nurses who are on-site 24 hours a day, these teens could not experience an overnight camp. What a terrific organization!!!

I can't share any more details because I spoke about my experience at the Children's Beach House in a video for the Miss America Pageant, so tune in later to hear the full story!

Thursday I was at the Delaware State Fair all day long with Governor Jack Markell to celebrate Governor's Day! His wife, Carla, and two children spent the day with him as well and I really enjoyed getting to know the more personal side of him and his family! We walked around, rode a few rides, visited each building and stuck to our very strict schedule! Governor Markell and I participated in the Egg Toss Competition, facilitated by the FFA, and although we did not win (like he and Heather, Miss DE 2009 did) I think we did a great job! And I must say, the toss that fell on the ground was flung by the Governor himself :) So I don't intend to let him live that down!

I performed at the Governor's dinner in the Harrington Raceway and Casino, and was able to see my Uncle, Harvey Kenton and Aunt Jeanie!

That day I participated in the Pig Kissing Contest which is a fundraiser for the Delaware State Fair Exhibitor's College Scholarship! I was thrilled to be a part of this great cause, and also embarrass myself in front of the crowd, while doing the chicken dance! Governor Markell even chose to rearrange his schedule to come watch me compete! The funniest part of all was the pig's reaction to coming face-to-face, snout-to-snout with me. He squealed, and kicked and scared me half to death! Obviously he has something against blondes.

I traveled to Wilmington that night to stay with my Executive Director and we left early Friday morning to visit Atlantic City, NJ for the Maine Invitational. **This was my sixth state that month! I was able to meet a few of my Miss America sisters including Miss Connecticut, Miss Rhode Island, Miss Maine, Miss New Jersey and Miss District of Columbia! We toured the Convention Center where the applause of former Miss America pageants still rings, and blood/sweat and tears of former Miss Americas has been left on the beautiful stage. If you are a Miss America fan and have never visited the Convention Center, I really encourage you to do so. I have memories from sitting in the audience there, supporting Miss Delaware 2003, Erin Williams.

We also walked the boardwalk, took some fun photos in the sand, had dinner at the White House (a famous sub shop), and toured the Sheraton, where there is lots of Miss America memorabilia and Miss America 2010, Caressa Cameron's evening gown is displayed. Debi and I returned to Wilmington that evening (thankfully we found our way back!). The next day was Kevin's family reunion followed by the State 4-H Banquet, where I presented the awards! This was also the final night of the Delaware State Fair, so I was sure to partake in the last bit of 'fair food' that I would experience until next year!

I had a meeting the next day, and was even able to sleep in a bit! Overall, July was a great month and I was thrilled to spend as much time as I did at the Delaware State Fair! Check back to read about my next month as Miss Delaware and more of my journey to Miss America!

Have a blessed day!

-Kayla

July 16th- July 23rd

Good morning, Friends!

From July 16th-23rd I was extremely busy and visited five states (DE, MD, VA, PA, NY) in one short week! I was interviewed on Channel 6, the morning of the 16th for a Prospective Delaware piece. I had the fortune of traveling with my longtime friend, and Miss Delaware Board Member, Chuck Ivins to Philadelphia that day. It was wonderful to be able to catch up with Chuck and talk about everything from Miss Delaware, to my normal, daily life as just Kayla. That afternoon I had my pre-interview on the telephone with producer, Ruth Chenetz for the 20/20 piece. I appreciated how thorough Ruth was, and I could tell she was most concerned about making me feel comfortable.

That evening I drove to Virginia and taught my students at Barbizon all day Saturday and Sunday. Even though we had so much information to cover that weekend, my students found time to ask me questions about the Miss Delaware pageant, and my life since then! I have missed communicating with them as much as I normally had, since my life has changed quite a bit over the past few months! But, my students and their families have been very understanding and I am so proud of how hard they are working!

Sunday night, I left the Barbizon school in Virginia and drove directly to Delaware where I met Georgeann, the Miss Delaware Public Relations Coordinator. She and I hopped in the car and were dropped off just in time to catch our train in Wilmington- thanks to Mr.Gillis who got us there in one piece! We arrived in New York City very late that evening and rested before our early morning the next day!

