After 83 years of gracefully applauding as someone else sashays to the familiar tune of "There She Is...," Miss Maryland is ready to bring home the crown from Atlantic City.
"The Miss America Organization wants someone who is beautiful, talented and intelligent. Well, I'm already all of those things," says the newly crowned Miss Maryland 2003, Marina Harrison. At 22, this University of Maryland graduate and Severn resident is accomplished and articulate enough to back up her confident claims.
While, like many little girls, Harrison watched Miss America broadcasts in awe of the beautiful and sophisticated contestants, she now sees the pageant as a way to fund and further her career aspirations.
"I saw an ad in the school paper offering a $2,000 scholarship for a preliminary pageant winner, and I needed the money. Bad." After three tries in various local pageants and a fourth runner-up award in last year's state competition, Harrison can now use the title of Miss Maryland to promote her platform of public education and as a steppingstone toward a career in public affairs.
Why did you choose public education as your platform?
From attending public schools, I definitely got a greater sense of what the real world is like and got to interact with a very diverse group of people. I want to encourage parents not to lose faith in the public schools. The "No Child Left Behind Act" is a positive step, but states need to work harder to comply with and fund the federal mandates. I also think it's very important to have a voting student member on the Board of Education, which is something that I was in high school.
How do you plan to promote your platform as Miss Maryland?
Fortunately, the Miss Maryland pageant says `your issue is your issue' and really lets me control how I address this platform that I've dedicated my life to. I hope to work with school officials while utilizing the networks I made as student member on the Anne Arundel County Board of Education.
What are your feelings about the Miss America pageant, and pageants in general as they relate to young women?
In addition to offering scholarships, the Miss America organization teaches women life skills. You learn how to groom and present yourself in an interview setting and gain tremendous confidence. Any contestant will tell you, after a Miss America interview, any job interview is a piece of cake. So many pageant winners go on to be successful in other fields, from modeling to journalism - you get exposure that allows you to move in any direction you want. Miss Maryland 1999 Keri Schrader Barta, who was third runner-up in Miss America and will be helping me prepare for the pageant, is now a U.S. defense attorney.
What are your own career aspirations?
I majored in public affairs at University of Maryland, and I'd like to do something in that area, and also in education. My ultimate dream job would be press secretary. The president always needs someone to "clean it up a bit," and I'm pretty good at crisis management.
On the lighter side, what are some of the perks that come along with your crown?
Ooh! Well, I get a year of massages and a wardrobe, but the biggest perk is that I get a car of my choosing for the whole year. This week it's a red convertible, but next week it could be a truck or whatever else I want. I'm soooo excited about that.
The Miss America Pageant airs on ABC at 8 p.m. on Sept. 20.