By Chris Jackett
Not everyone gets to say they competed in the Miss America pageant during their lifetime, but Novi resident Nicole Blaszczyk can after the blur of a week she recently spent in Las Vegas.
Blaszczyk, who turns 23 Feb. 16, was crowned Miss Michigan last June, making her one of 53 contestants from the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to compete Jan. 26-30 at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.
Arriving in Vegas Jan. 20, Blaszczyk and the other contestants had several rehearsals and Miss America-sponsored events to attend throughout the next week before three days of preliminary competition Jan. 26-28. Following a day made up a 10-minute interview with the six-person panel of judges, Blaszczyk's preliminaries consisted of a question session Tuesday, gown and bathing suit display Wednesday, and her personal talent performance on Thursday.
“We were getting questions from all across the playing field. Political questions to questions about unemployment here in Michigan, which was my question from Rush Limbaugh,” she said, adding that Tiger Woods, the Super Bowl and marketing were also subjects she was asked about.
Blaszczyk estimated 12,000-14,000 women compete for the 53 spots in the Miss America pageant and, being one of the 12 options for the three spots in the top 15 voted on by the American public, she was thrilled with the experience.
After Blaszczyk and the 37 other contestants were eliminated at the nationally televised show Jan. 30, she said it was just like anyone else watching the event, just from the left side of the stage.
“We do the same thing everyone else does at home. Say we think it'll be this one or hope its this one,” Blaszczyk said, adding that, as contestants were narrowed down, those eliminated were expecting Miss Virginia Caressa Cameron to win the Miss America crown - and she did. “She's a very good contestant. Looks good on stage and she'll do a great job representing the Miss America organization. It's more than a full-time job. It's a whirlwind, a full-blown tornado.”
The contestants had to be ready to go by 4-5 p.m. because of the three-hour time difference between Las Vegas and the east coast, which was a different experience in itself for most of the women because they had to be up at 7 a.m. to get ready for the early start.
“They keep us pretty busy. The day of the show was hectic,” Blaszczyk said. “They have all the girls packed and ready to go Friday night because the winner has to get on a plane Saturday night.”
Blaszczyk got a surprise earlier in the week when she and three other contestants were chosen at random to speak with Clinton Kelly (“What Not to Wear”), who was hosting an hour-long “Behind the Curtain” television show for the pageant. Sporting University of Michigan sweatpants, Blaszczyk and the other three contestants gave Kelly some inside tips on how to do a successful swimsuit walk, of which the lack of clothing was the least of the girls' concerns.
“We just talked about what to do to get ready and walk. Anyone can put a suit on, but to put heels on and walk across a slippery stage is a whole different game,” Blaszczyk said, adding that some contestants slipped or stumbled on the mirrored glass floor, but no one fell during the preliminary competitions. “You think of walking across a straight line, every time.”
The highlight of the preliminaries for the 2005 Novi High graduate was the talent competition. The contestants were split into three groups to do the different events on different days and Blaszczyk won the Thursday talent competition with a lyrical dance to “Lifetime,” a skill only one other contestant displayed.
“My lyrical dance was an old solo I did a few years ago. I spent the most time on that of the 18 years I've danced,” said Blaszczyk, a long-time student at Sheryl's School of Dance in Novi. “It was a little controversial because it wasn't your typical pageant talent, it was more expressive. But that's the kind of dancer I am. I think it was the first lyrical dance to win a preliminary.
“I know that, going in there, my performance wasn't as strong as I wanted it to be. I've been training since I was 3. My talent is the reason I wanted to be there.”
Blaszczyk first got into pageants after high school. She heard she could earn scholarships for college, so she entered and used her dancing talent to win the 2008 Miss Dance Michigan and 2008 Miss Wayne County crowns before earning a $10,000 scholarship by winning the 2009 Miss Michigan title. Winning the $2,000 talent competition at Miss America earned Blaszczyk more scholarship money, which now totals $18,000.
She plans to use the scholarship to fund her last two semesters at Wayne State University to earn a degree in marketing, which she hopes to use in sports marketing.
“I've been able to work with a lot of major Michigan sports teams over the past year. It's opened my eyes as far as what I want to do,” Blaszczyk said, adding that she would enjoy working with the Detroit Lions, Tigers or Red Wings organizations. “If something else comes along... You never know. Sometimes life throws curveballs at you. We still have our (movie) tax incentive here in Michigan and I had a lot of fun dipping my toes in that (as an actress).”
Chris Jackett is a free-lance writer and former staff writer for the Novi News.
Source: Observer & Eccentric Hometown