Monday morning a car picked us up outside of our hotel at 7am, and chauffeured us to the Wendy Williams Show Studio. I had a blast being there, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast with Joey King, the star of the new film, Ramona and Beezus! My hair and makeup was done in a beautiful dressing room that had my name on the door! I was able to meet and chat with Lucy, the Editor of Self Magazine, of which I am a longtime subscriber, and also the host of the show, Wendy Williams. We talked wigs and New York, and food- which you all know, made my day! The filming was a great experience and I felt very blessed to have that opportunity. Sheila, the wig stand, concurs as she was also featured on Wendy's show that morning! :)

Immediately after being interviewed by Wendy Williams, I had to leave the filming early to catch a ride to ABC Studios at noon. I wish I could have stayed to see Jennifer Love Hewitt's interview with Wendy, but Susan, my Business Manager was able to fit everything into one day and we were sure to be on time! Georgeann and I enjoyed lunch at ABC Studios with several of their staff and were even given the opportunity to see Barbara Walters' office! I'm not sure how Barbara would feel about this, but I was so excited to take a picture in her chair!

We met Deborah Roberts before the interview began and I was quickly put on the set of 20/20 doing mic checks and lighting adjustments. The interview was a terrific experience, and Deborah was sure to leave no stone unturned. She asked some tough questions and challenged me to dig deeper to share my personal story. I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to prepare for the job of Miss America.

Georgeann and I were then rushed to Penn Station to catch our train that evening and were back in Delaware by 9pm! Talk about a big 'day trip'! Tuesday the 20/20 film crew met me at the Delaware State Fair Grounds to film me judging 4-H State Fair entries. Low and behold, the minute I entered the 4-H building I saw a HUGE picture of myself across the room! All week I referred to this as my 'shrine' :). The Delaware 4-H Staff decided to honor me as the first known 4-Her to become Miss Delaware and I am proud to represent them throughout my year of service. So much of who I am was shaped by my experiences in 4-H- plus I am a 3rd generation 4-Her! The biggest honor of all came from having my 'shrine' next to that of Joy Sparks. Joy was the leader of Delaware 4-H for many years, and she gave every piece of her heart to that organization. A few years ago, Joy passed away and I can only hope to grow to be half the woman she was and impact half as many lives. Having my photo next to hers was very emotional for me, and I will never forget that.

The 20/20 crew filmed me judging 4-H science entries, and even interviewed a young 4-Her with more spunk than you could imagine! My lifelong friend, Justin Pink was even shown in the piece as he judged with me!

From the Delaware State Fair Grounds, the film crew followed me to Giaccamo's on Forrest Ave. in Dover to eat a yummy lunch before the rest of the afternoon! Immediately after lunch, the crew and I headed to Lifestyles Fitness Center to catch a glimpse of the workout routine I used to prepare for the Miss Delaware pageant! I probably shouldn't have eaten such a big lunch right before a workout! Thank you to Brittany, and everyone at Lifestyles and Kent General Hospital for working with me and ABC's crew that day! Brittany was sure to not go easy on me, of course! She had me sweating and out of breath on national television--- thanks, Brit!!! ;)

The film crew said farewell to us at the gym, and I headed to visit Dr. Robert Webster Dentistry to receive my first set of Invisalign! And from there I was on the road to Wilmington to meet with Debbie from Lady's Image, a sponsor of the Miss Delaware Organization. Debbie had me try on several dresses to model at the Best of Delaware event a few days later! She was very efficient with our time, and we selected the first three pieces I tried on!

Workouts and correspondence filled the next two days before Delaware Today's, Best of Delaware event at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino that Thursday evening. Thank you to Lady's Image for inviting me as your guest and allowing me to model three beautiful pieces that evening. I tasted lots of DELICIOUS food that evening from all over the state of Delaware and all in all, had a really great time.

The best time of year had finally arrived---- the Delaware State Fair week!!!! Any 4-Her, or lifelong Delawarean knows, the Delaware State Fair is the place to be this week! Friday, Jul 23rd I had the fortune of meeting Paula Deen and her husband and dining in a private reception with her, before her cooking/comedy show that evening. Let me tell you- she is a hoot! The minute she walked into the reception she saw my crown and exclaimed, "Oh my goo'ness, you brought me Miss America!!!" I looked at Chuck, and thought to myself- do I correct Paula Deen the first second I've met her?! I opted to say nothing and let her know later that I am Miss Delaware, not Miss America just yet. Later, I had the chance to actually chat with her and Michael, her husband, and to say she was interested in my platform would be an understatement. They both asked me so many questions about Alopecia Areata, and they did not believe that I was wearing a wig, until I wiggled it a bit to prove I wasn't lying! They wished me well in preparations for Miss America, and said they felt certain I would leave Vegas with a smile and a new crown. :)

The show was terrific, and she kept me laughing, that's for sure! Be sure to check back to read how the rest of the Delaware State Fair went for me, and what I have been up to since! In the words of Paula Deen, "See ya later ya'll!"


