Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Miss South Carolina had only watched the Miss America Pageant one time in her life before she was actually on the big stage participating in it.
And behind the glitz and the glamour there is real substance to the program, Brooke Mosteller quickly learned in those two weeks at the pageant.
Mosteller never set out to be a beauty queen. She participated in the Miss Wando Competition all four years of high school simply because she wanted the chance to sing, she said. Excelling in sports was her other love.
But, when the opportunity arose to compete for the title of Miss Mount Pleasant, Mosteller went for it.
And naturally, after being crowned as the reigning queen for her hometown, she went a step further, for a chance to represent the state.
“I wanted to be Miss South Carolina. It was an opportunity for me to sing, all while continuing with my career choice as a lawyer,” she said.
The opportunity has allowed her to prove she can relate to all age levels, from children who love to hear her sing Disney songs to adults who marvel at her innate ability to clearly articulate opinions on everything from current events to world issues.
Mosteller’s platform is called “Go Higher.” Its goal is to get guidance counselors and others in high schools to help students fill out college applications during the day. Mosteller said as salutatorian at Wando High School, the college application process was confusing, so she couldn’t imagine how daunting it must be for someone in a family without any college graduates.
“I had a problem with my college application my senior year of high school. My guidances counselor was overburdened. I was not completely familiar with how to fill out a college application and there was no one to help me,” she said.
She missed the notice of a requirement to write an essay when applying to Emory. She eventually was able to make the correction to the application but felt like there had to be an easier way to offer help to other students.
The Commission on Higher Education agreed with Mosteller that the college application process was problematically complex and the complexity was completely unnecessary.
She single-handedly worked with the commission to create what is now called “Go Higher! College Application Day.” It is an opportunity for seniors to attend and get help with the application process. In 2009, 1,000 seniors attended sessions across the state. This year 39,000 seniors signed up. More than 180 South Carolina high schools now host the information sessions.
“Guidance counselors love it,” she said. “Rather than answering the same question several times to numerous people via email, guidance counselors can answer their questions all at once and in one day.”
The road to the Miss America Pageant was full of life lessons that Mosteller does not take for granted.
Mosteller said she took many life lessons she learned from sports and applied them to the competition,
One of the biggest things she learned along the way is that there are some things one can control and some things one can’t control.
Mosteller said that sports has helped her with discipline and maintaining a hard work ethic. She was already used to competing and she viewed the pageant as a competition as well.
“As an athlete, purpose-driven decisions were based on an end goal. As an athlete, the end goal was always to perform my best. I just never had to perform my best and look great while doing it,” she said.
The pageant preparation was the first time she saw a purpose in making sure she looked good, and performed well. Aside from less sugar, less salt and more protein and vegetables in her diet, she did a lot of Pure Barre moves and worked out a few times with trainers who emphasized lots of squats and hip exercises.
Contestants stayed at the Showboat Hotel and began each day about 5:30 a.m. Rehearsals were mixed with interviews and photo shoots. Contestants attended planned events such as a concert, the grand opening of the Miss America store, dinner at a classic Atlantic City restaurant and, of course, the show.
“I quickly realized I was representing something now that was bigger than myself,” she explained.
“We owe it to ourselves to each believe that we can be Miss America and we all competed our very best and showed our very best.”
Mosteller said that the Miss America Pageant is truly universal in that it really is about service, scholarship and growing into your own. “A lot people don’t realize that,” she said.
“The biggest misconception is that contestants aren’t much more than a pretty face,” she explained.
She said pageant officials stress that the pageant is about beauty but not just on the outside - but inside too.
“We have ambition, and Miss America is a really empowering organization for women. Where else am I being challenged to know about current events and articulate them and form an opinion and know what’s going on in my world, all while putting on a two piece and being judged on my abs, biceps, smile and confidence?”
The actual night of the pageant Mosteller said she realized she had been preparing for this her entire life and did not even know it.
“The Miss America system is designed to get to the heart of a person and it is so much more than just that night on the big stage,” she said.
Often times while preparing, she got little more than four hours of sleep. She put it out of her head and kept going. The heel of a shoe would break and again, she just kept going.
The women were able to have fun too. In between laughing they debated issues like abortion, poverty and education. “We poked fun at ourselves by calling ourselves pageant girls when we complained about eyelash glue not sticking. And of course there is that stereotype of every contestant wanting world peace. But think of it. It’s a pretty great goal. For me, I am looking for local peace in one student’s life so that by participating in application day that student can know they have the opportunity to go to college because they received help in filing out their applications correctly.”
Mosteller told the Moultrie News that she received advice from a former Miss South Carolina.
“I was so surprised when she told me the greatest thing about the pageant is the friendship. It is really true. I respect these women so much,” Mosteller said. “They are all community minded, always asking themselves ‘where do I fit in in my community?’ They are all service-based women who are passionate about their required platforms and have proven platform results.”
“And every single one of us was sincerely happy for the other person,” she added.
Mosteller said she was most impressed by Miss Connecticut because “she is so independent and confident. I had lunch with her and Mallory Hagan (Miss America 2013) and we had so much fun. I also loved Miss D.C. because she is brilliant with a great sense of humor. She was at Georgetown Law so we think similarly but also had a lot of the same values.”
“This competition was the hardest thing any of us had ever done, and the competition challenges you in every aspect and you’re being judged by it. There is something to be said for that.”
Mosteller said she got used to all the sparkles on her garments fairly quickly, but was at first amazed by all the glitz and glamor.
In the Miss South Carolina Pageant, she went for the Hollywood glamor look. But for the Miss America Pageant, it was essential she chose outfits that allowed her to stick out from the crowd of contestants but still made her feel comfortable, confident and beautiful.
“I wanted to send a strong message in my outfit so I chose a classic, timeless kind of piece instead of flashy,” she said. However, her past accomplishments sent a strong message about the overall person.
Mosteller was crowned Miss Congeniality at Miss S.C. and at Miss America. She received The Miracle Maker Award at Miss America, which goes to the contestant raising the most funds for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. In fact, this year’s contestants broke the previous collection of approximately $41,000 by raising $79,000. This accomplishment earned Mosteller a $5,000 scholarship.
She also placed as first runner up for the Quality of Life Award for her platform of College Application Day which earned her a $4,000 scholarship. In total, Mosteller has received more than $34,000 in scholarship money for law school.
The Miss South Carolina Organizations funds most of her expenses along with sponsors Gregory Ellenburg, Dazzles, Lulu’s Boutique, Two Men and a Truck and the Green Canary Boutique.
Mosteller is taking a year off from the University of South Carolina Law School to serve as Miss S.C. After her year she will go back to get her degree and then she hopes to become a prosecutor for child abuse/neglect cases.
“I will be promoting higher education in South Carolina high schools, especially helping first generation students apply with my platform College Application Day. I’m also the goodwill ambassador for The Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals - we have four in our state. Further, I will give Palmetto Pride presentations in middle schools and make many other appearances including being named grande marshall of Charleston Mardi Gras.