From crowns to briefcases
Media for Miss USA pageants began the beginning of June, and while it may be easy for some to boil the event down to beautiful women making grammatical errors in bikinis, Deputy Chief of Staff Marina Cooper said this is not the case. The women behind the perfectly-matted complexions often have bigger goals than sparkly crowns and sashes in mind.
Cooper was a vetted competitor in both Miss America and Miss USA pageants. She made the top 10 in the Miss USA 2005 pageant and in making the top five in the Miss America competition. She was the first woman to represent both Miss Maryland and Miss Maryland USA titles, according to Cooper.
She said that there are four common misconceptions about pageants stimulated by the media and television shows such as “Toddlers and Tiaras.”
One: All pageant girls have competed in pageants their whole lives.
“Most contestants at Miss America began competing in college,” Cooper said.
Two: All girls competing for Miss America or Miss USA want to win the big title.
“Actually, some are content and proud to be their state titleholder or continue their work for their non-profit cause,” she said.
Three: All pageant girls are mean girls.
“I made friends for life and still keep in touch with weddings, engagements, births of many,” Cooper said.
Four: All pageant girls want to be models or broadcast journalists.
“Sure there are a few in every bunch, but most young ladies endeavor to run businesses or non-profits, become lawyers and doctors,” she said. “In fact, I know several former contestants in every one of those fields.”
Cooper’s original push to participate in the pageants was to earn scholarship money.
She competed during her junior year at University of Maryland, College Park, which meant she had to balance all of the responsibilities of being a regular college student plus the task of preparing herself for the competition.
Cooper said the work literally paid off, and gave her a considerable financial foundation for her future after college.
“By the end of my Miss America experience, being called third runner up to Miss America, I made about $52,000 in scholarships in 18 months time and graduated college debt-free with money to spare for graduate school,” she said.
During the pageants, she also decided she would advocate the importance of public school educational opportunities.
“Being a proud product of public schools, I have always been an advocate for public education—this was my ‘platform’ as Miss Maryland,” she said.
Cooper prepared for over 18 months of preparation, and said the women she met during the competition put her goals in perspective.
“When you are in the company of incredibly focused and ambitious young women, some of which were in medical school, law school or spokespersons for national non-profits, you tend to push yourself a little more,” she said.
Cooper said that the pageants not only introduced her to influential individuals, but also the public spotlight opened doors to professional opportunities.