Thursday, August 5, 2010

July 3rd to July 15th- Quick Update

Saturday, Sunday and Monday were filled with 4th of July Parades in Middletown, Dover and Bethany Beach! I interviewed with Fox News Online, WILM, 92.5fm, and two news papers over the next few day and enjoyed a few workouts in the gym, and some time to myself to unpack! I also finished my Miss America paperwork at this time and began selecting my headshot!

Friday afternoon I facilitated a Health Rocks! training for 4-H which is a drug prevention curriculum that is directed at preteens and teens. Afterward, I took part in a Cake Decorating class with 4-H/Military youth and had such a wonderful time!

Saturday July 10th, I spoke at a Young Ladies Gala in Dover for mostly young Latina women. Even though I was not feeling like myself that day, I came to realize that the appearances you may least expect to affect you, are the ones that affect you the most. I am so pleased that my prayers (and Julie Collins') were answered, and I was able to attend the event after all. Miss Delaware 2007, my best friend, Brittany Dempsey also spoke at this event. Seeing the impact she can have on people as a former is a positive reminder that there are still opportunities like these, to change people's lives after Miss Delaware.

The next day I met with Debi and Susan, my Executive Director and Business Manager and headed to a pool party with some of my fellow Miss Delaware 2010 contestants! It was great to see all of them in such a relaxed setting, and hear what wonderful things they have been up to since the pageant. I am so proud to be a part of the Miss DE class of 2010, and I know that each of these women will become influential people in their chosen paths. Thank you, Kristina, for inviting everyone to your home! And thank you to Erin for making such a delicious cake!!!

That week I was interviewed on WBOC, and met with our 'prep team' regarding my Miss America talent! I still get excited just thinking about it!!!

Thank you so much for keeping up with my year as Miss Delaware and for being patient as the updates and responses are coming as quickly as possible! I am working hard to make you all proud. Have a wonderful weekend, and be sure to tune in to ABC August 6th at 10pm for my interview with Deborah Roberts on 20/20!

With Love,

Kayla

June 28th - July 2nd- New York!!!

After the excitement from the People Magazine photoshoot, my faithful traveling companion, Sandra Soucek and I hopped on a train in Wilmington to New York City! It was a very late night and I certainly slept well. I was in my eigthth state in the month of June alone!!! I have definitely had a taste of the job of Miss America.

Sandy and I woke up very early on Monday the 28th and found the car waiting outside our hotel to take us to CBS Studios! My very special friends, Lilliana and Isabella had also been sent to NYC with their parents Donna and Matt for this interview. That morning, Lilliana and I were featured LIVE on "The Early Show"! We had such a wonderful time and even though Lilliana did not feel up to talking, I know she enjoyed herself. Later, when we watched the tape together she was thrilled to see herself on the television! This was my first national television interview where I took off the wig, in order to show the woman I am underneath the hair. I know it made Lilly's day to have me strip the wig with her by my side.

Dylan Lauren (Ralph Lauren's daughter) was also on the show that morning, and she gave the little girls a few pieces of her candy products. And so we promised to visit Dylan's Candy Bar after we left (even though that was on our agenda, before we even knew she was a fellow guest!). After the interview, the six of us enjoyed and early lunch and sweet treat at Serendipity III! I had everyone try their famous Frozen Hot Chocolate! Yum!!! Then, we walked over to Dylan's Candy Bar and enjoyed a few samples and purchased some sugary treats! Lilliana and I were even approached by a woman who said, "Didn't I just see you on 'The Early Show'?"

Once Donna and Matt were on their way back to NJ with the girls, Sandy and I headed to Times Square to visit the TKTS booth! She bought tickets to "Promises, Promises" with the ever fabulous Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes for my birthday present! With a delicious pre-theatre, Italian meal and an incredible show, I had a terrific belated birthday!!! Thank you, Sandy for making sure that I celebrated my birthday, after-all.

