There is a lot to do to prepare for being on live TV as a contestant in the Miss America Pageant. That’s something to which Selbyville native Alyssa Murray, the current Miss Delaware, can attest. In addition to her public appearances promoting her platform — skin cancer awareness— she sees official Miss America trainer Paul Timmons at The Firm in Rehoboth Beach, practices with mock interviews and is getting her wardrobe situated.
Then, she will leaves for Las Vegas —a place she’s never been — on Jan. 3, to be one of 51 contestants competing for the crown. And the live crowning of the new Miss America will take place on Jan. 12, broadcast live on ABC, starting at 8 p.m.
“The 8th, 9th and 10th are preliminary nights. There is a sponsor dinner on the 11th, and then they crown the winner on the 12th,” she explained.
In June, the 21-year-old Selbyville resident was crowned Miss Delaware in front of an audience including her family and friends.
“It’s amazing. It’s something I’ve always hoped for and prayed for but never expected to really experience,” said Murray of her win in June. “All of my friends and family were there. I had at least 50 people there cheering for me. It was insane.”
Competing under her local title of Miss Coastal Bay, Murray dazzled the judges with a jazz dance and won the evening-gown competition, as well as winning the People’s Choice award.
According to missamerica.org, the pageant — which has turned out big-named stars such as Vanessa Williams (Miss America 1984) — there hasn’t been a Miss America from Delaware in the pageant’s history, which began in 1921. There have been several from nearby Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia, but never Delaware.
So what if Murray, representing Miss Delaware, wins Miss America?
“After I stop crying and screaming?” she joked.
“I would be honored to be able to bring my platform to more than just Delaware. It is really important to me that I can be that voice. I always said I was doing it for the kids — kids that didn’t think they could do this. I want girls to know they can feel beautiful and have that self-confidence. There are so many issues girls struggle with.”
And there is one, in particular, that she hopes they never have to deal with — skin cancer. With the pressure to feel beautiful at all costs, sometimes healthy choices can go by the wayside, and Murray noted that most sun damage that eventually results in melanoma is from sun exposure that came before the age of 18.
Working with Mela-No-More, she gears her message toward teenage girls who continue to use tanning beds, even though skin cancer can hit anyone of any gender at any age — as she and her family know firsthand.
“When I was 12, my cousin was diagnosed with stage-four melanoma,” she explained. “He died eight months later, and he had two young children when he died. After Kent died, I thought [using that as a platform] would be a really good way to turn something negative into a positive.”
To vote for Alyssa Murray in the People’s Choice competition at the Miss America Pageant, people can go online to www.missamerica.org/videocontest or can vote on the pageant’s official Facebook page. The People’s Choice Award winner automatically makes it into the top 15 at the pageant. People can also follow Miss Delaware on Twitter.
For more information on Mela-No-More, visit mela-no-more.org.