This past Saturday, 21 year-old Selbyville resident Alyssa Murray was crowned Miss Delaware in front of her family and friends, as well as a bevy of other Miss Delaware competitors and their supporters.
“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. “All of my friends and family were there. I had at least 50 people there cheering for me, it was insane.”
Last week, Murray joined 17 other young women hoping to be crowned the 2012 Miss Delaware.
“It was great. It was a really fun week,” said Murray. “I had the best roommate I could’ve asked for. She was amazing. Just getting to know all the girls was so much fun. There were so many girls there that would’ve been a great Miss Delaware. I’m really flattered and excited to represent that group of girls.”
During the week, the contestants made various appearances in the Dover area before starting the preliminary round of the competition.
“The first day we went to a golf tournament to raise money for Miss Delaware, so we met a bunch of golfers and people who support the organization,” she explained. “Tuesday, we went to Legislative Hall and met with Gov. Markell, and we got to speak in the House and met a couple of the senators.
“Thursday, when preliminaries started, we all compete in different phases. There is lifestyle fitness and swimsuits, evening gown, talent, personal private interview and then there’s an onstage question.”
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. Because of her win, she will receive $8,000 in scholarship money.
Anne Devine, Murray’s mother, said that everyone is proud of her accomplishment.
“She worked really hard, and she was thrilled. We’re just very proud of her and ready for her to try Vegas.”
Devine said Murray didn’t grow up doing pageants and, in fact, she wasn’t too thrilled to have her daughter competing in them.
“I’m not a pageant mom. That’s the funny thing, I hate it. I didn’t want her to do it. You know, I just don’t like it. After the pageant was over, we were going to have a talk — this was going to be it. I was going to tell her on Sunday: it’s time to move on to something else.
“It’s just so much work and stress,” she explained. “I think it’s harder on the parents. They even tell you that at orientation: it’s harder on the parents than it is on the kids, and they’re right. The girls love it, but when you’re sitting there watching your kid, you know if they don’t make top 10 they’re going to be crushed.”
Murray said that, since her win, the local support and congratulations have been widespread.
“It was a really good feeling. Coming from a small town, word travels really fast. I’ve been getting phone calls nonstop for the past two days. We’ve already got a whole group of people who want to go to Vegas to watch Miss America. It’s just insane. There are so many people that are so supportive, and I think a lot of that is Selbyville being such a small town — everybody knows everybody. My grandmother said that her phone has been ringing off the hook since Saturday.”
“I’m getting a lot of calls and emails from her former teachers. Everyone is just thrilled for her,” added Devine.
As Miss Delaware, Murray said she’ll be taking the year off from attending the University of Delaware as a communications major to focus on that role.
“The Miss Delaware Board generally suggests Miss Delaware take the year off from school so that she may dedicate her time to the job,” Murray explained. “As far as being prepared, I’ve dedicated my whole lifestyle this past year to getting ready to be Miss Delaware. I think I’m definitely ready. I’ve put in a lot of work the past year to get myself to this point. I know I’m ready for the job.”
As Miss Delaware, Murray will travel to Florida in August to cheer on Morgan Burris, Miss Delaware Outstanding Teen. Murray will also be traveling statewide to promote the Children’s Miracle Network, Character Counts and her own Mela-No-More skin cancer-prevention platform.
“Character Counts — it encourages children in school to just have good character and stay in school. I’ll be educating people about all three platforms, which is really exciting for me because they’re, all three, so important.”
In the year ahead, Murray said she’ll certainly be preparing for the Miss America competition, but her main focus, she said, is to reach out to the state’s children.
“A lot of it will be personal training, getting ready for swimsuit — because you have to be in a bikini on stage and on TV. But a lot of it is beyond preparing for Miss America; it’s getting out in the public and getting to know the people of Delaware.
“I love kids. I absolutely love children,” she added. “I just cannot wait to get to meet all of these children throughout the state. When I was walking through the lobby of Dover Downs Sunday morning to meet with the Miss Delaware Board for breakfast, these little kids were sitting in the lobby of the hotel and they were yelling, ‘Miss Delaware! Miss Delaware! You have such a pretty crown!’ It took me a minute to realize, ‘Oh, my gosh — I am Miss Delaware! That’s me! They’re talking to me!’ I can’t wait for more of that — more kids, because it’s amazing how excited they get.”
As for the 86th Miss America pageant, which will be held in January of 2013, Murray said it’s too soon to speculate how she’ll do, and that’s OK, she emphasized, because her goals are so much greater than the crown.
“As far as Miss America, I couldn’t tell you yet. But I know that my hope is to touch a lot of lives. I met Miss Delaware when I was 8, and she just really inspired me to try for it when I got older,” said Murray. “I really hope, in 10 years or so, a girl is there competing because she had spoken with me, and I helped her get there. That’s my ultimate goal.”