The next morning, Sandy and I were up early, again for an interview on Fox and Friends with former Miss America, Gretchen Carlson. What an amazing opportunity, to have a few minutes with someone who has experienced my dream job in several capacities. Everyone at Fox News was very kind and made sure that Sandy and I had everything we could need. Before we knew it, we were on the train that afternoon headed back to Delaware!

Upon returning to Delaware, super-husband, Mr. Soucek, was waiting to pick us up and relieve our tired soles! That night, and the following day was devoted to Miss America Paperwork! Our deadline was fast approaching, but fear not- everything was sent and received on time!

That Thursday, July 1st, I was interview live on 92.5fm and also filmed my interview for "The Insider" on ET! I had a wonderful time with Faye, my chaperone and our newest Miss Delaware board member. She has such a kind heart, and she made sure that my every need was met. I could not have had a better person by my side.

To round out the week, I had my headshots taken by my dear friend, Julia Fuller. She is just incredible. It was quite a task to narrow down the shots! Thank you Julia for not only being a true friend, but for sharing your talents with me on my journey to Miss America. Directly from my headshots I went to the Delaware Jaycees Social and Silent Auction Fundraiser at Iron Hill in Wilmington. My parents, Kevin and Debi attended the event and bid on items which all benefited the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. Thank you to every one in the DE Jaycees for surprising me with this fundraiser and for sharing the evening with me.

"The Insider" interview aired during this event, and the Iron Hill staff were kind enough to put all the tv's on ET for the hour! Everyone watched patiently, as we waited for my interview to air! Finally, the teaser played and I took my wig off as the announcer said, "Find out what makes this Miss Delaware different." As the camera panned out, the lady to my left, a regular Iron Hill patron, exclaimed, "Who's that bald girl from Delaware??!!" I turned to her with a smile and gave her a subtle nudge saying, "that's me!" She said, "You have hair, though!" and so I shared with her what the interview would reveal just a minute later. It was truly hilarious, because she said the first statement so loud that everyone in the area became quiet, waiting for my reaction!

All in all, this was a great way to end one of my busiest and most exciting weeks as Miss Delaware, thus far! Thank you to everyone of you for supporting me and for being there for me this year.

God bless you all!

Love,

Kayla

June 24th- June 27th

Hi Friends!

Thank you so much for being so patient and understanding these past few weeks. I am trying my very best to respond to each email and keep up with the blog so that you can share all of these wonderful experiences with me! So I thank you for joining me on this incredible journey.

The end of June was a very exciting time for me, as you may already know! I visited the National Alopecia Areata Foundation's International Conference in Indianapolis, IN where I was welcomed with hundreds of open arms. I am so thankful to be the first Miss America contestant to represent those with this condition and to have the opportunity to share something so close to my heart. For those of you who have not yet heard about Alopecia Areata- is it an unexplainable autoimmune condition that causes hair loss. While the physical symptoms are limited to hair loss on the head and body (such as eyelashes, arm hair, etc.), the emotional stress can be life changing. My hope is to encourage at least one new person that I meet to take the time and understand what it means to have Alopecia Areata. And I hope to show young boys and girls that, just because you look different does not mean you cannot achieve your dreams.

I left for the NAAF Conference at 4am on June 24th, and am so thankful Mr.Gillis was willing to drive me to the airport! On my first flight I was recognized by a couple who had seen my photo in USA Today! How neat is that? Then, I met a lovely girl on my layover flight and we talked the entire time! A half hour into the flight, she told the flight attendant that I was the new Miss Delaware, and she insisted we move up to first class!!! This was my very first, first class experience! The other flight staff, and even the pilot took time from their in-flight jobs to have a mini photo session with me in the aisle way! It was so much fun! Even the pilot tried on my crown!

When I arrived in Indiana, a car was waiting for me and I was so excited because the driver was holding a sign with my name on it! I spent some time with Lilliana and Isabella after checking into my room and then went to the baseball game with all the NAAF Conference attendees! I had so much fun enjoying the messy ice cream with Lilliana, Isabella, and some of their friends! The next day I woke up early again and spent time with the children at Kids Camp! First were the young kids, who were just thrilled to see a bald princess that looked just like them. Then I went to the NCAA Museum with the teenagers! Some of them remembered me from last year, but all of them were excited for me to hopefully become the next Miss America. I walked from the museum to the Indianapolis Zoo in the very hot weather and met the little kids!

