Watching the Miss America competition was a family tradition when Ashlee Baracy of Westland was growing up as she and her mother scored the contestants and compared their preferred finalists.
That tradition will soon come full circle as the 23-year-old Baracy, now Miss Michigan, leaves for the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Jan. 15 to represent the state in the upcoming Miss America program.
“It’s still very surreal,” she said. “I just want to soak up every moment. I never thought in a million years that I’d be on that stage. I idolized Miss America.”
The weeklong Miss America competition is scheduled to begin Jan. 19 with her interview with the judges followed by a preliminary each day thereafter. The competition culminates with the only part those at home see—the live competition—on Jan. 24.
Baracy will have her own cheering section as friends and family, including relatives who live across the country and a few she has never had a chance to meet.
“We have close to 160 people coming—quite a following,” she said. “It’s really brought my family together. It’s like a mini family reunion.”
While some of the family members may be new to her, the faces of the competition will be familiar. Baracy will be reunited with the contestants she met in the fall during the filming of the reality show Miss America: Countdown to the Crown by The Learning Channel (TLC).
“We’ve already established friendships,” said Baracy.
She added that although she had not seen the final version of the series, which will continue to air on Friday night for the next three weeks, she hoped that the 18 hours of film compiled each day would include footage that showcased those friendships to challenge the stigma of cattiness that is sometimes attributed to the pageant world.
As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, breast cancer awareness and education has long been both her platform issue in competitions and a matter she is dedicated to promoting. It’s a task, she said, that her title as Miss Michigan as well as her prior titles have facilitated.
“When you put a crown on your head, people stand up and take notice of what you have to say,” she said.