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!