Sunday, January 27, 2013

My trip to Las Vegas for MISS AMERICA 2013!


So waking at 4AM would usually be a very hard task for anyone…but when you're waking up to catch a 6AM flight to LAS VEGAS to go to MISS AMERICA, it feels like 10 in the morning. Waking up that early was definitely worth it. Even flying to Vegas was a highlight of my trip because we flew over the Grand Canyon and now seeing it from above made me really want to make another trip out west. Upon arriving in Vegas,I was totally amazed at the surroundings. 

Not 5 minutes after arriving at the Plant Hollywood Hotel & Resort , the host hotel for the pageant, I ran into some of my  MAOTeen sisters! I excitedly ran to check in, get my official badge and reunite with my girls that I had so fabulously bonded with during MOAT. After unpacking 90 pound of luggage in our  room that had an incredible view of the Bellagio fountains, my mom and I decided to grab dinner at Mon Ami Gabi, a french restaurant at the Paris hotel next door.
As we walked around before the show I realized, I was that girl walking around in awe just looking at everything and really taking in the moment! Looking at  pictures of the famous Las Vegas Strip is one thing but then actually experiencing  being in Las Vegas for the Miss America Pageant is amazing! 

The relationship that all of my MAOTeen sisters and I have is incredible. Seeing all of them before the Preliminary competition on Tuesday night was an emotional experience and when I say emotional -I don't mean upsetting, I'm talking about feeling an overwhelming amour of joy! SO much, that you just feel like you are going to burst because you are so happy. Reuniting with my sisters was just like you see in all of the movies! Running to each other with arms out wide, HUGE smiles and of course, pretty dresses! After the realization set in that this moment, the moment we all had talked about in August was finally here-it started. The cameras started rolling and the flashes started popping! Picture taking everywhere. I made sure to take a lot of pictures too just so everyone could see almost every moment. I want to remember every feeling, emotion  and friendship while holding it near to my heart forever.

The first night of Preliminaries was very exciting. I can honestly say I have one of the best Miss in the whole world. Her talent was flawless. I was extremely proud of Laura and seeing her at visitation after the show was so much fun! Family, friends and the Miss Florida Board waited anxiously to hear about her day and wish her well. I know how much even just one hug can mean so I squeezed her extra tight! And continued to do that every time I saw her in passing.

Wednesday was THE day. The Teen performance on the Miss America stage!  I had been looking forward to this moment since July when I was crowned, Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen. It was the day when one of my dreams literally came true! The MAOTeens and I performed our fitness production number on the Miss America Stage. But before the performance we had an all day rehearsal doing the fitness production number...and for those of you who haven't seen it, it is a workout in itself. It includes jumping jacks, running, kicking, skipping… oh ,how could I forget PUSH UPS! So doing the whole routine 40 times in rehearsal was trying but totally worth it because we "crushed it" (Pitch Perfect reference) on stage! Even though my year isn't over yet I already know that performing on the Miss America stage and this whole trip will be the one of the major highlight s of my year! 

Thursday was so much fun! My mom wanted to show me more sights of Vegas before my autograph signing that afternoon so we walked across the street to the Belliago. The hotels in Vegas are jaw dropping! You walk in and they have handblown glass covering the ceiling…like what?! crazy right! My favorite part in the hotel was the Worlds Largest Chocolate Fountain!!!! For those of you who know me, I love chocolate and one of my favorite things in the whole wide world are chocolate covered strawberries…So you know I had to get some (; After getting a tasty treat, I had an autograph signing with all of my MAOTeen sisters! It was great meeting so many people and talking to  all of the cute little girls in their princess crowns. Also visiting the tradeshow is always fun because I love visiting the boys at Regalia and seeing all of the sparkly dresses! Later that night was the last preliminary competition and Laura was phenomenal! 

