“I love this school and all the opportunities and everything it does for its students,” McClellan said. “To be chosen to personally represent this incredible institution is unbelievably flattering.”
Indiana’s 32 local pageant winners will converge at this competition, which is a preliminary to the Miss America pageant.
Marni Lemons, public relations director for the Miss Indiana pageant, said the girls will compete for scholarships and much more.
“They do it for a lot of reasons,” Lemons said. “A lot of girls find it’s a good way for developing self-confidence. A lot make great friends as well. We’ve all been made to believe through movies and TV shows that it seems very competitive, and while it is competitive, these girls become very, very good friends.”
The Miss America organization provides about $45 million in scholarships per year.
“Brianna worked a couple jobs all year long,” said Teresa White, director of the Miss IU Scholarship Pageant. “She’s helping to pay her way through school, and it means a lot to her to win these scholarships.”
Lemons said the winner of the Miss Indiana pageant will win a $7,000 scholarship. All participants will win a $1,000 prize.
All workers behind these pageants are volunteers. White said she sort of acts as McClellan’s manager.
“She is a delight to work with,” White said. “She’s really sweet. We get along really well. I think it’s because she’s a theater major that she knows how to take direction and interact with people and work hard.”
Much as they did in the competition that earned them their respective titles, the girls will participate and receive scores in five categories: talent, a private interview, modeling an evening gown, modeling a swim suit and answering one on-stage question.
Scoring is weighted in the talent and private interview sections.
“Pageants constantly get a bad reputation because of the media and because of ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ and stuff like that,” McClellan said. “These women are so smart, talented and passionate. It’s been the best experience of my life.”
As a theater and drama major, McClellan said she is used to performing in front of a large crowd. However, that doesn’t stop her from getting nervous every time she takes the stage.
“I’m a religious person, so every time I go on stage I say a quick little prayer of thanks to glorify God because he’s the reason I’m here,” she added.
McClellan also has a tiny, plastic pig charm for good luck.
“Each time I compete I learn something new and continue to develop who I am as a woman and pageant contestant,” McClellan said.
Though she stumbled upon the position two years ago, White implemented a Miss IU student organization to help coordinate and organize the pageant as a way for students to practice leadership skills.
Senior Paige Geer, president of the Miss IU student organization, was one of seven to compete in the 2012 pageant. However, she has gotten to know McClellan and is rooting for her in the Miss Indiana contest.
“The title holder is representative of our school,” Geer said. “This would just be a great way to show the quality of character we have here.”
White said they will continue to work on recruitment for the Miss IU pageant so more women have the opportunity to participate.
“We’re building an organization, and we’ve already built relationships with Bloomington Kiwanis, the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as other student organizations, especially in the journalism school,” Geer said. “We’re starting to get really involved, and I really like that.”
Another large part of the program consists of each contestant taking a personal platform for which she becomes an advocate in a service project. McClellan supports Safe Schools for Every Student, an anti-bullying advocacy group.
The Miss America crown consists of four points that represent expectations of every contestant: scholarship, style, service and success.
“The prettiest girl on stage isn’t always the one who wins,” Lemons said. “It gives them an opportunity to work on the other parts of the competition. We have had plenty of girls who, through competing, have developed a healthier lifestyle and improved their quality of life.”
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