An excerpt from Scene 27 of Blood Sweat & Tiaras:
Two hours before the telecast, the contestants spread across our designated private area of the hotel grounds. Each contestant was going through her pre-show warm-up rituals. To an outsider, I suppose it was quite the dramatic scene.
Many of us had our hair in curlers, make-up caked on our faces, and fake eyelashes twice as long as normal lashes. Some girls were running around in bathrobes and house slippers. We were a beautiful bunch, but had we been sixty years older we would have looked like a washed-up retirement community of women in the midst of a makeover.
Several of us walked across a small staff parking lot to an adjacent, vacant building. We spread out through the rooms, each of us taking our own private room. Within moments, the quiet building lit up with beautiful sounds bouncing off the walls and up through the ventilation system. Girls were warming up their voices, including myself. We sounded like an opera house before opening night. I smiled as I went through my vocal warm-ups and cemented the memory into my mind.
This was it. Fifty-two of us were little girls living out the final moments of our Miss America dream. One girl would get an extension of that dream, but ultimately we were all at the end. Most of us played “princess” growing up and there we were at the end of our journey. We had sparkly gowns, boob pads that made up for any lack of personal endowment, scholarship money, free cars, and there was another crown up for grabs.
I planned on making it into the top ten (extra pounds and all) and if it was God’s will I would be the last one standing. I wasn’t being conceited, quite the contrary actually. I was honored to be among those talented and beautiful women, but I had worked my butt off in preparation and I was there to win, as were all the gorgeous contestants.
I thought about the little girls all over Kansas glued to their TV sets just as I was eleven years prior. I had 125 people who had traveled from Kansas to Las Vegas in support of their local Kansas girl. My family and friends were in the audience. So was my sixth grade science teacher, Miss Sharon, and my high school track coach, Coach Cornelsen.
For my track coach, a pageant was a stretch. I had the utmost respect for that man. He was one of the people who instilled the winning spirit within me and reassured me that pain meant I wasn’t dead yet. Every year he would run us so hard we would throw-up at least once a week, but year-after-year the athletes returned. Why? Because we won. Not only were we fierce athletes, we had a winner’s attitude instilled in us. Let’s just say,my senior year of high school our girls track team won our twelfth consecutive state championship. He trained us to win and he was in the audience to watch one of his athletes win Miss America. That same year he would also follow the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Jerame Tuman, to the Super Bowl to watch another of his high school athletes compete for another national title.
Yes, I was there to win.
The preliminary awards had been handed out and the Quality of Life winner had been announced. I had not won any preliminaries nor the Quality of Life Award; however, I was a Quality of Life finalist… and there were only seven of us. Since the creation of that portion of the competition, no girl had won the Miss America title without first having been a Quality of Life finalist (at least to my knowledge). I was positive, but with no actual guarantee, one of the seven of us would have the Miss America crown on our head by the end of the evening.
If I can survive the swimsuit competition, which was first, I can sweep the competition.
As I continued to warm-up, I remember thinking this warm-up was the ultimate warm-up. The warm-up that all other warm-ups had led to. I also thought about who might be in the audience that would recognize my talent, which could lead to something greater than even Miss America.
As I continued to sing I looked down at the bandage on my little toe. The blood had finally quit soaking through.
Earlier in the week each dancer was given the opportunity to skip lunch and rehearse her talent on the stage. We didn’t have music, it was merely a rehearsal time in order to get used to the stage layout and the texture beneath our feet.
The stage had a beautiful design made out of some sort of Plexiglas material. It was beautiful, but slick as snot. As I went through my routine, my shoes were sliding all over the place. I decided to take my shoes off and dance barefoot. It was the right decision as I had the perfect amount of traction but it was still slick enough that I could turn with ease.
After about twenty minutes of rehearsing something caught my attention. There were little swirls of red all over the white portions of the stage floor, but when I looked closer it was all over the black too.
I looked down at my feet.
I sliced my toe somewhere on the stage where it had been pieced together. I wasn’t that concerned about the blood, but the Miss America staff quickly called the ambulance and pulled my parents out of a “If Your Daughter Wins Miss America” meeting.
When my parents arrived in the dressing room to join me and my medics, my dad looked at me and laughed, “Only Adrienne ends up with the EMT at Miss America.”