Friday, all of the Teens and I went on a field trip/ tour of Vegas. We went to see the famous Las Vegas sign, toured one of the CMN hospitals, visited and talked to some inspiring  kids, then toured the Smith Center and all of the Teens and I can proudly say we have all performed there (a.k.a. singing while we were in the theater). We also decided last minute to visit the famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop that is featured in the TV show! After a long day of seeing Vegas ,my Mom and I went to the Eiffel Town Restaurant  so we could dine 100 feet above Las Vegas Boulevard while enjoying a stunning meal. Our window seat and view of the sun setting on the mountains and the lights of Vegas was incredible. We then proceeded to see Las Vegas from a totally different viewpoint atop the Paris Las Vegas Effiel Tower. This was a ride on a glass elevator up the half scale replica of the real Effiel Tower . One thing we didn't realize was that in Las Vegas it is normally windy but when you go up almost 400 feet higher its is SUPER windy. The lady told us it was about 15 degrees at the top while we were going up to an outside 360 degree view of Vegas. But once at the top, the whole city lit up and I tried to take it all in.Talk about feeling like an ice cycle! 

After that we went to go see the Cirque du Soleil  show called "O". This show was truly incredible! It was a water based show with all of the circus elements. Everyone was jumping into the water, diving into it, coming down from the ceiling, and the floor would come up and down. So one minute everyone would be standing on a normal stage and then 2 minutes later they would all be submerged into water, doing synchronized swimming. After a long, exciting day it was time to sleep before the big day!

Waking up on Saturday was bitter sweet because it meant that a long childhood dream would come true of being in the audience of Miss America when she was crowned but hard goodbyes with my MAOTeen sisters were to follow! Saturday was full of excitement! You could feel it in the air. Finally my sister Jami got in to town. She wanted to see a little bit of Vegas so we took her over to the Bellagio to see the decorations for the Chinese New Year. It was beautiful, even the dancing children were made out of flowers. For lunch my mom, sister and I went to Margarittaville, which is always fun! I loved it because they had a picture of Florida painted on the ceiling. After that it was time to get ready for the show because there was a Pre-Show where they honored Military Families! Thanks to all who serve our country! My brother is in the Navy so this part of the show touched my heart.

Here comes the 92nd show of Miss America live on ABC. I can't stop thinking about how the contestants must feel. This is the place you dream of and the place where dreams become real.I am blessed to be a part of such a great organization that allowed me to watch pageant history in the making. I am honored to be a teen representing such a wonderful state. I am so thankful to have the support of a Board that so tirelessly helps prepare young ladies for opportunities to learn, grow and serve.While counting my blessings,I count my blessings twice for our Miss Florida, Laura McKeeman. She represented us well, made the Top 16 and made a lasting impression on my life as an amazing role model.

I hope I revisit the Miss America stage again maybe as a contestant or a... a famous host-emcee. You all know how I love the stage lights so until my next blog….Shine ON!

For more pictures you can like my page:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Miss America’s Outstanding Teen was the best experience ever. I grew so much and made 52 new best friends.  I was truly blessed to be given the opportunity to go to MAOT because it changed my life! Here’s a quick recap of the week:

Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. We would wake up at 6 a.m., have breakfast at 7:00, rehearse from 8:00-12:00, have lunch, and then more rehearsal from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.  We were then given 10-20 minutes to get changed and ready for dinner and an appearance.

Rehearsals were intense – we practiced the fitness production number, and then switched over to the evening gown parade and then finally practiced the 15 minute opening number. The best part was seeing all the contestants in sweat pants and T-shirts, wearing socks and heels. We soon figured out that wearing socks with shoes would save our feet from getting blisters.

Things got really crazy on competition days. We would have early morning rehearsals, lunch, and then more rehearsal at the theater until dinner. We would be given about an hour and 15 minutes to get ready for the show. Talk about craziness -- I have never seen so many girls rushing to get ready in record time!!   It was amazing to see how helpful everyone was. I would roll my hair, and then put on my makeup.  One of the contestants would come over and help me take the rollers out and even begin to tease my hair while I was finishing my makeup. Everyone was so helpful just as if we were one big family.

