On Saturday night about 75 people filled Corning’s Local 1000 Union to watch Jen Bellor ’05 and seventeen other contestants compete in the Miss Finger Lakes pageant.
Bellor and the others contended for the title, scholarship money and a chance to compete for the Miss New York crown in June.
“Even though it’s displayed on television as something shallow and superficial, I don’t think it is,” said Bellor, who has been competing in pageants since the seventh grade. Her most recent title was Miss Northern New York 2001.
“There are a lot of good things that come from participating in pageants. You get to hone your interview skills [and] stage presence, and it’s a great boost of confidence,” Bellor added.
The interview is the most important aspect of the competition, according to Bellor and pageant officials. In preliminaries, the women must have a private interview with the judges before taking part in the competition.
“It’s like applying for a job. You have to make sure to make eye contact and be prepared for what you want to say,” Bellor said.
Christopher Keiffer, executive director of the Miss Finger Lakes Scholarship Program, agreed.
“The interview portion of the pageant is 40 percent, the largest part, of the total score. It is important that the women are able to present themselves well,” Keiffer said.
The contestants were interviewed during the evening gown portion of the competition. Each contestant answered two questions. The first concerned each contestant’s particular platform, or the charity or cause that she was focusing on in her community. Bellor’s platform was centered on educating young women on the dangers and prevention techniques of osteoporosis.
“It’s important to reach out to women our age,” Bellor said.
Josie Stampp, one of the pageant judges, was particularly impressed with Bellor’s platform.
“She admitted that it is a disease that many young women do not worry about. But it is still an important cause, especially because prevention needs to occur at this time in their lives. I really respected that,” Stampp said.
The second question was drawn from a basket by the contestant on stage. Questions included: “What is the biggest challenge to young people today?”; “What is the one feature you’d change about yourself and why?”; “Which celebrity would you invite to a dinner party and why?”; and “Do you think professional athletes are overpaid?”
In response to the question, “What is your definition of success?,” Bellor replied, “It is dependent on how many times you have to pick yourself up and keep going. Success is working hard to get what you want.”
The evening gown competition and interview were preceded by the swimsuit and talent competitions.
In the swimsuit competition, which counted for ten percent of the overall score, the judges were looking for, in emcee Brian Stull’s words, “physical fitness and overall sense of health.”
The talent portion showcased an array of artistic expressions. Bellor, a music major at Cornell, sang “Dido’s Lament” from the opera Dido and Aeneas. Several other contestants displayed singing talents, while others danced, acted and twirled batons.
Last year’s Miss Finger Lakes, Laurie Jean Fanfarillo, also gave a repeat performance of her interpretive sign language while the contestants changed into their gowns afterwards.
The talent portion was worth 30 percent of the total score, which was added to the interview and swimsuit scores along with a final overall score that counted for the remaining ten percent.
At the conclusion of the competition, there was a twenty minute interlude while the contestants’ scores were tallied.
“All of the performances were incredible. In my opinion as a judge, they were all winners,” Stampp said. Yet there was only one crown to be given out on Saturday, and it was awarded to Audra Paquette from Syracuse University, along with a $500
Although Bellor did not walk away with the crown, she was still happy with her performance and the pageant as a whole. “I’m going in to see how well I can do and just have fun with it. Plus, I’m only 19 years old. I can come back next year,” Bellor said.
The Miss Finger Lakes pageant is an official preliminary to the Miss New York and Miss America competitions. New York is divided into four regions, with four contestants coming from the three upstate regions and six from New York City.
In a recent amendment to the program’s rules, participants are now able to compete in the region in which they attend school to facilitate travel and attendance.
“This was my first pageant experience,” said Reed Curry ’05, who attended the event. “After seeing how much hard work and effort these women put into it, I think they all deserve a crown.”
Archived article by Emily Sketch