I have been anxious to have a moment to sit down, and pour my heart out to you about everything that happened in Las Vegas. Life has been quite a whirlwind since the Miss America pageant! But, I'll save those details for the next update.
In the days preceding my trip to Las Vegas, I was so calm, and at peace- knowing I had done all I could to prepare for the position of Miss America. I spent countless hours with Brittany Dempsey, at Lifestyles Fitness Center at Bayhealth, in the dance studio rehearsing my talent piece, and selecting my perfect wardrobe and accessories provided by Fashion Fix NJ, The Bridal Suite of Johnstown, Webster Cosmetic Dentistry and Salon Rispoli. The Miss Delaware Board, NAAF and my local directors, Dr. Laura Moylan and Brittany Dempsey were an incredible support team to ensure that I felt confident on the Miss America stage.
Just days before I left, I received a call from the family of my childhood friend, and owners of Jor-Lin Tour and Charter Buses. I was delighted and humbled (let alone surprised) to hear they wanted to send me off to the Miss America pageant in style, by taking me to the airport in one of their fabulous buses with 50 of my supporters! Several local titleholders, my best friends, my family/family-to-be and local supporters were all there to ride by my side to the airport. They made sure my last hours in Delaware were filled with so much love and positivity! WBOC and local radio stations loved the idea and wanted to share the story of my one-of-a-kind trip to the airport! We had breakfast, danced, laughed, sang and shared stories on the hour-long trip. And the minute we arrived at Philadelphia International Airport, the security even allowed my parents to escort me to my gate. I will never, ever forget that morning and will cherish those fond memories filled with love for the rest of my life. Thank you to the Mitchell family at Jor-Lin and to everyone who took off of work and school to be with me that morning!
Once I arrived in Las Vegas, I was rushed from the airport to the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino where I checked into my room and officially found out my roommate was my new lifelong friend, Miss Idaho, Kylie Kofoed! My bags were whisked away and my competition wardrobe was taken in the opposite direction, and before I knew it, I was in a room changing for the arrival ceremony! It was finally here!!! DSW welcomed all 53 of us in style on the red carpet where we were individually introduced by the one and only, Boys II Men! My favorite part of that evening was reuniting with the contestants. We had truly bonded in Florida over the summer, and kept in touch ever since, so we were all anxious and thrilled to see each other! At the arrival ceremony, the Miss America Organization officially announced the Quality of Life Finalists and it was the greatest honor to hear my name called in that group.
To say the time flew by, is an understatement! Somehow in those two weeks, our schedule was filled with a trip to the Eiffel Tower, a Barry Manilow concert and the chance to personally meet him, a Joseph Ribkoff Fashion Show at the Fashion Mall, and dinner at BucadiBeppos with a yummy ice cream sundae for dessert! We visited IHOP for a Pancake Breakfast to benefit the Children's Miracle Network, filmed commercials for DSW and for the Miss America Live telecast, and how could I forget.... REHEARSALS?! We woke up at 5am to rehearse and kept on rehearsing each day until late in the evening- but the dances were pretty great, weren't they?
For some contestants, the week was even busier- filled with press interviews and photoshoots. While at the Miss America Pageant I was interviewed by Splash News, EmpowHer, UK Morning with Nick Dixion, People Magazine, The Insider, ABC News, and Inside Edition to name a few. Local newspapers and some radio stations even called in for interviews throughout the week, which meant missed appearances and rehearsals- but it was well worth it!
My two favorite interviews of the week were non-press related, though. My Quality of Life Finalist Interview was incredible. I had the fortune of speaking with three former Miss America's- Kellye Cash, Erika Dunlap and Katie Stam. They made the interview feel like a conversation, and focused on the positive things that have come from my platform work. Sitting in that interview room, I was reminded of why I love this organization. My final competitive interview was with the Miss America judges panel which included Joy Behar, Tony Dovolani, Marc Cherry, Debbye Turner, Taryn Rose, MariluHenner and Mark Wills. I left the interview room as confidently as I entered. I knew I had laid my heart and my intentions on the table, and showed them the real Kayla. I have no regrets :) Which is exactly how I wanted to feel.
Throughout the week, any free moment was much appreciated. I learned to nap in the strangest of places, and eat whenever necessary. It felt like Survival of the fittest! :) We napped in the aisles in the theatre, on the floor of the dressing room tent, and in the wings of the stage. We gathered near heaters backstage in our swimsuits, and snacked on Fiber One bars while having our hair and makeup done. My time spent with the 52 other contestants made the experience all the more incredible. I made so many new friends, and even gained a bridesmaid! Only 53 women each year go through this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and therefore this sisterhood is quite elite. There is a bond between us that no one else can match. To my Miss America Sisters- you have inspired me. Thank you for being so open, welcoming and supportive. I cannot wait to see some of you soon! To Lindsay, Kylie, Cali, Stephanie, Jaclyn, Melaina and Sheniqua- I miss you!!!
When Saturday night rolled around, I could not believe it was finally here! I was so calm and excited that I barely remember that day; I think I was in a zone. I remember waking up, eating breakfast, rehearsing the new sequences, and spending the rest of the day in the tent with my fellow contestants. Before we knew it, we were on stage for the Live telecast and one of us would become the new Miss America! And as I was announced as one of America’s Choice on Saturday night, I was humbled and overjoyed all at once. Thank you to each and every one of you who voted and encouraged others to vote as well. Knowing that America had selected me as one of their top choices meant more to me than anything else. Then, when I was called into the Top 12, I knew that my hard work with Brittany in the gym had paid off! And the sodas and late night ice cream rendezvous were not given up in vain! And to model my beautiful evening gown, which was the first gown I saw when shopping- I felt thankful for my sponsorships when I was called into the Top 10. And after I performed my talent and was not called into the Top 5, I felt thankful … to sit down! As I stood there, holding the hands of my sisters, I have never felt closer to anyone. We all wanted this so badly, and had all worked so diligently. But, at the end of the night, only one of us could become Miss America. Each time the numbers were reduced and we drew closer to the crowning, I felt every emotion in a thesaurus from shock and excitement to exhaustion and overwhelming love! But I know God has great things in store for me and the other 51 contestants, and to have had this experience and been named in the Top 10 and perform each phase Live on television is one of the greatest experiences of my life. I am so proud of my placement and I know that nothing I could have done would have changed the outcome. To have come home to Delaware as one the only woman from my home state to have been named in the Top 10 during a Live Miss America Pageant Telecast and also to have been awarded as scholarship as the 1st Runner Up to the Quality of Life Award, makes me beyond proud. It is my honor to call Teresa my friend, and I know she will be one of the greatest Miss Americas yet. And I also know that the other 51 women will continue changing people's lives all around the country, and making a difference.
I want you all to know how thankful I am for your endless love and prayers and support not only during my Miss America journey, but also after. I have already seen great changes in myself because of these experiences and I have learned that the Miss America Pageant was not a destination for me, it was a part of my journey. And I have so many things to look forward to as I continue to serve my home state and represent the wonderful aspects of this organization. Thank you for being a part of my year, and for supporting me. I hope to continue to make you all proud.