Each night after competition I was able to visit with my family, Miss Florida Pageant Board Members, Laura, and my friends at an organized Visitation.   The contestants would then walk back to the hotel and have a meeting to discuss the plans for the next day.   It was truly nonstop and there was hardly any time to think, but along the way, you were able to meet the most amazing people. My roommate who was Miss Hawaii became like a sister to me.  She made me laugh so hard that I cried and would always give me a hug when I would start missing my family. I couldn't have asked for a better roommate and I am already planning my trip to go to Hawaii and visit her!

I’m not sure if you know but during one of the competitions I pulled my hamstring preventing me from physically performing to my best capabilities. Unfortunately that was the hardest part but I know God has a plan for me and that plan was to keep me in Florida. I was given an experience that I learned so much from and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Lewis, one of the Miss America security guards, told us one night in our meeting that God may have brought you here just to make that one little girl in the elevator smile when you signed an autograph for her - a memory she may keep forever - or He may have brought you here to win. This is now the new motto for my year. I do not know why I was blessed with this title but it was for a reason and a purpose that I am dedicated to fulfill! This is something that means so much to me and I just want to impact as many people as I can.  I have that opportunity also through CMNH.

I recently went to a Radiothon at Shands Hospital at UF to raise money for CMNH.  We achieved our goal of $100,000 and actually exceeded it. This experience was so humbling.  I met children who fight for their lives every day! It touched me the most when I spoke to a boy named James who had been in a car accident with his Mom. We talked about high school and football and then he proceeded to tell me about the accident. It broke my heart when he told me that he was glad that the truck hit the car on his side because he wouldn't want his Mom to suffer and go through the pain he was going through.

The Blue & Orange Fashion Show was so much fun. I wore yoga pants and a blue shirt that said Gator and I actually held a baby alligator. I loved meeting the UF dazzlers and spending time with Miss Gainesville and Miss Lake City.  It was great to see them since the last time I saw them was at the Miss Florida Pageant.

As I write this, I am smiling while thinking about my experiences. MAOT was the best week of summer and I would do it over again in a heartbeat!  I am grateful to everyone that came to support me during the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Pageant and to those that sent me cards and words of encouragement. I hope that our paths cross during this year!

"Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter thank you think." 

At Medieval Times we were introduced and paraded around with our state flags before the show. 

 Teresa Scanlan Miss America 2011

Joey Page sang for us at the MAOT Gala!

The amazing Elizabeth Fechtel Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

WOW ,where to start…everything has been amazing so far but let’s get into the details.

      It began with my super long 4-day road trip all the way down from Jacksonville to Orlando to Miami to Orlando to Leesburg to Jacksonville. I don’t think ive ever seen so much of Florida in one month! In the last month, my mom and I drove down to Orlando at least every week or even twice a week! Luckily, my Aunt Sally lives in Orlando. I am really thankful because her home is another, home away from home for me and it’s always nice to get a good home cooked meal. The best part is that Aunt Sally is a great cook... and so is Uncle Bill!

      While in Orlando I went to Regalia…and I FOUND A DRESS! There is this hard to describe feeling you get when you try on the right dress, it isn’t like butterflies when your nervous, but a warm fuzziness of confidence. You feel absolutely beautiful and you just know it is the one! The dress is stunning, even more than I ever expected it to be. Carry O’Neil and David Lang are the most amazing people to work with and know how to find that “perfect dress.” There is never a dull moment when it comes to shopping with them. They always have me singing, dancing and laughing the whole time. I love David and Carry and I am so SO thankful for their kindness, generosity, and loving support!

     Next stop was at Ann Marie’s in Homestead, FL and let me just say her store is AMAZING! It has everything, for everyone! I had such a great time trying on dresses, clothes, and jewelry. It was a great day spent with Mary, Laura, my mom and Ann! Ann is beyond generous and I am so thankful for her wonderful sponsorship. I definitely got some super cute dresses to wear at MAOT!

