With my Miss America paperwork officially submitted, the fact that I’m Miss New Jersey has finally begun to set in. So many people have asked me “how did you feel?” when I realized I had won. I had always day-dreamed about what it would feel like, being that I had come so close for three years. I wondered if I would be in disbelief, if I would cry (I’m known to be a tad bit unemotional), and if it would ever happen for me at all. It’s near impossible to accurately predict how you’ll react to such life-changing news. All I knew, for many years, is that if I ever won Miss New Jersey, I would make a point to acknowledge my first runner-up and the rest of the women I competed alongside. I’m glad that while I was wrong in thinking I wouldn’t cry, that I was right in thinking I would remember to tell my first runner-up how amazing she is.
The women who competed for Miss New Jersey each hold such a special place in my heart. We come from different walks of life, but we share some extremely important qualities: perseverance, civic-mindedness, and respect for one another. Each of my fellow contestants showed me nothing but love and kindness both during Miss New Jersey week and after I was crowned. I entered the dressing room after the pageant and found my things packed and organized, courtesy of my friends who knew I would be eager to see my fan club waiting outside. This, in itself, disproves the common misconception that pageant girls are catty and pretentious. I’m proud to represent a group of outstanding ladies, and I will always remember to honor them this year.
On Sunday morning, I woke up an hour before my alarm and began to prepare for the traditional Miss New Jersey toe-dip. I was able to speak with members of the press, see my family, and enjoy my first official appearance.
I knew that Miss District of Columbia was being crowned that afternoon, so I ran home to change and made my way to DC! I loved being able to watch another state competition (even though I might have been falling asleep in my seat during intermission).
I’ve had my official Miss New Jersey photo shoot with the legendary Richard Krauss, met with the phenomenal Jill Horner to complete my Miss America paperwork and appear on Comcast Newsmakers, visited Coco’s Chateau to start the search for my Miss America competition gown, had a meeting with my business manager, Mary Lou (along with endless phone calls J), trained several times with our fitness sponsor, Training Aspects, and have already had several appearances, including meeting the new Miss Pennsylvania (thank you SO much to the Miss PA board for welcoming me with open arms and treating me like royalty)! Sally and I have traveled (laughing all the way) up and down the state for several fun appearances. One of my favorites thus far was the “Coffee with a Cop” event in Pitman. Last year, I attended the event as Miss Gloucester County and loved meeting community members and spending time with the boys in blue. The Pitman Police Department not only works to protect and serve, but they take time to build a positive relationship with community members. I was happy to be able to join this event again and look forward to future partnerships!
In the midst of this whirlwind, I want to thank so many people for their support and for believing in me. I have been part of this organization for the past 8 years and will never be able to express my gratitude for all those who’ve impacted me- but now, I will try:
Thank you to the 65 members of “Team Brenna” who don matching t-shirts on the boardwalk for the parade, take time off of work to be the loudest group in the music pier, and for never losing heart these past four years. You believed in me when I forgot to believe in myself and show me more love than I deserve.
Thank you to both Mantua Township and Pitman, the places I call home, for your support and congratulations. From being featured at Ponte’s Point with Potman to the congratulatory message on the Chestnut Branch sign (Thank you, Mr. Zimmerman!), to every person who has personally reached out to me, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
Thank you to the people who helped prepare me for Miss New Jersey, whether it be choosing and altering gowns (Debbie), keeping me physically and emotionally strong (Ki and the rest of the people at Training Aspects), helping me perfect each outfit and letting me use studio space to practice walking (everyone at Tricia Sloan Dance Center), and all those who provided sponsored competition attire for each of the contestants (Irene West for the swimsuits and Dorothy Palumbo for the opening number Sherri Hill dresses!).
Thank you, to the moon and back, to my local pageant family, otherwise known as the Shore Family. Each director volunteered their time and energy week after week to judge six titleholders in mock interviews, help us make empowering wardrobe choices, and lift us up all year long. Carol- thank you for loving me unconditionally, letting me drink milkshakes (sometimes) and making me feel like Miss America every day. You will never know how loved you are by so many of us girls. My Jaime (and the Gialloreto clan)- thank you for truly becoming my sister this year. You are everything I could ever ask for in a teen titleholder and I refuse to believe you’re already a Miss! From holding onto each other for dear life on the Seashore Line train, to taking you to your driver’s test (and exploring Salem), and everything in between, I will always cherish the time I spend with you.
Lastly, to my fellow contestants- thank you for representing the Miss America Organization with grace and humility. Thank you for showing your community members what a Miss America should be. Thank you for the laughs, snack breaks, work out sessions, selfies, butt glue checks, and hugs. We’re all for one, and one for all.
In my Miss New Jersey interview this year, I felt like it went by in a matter of 3 minutes. The past two weeks feel like they have gone by in a matter of three days. If pageantry has taught me nothing else, it is to cherish each moment you have and to hold those you love close. Pictures fade, crowns tarnish, but these experiences are invaluable to me. I am inexplicably honored to be your Miss New Jersey 2016 and will seize each opportunity to represent our state with poise, integrity, and love.