The minute I left the zoo, I received one of the most excited phone calls of my lifetime! I had been asked to interview on "The Early Show"! I did a pre-interview on the spot via cell phone and let Susan Collins handle the rest of the planning from Delaware! After allowing the excitement to settle in a bit, I changed my clothes and went to the ballroom in the Hyatt for the Opening Session, where I was officially recognized as Miss Delaware 2010 to the hundreds of NAAF Conference attendees from all over the world! I was announced as their National Liaison and am thrilled to fulfill the duties that come with the position. After the session was a beautiful reception where I signed many autographs and took lots of photos with everyone there! I could feel their excitement for me, and for the exposure that Alopecia Areata will hopefully benefit from throughout this year. Some of my favorite parts of that evening were watching Lilliana and Isabella practice their dance to "Single Ladies" by Beyonce for the NAAF Talent Show! They even included a few moves from the Miss Delaware 2009 Opening Number!!! They are fantastic! Meagan and Karen took me out for a late dinner that night at 10pm and we enjoyed some Steak and Shake since I had yet to eat. And instead of sleeping, I sat in the lobby chatting with the teens and young adults for a while! It was refreshing to visit without the wig and get to know each of these people that I can relate to most. I hope to make them all proud at Miss America in January, and represent the idea that beauty comes in all different kinds of packages. In my heart, I know there can be a bald Miss America.

Saturday June 26th I woke up very early again and flew from Indianapolis to Roanoke, VA! I met Carol Stevens and checked into Hotel Roanoke where the Miss Virginia Pageant would be held! While in the lobby I met Miss America 2000, Heather French Henry, and our current Miss America, Caressa Cameron. Both are such stunning women with a memorable presence. After cleaning up, Carol and I ventured into downtown Roanoke and explored the quaint town. I loved dining with her and having the opportunity to catch up, and just relax a bit.

The Miss Virginia Pageant was terrific! Every contestant was so beautiful and talented- it is so true that it was any one's title to win! Caitlin Uze, your new Miss Virginia is such a fantastic young woman. From my experience watching her on stage, and meeting her at the reception after her crowning, I could tell she has a heart of gold. It warmed my heart when I started to run up and congratulate her at the reception, and she was also running to me with open arms! She was so genuinely excited for me to be Miss Delaware!!! I had to say, "YOU just won Miss Virginia!!! We are going to Miss America!!!" To have someone so excited for you, just minutes after her life was also changed, shows that Caitlin is a wonderful person.

The next morning, Debi, Carol and I were leaving Hotel Roanoke when a woman stopped me dead in my tracks. She explained that she knew who I was, and that she knew I was going to change thousands of lives over the next year and a half. It was not until a few seconds later that she introduced herself as Miss America 2010, Caressa Cameron's mother! She was as sweet as can be, and such a beautiful woman! You can see where Caressa gets her beauty and personality. Her words were the best birthday gift a girl could receive!

During the six hour drive back to Delaware with Debi and Carol, I was interviewed on the phone for the article in People Magazine! They asked a lot of great questions about my family, my childhood, my passions and even my puppy! The interview lasted nearly an hour! By the time we arrived at my Executive Director, Debi's house, the photographers from People Magazine were ready and waiting to shoot for the article! I had enough time to throw my bags in my room, and my hair on my head and they were ready to roll! The funniest moment was when the photo director came up to me and said, "There are absolutely NO photos of you in this house!" He had searched all three levels for pictures of me, with no success! It was hilarious! I looked at Debi, and looked back at him and said, "Well I did just win two weeks ago, give her some time!" He had forgotten that we were not in my home.

As you can see, those three days were very busy! I was in four states (including my lay over in Detroit), within four days! A lot of wonderful things happened including my birthday where I became 22 years old! Thank you to everyone who helped me get through that week alive. A special thank-you to my mother and Sandra Soucek who ran all over creation to find outfits for my People Magazine photo shoot, and my interviews in NYC the following day! I am a very lucky young lady.

Stay tuned for the next update on my television interviews in New York City and for the month of July! Thank you for your endless support.

Love you all!

-Kayla

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