     My next stop was Copperhead Salon in Orlando, FL. If you have never been to Copperhead not only have they done an amazing job with my hair, but their salon is absolutely beautiful! Chris Martin works magic. I say this because I am obsessed with my new hair cut! It waves, has volume and curls just the way I want it to. They have taught me all the tricks in the book for managing my own hair, but I can only hope it will look as good as when they do it.

     Once I came back to Jacksonville, my sunshine princess, Kendall and I made knotted blankets to deliver to Wolfson’s Children Hospital. Afterwards we made an appearance with Miss Duval County, Kalli Kearney, at a Children’s Miracle Network Fundraiser at Mimis CafĂ©, hosted by the Jeep Wrangler Club in Jacksonville, FL. It was truly an amazing experience because people were so giving, while asking who were and what we do, giving us an opportunity to explain the Miss America Organization and promote the organization’s National Platform.

     After all of that traveling it was time to get into the dance studio. Practice, practice, practice. That’s what all of my days have consisted of and I have never felt so prepared. I can’t tell you enough how excited I am for MAOT!

     Not only have I been preparing at the dance studio, I also had a mock interview! Thank you Norma Storms for setting it up! The judges asked me great question and gave me helpful advice. The mock interview really helped settle my nerves and only made me even more excited to meet the judges at MAOT!

      I am so blessed to know that I have amazing support and such a loving group of friends and family! Thank you to everyone who attended my send off party! Even to the people who couldn’t be there, your “spirit” was still with me in my heart. I had such a wonderful time, we had cake and delicious edible arrangement (Thank you Jennifer Herrington) Of course, the chocolate covered strawberries were my favorite! Everyone enjoyed playing with my fat head poster and then we even had a little mock on stage interview, that really helped and was funny too!
Thank you to my Sunshine Princess and her family for hosting this event. I appreciate everyone coming by and all your support. Go Florida!

     With only 1 days left I feel better than ever and I can only hope to make Florida proud. I am not permitted to have my cell phone, computer or anything that can connect me to the outside world, but if anyone would like to send me letters during the week, I would love it! Your prayers are always needed for my health, strength and mental wellbeing. Thank you for all the encouragement and support, it means more than you will ever know. Wish me luck!

Miss Florida’s Outstanding Teen
Jennifer Stehlin
Rosen Centre Hotel
9840 International Drive; Orlando, FL


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

MFOT week was truly a great experience! I'll never forget all the laughs shared, and memories made! All of the girls are so kind, beautiful and talented and I am truly inspired by all of them! I've never been around so many girls that share the same passions as I do but that are all unique in there own way! I enjoyed getting to know all of them and learning about there lives and how they are making a difference in their communities!  They are the best of the best in Florida and I know they all will do great things in the future! I am so proud and honored to say I represent such an amazing group of girl!

Wow is the only word to describe how I'm feeling. When everyone said if you win, it will all be a whirlwind...they mean it!

The next morning after being crowned, Mary and I sat down at the computer to get started on MAOT paperwork! After a few days of paperwork in St. Petersburg,  the writing, typing and finding pictures continued but down in Miami!

On Monday I drove to Orlando to shoot with Deanna Meredith and it was fabulous! She was so amazing and really made me feel beautiful. She made me feel confident that we would find the perfect photo to send into MAOT! Though I can't share the photo with you just's worth the wait I promise!

The next week I arrived at the beautiful Laura Mckeeman's (Miss Florida 2012) house! She was so generous to let my mom and I stay with her so that way I could come and train with Nick Peterson.

I am truly so thankful for Nick offering his services to help me because the work outs and diets he is giving me make me feel confident that I am going to see amazing result. Even through it's very intense, it is still a lot of fun!

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. - Eleanor Roosevelt