Selbyille resident and Miss Coastal Bay 2012 Alyssa Murray, now 21, didn’t grow up wanting to compete in pageants, but she knew she wanted to go to college, which would be difficult to afford.
“I started for scholarship money, because I knew I wanted to go to college and then on to law school, and looking at the figures was really scary. So I knew I had to get scholarships,” recalled Murray, who first competed in the Distinguished Young Women of America’s American Junior Miss competition.
“I ended up winning Delaware Junior Miss and went on to nationals, and ended up winning a preliminary award. And that was enough to pay for my undergrad. I realized this could really get me through all of my schooling. I got involved with the Miss Delaware organization, and since then it’s become a lot more than about just scholarship money.”
Now she’s a seasoned competitor, and next week Murray will be one of 18 Delaware ladies who will be competing to wear the crown of Miss Delaware 2012.
“I love it. I wouldn’t be involved with it if I didn’t love it. It’s fun. It’s a great way to get to know people. I’ve made some of my best friends through doing pageants,” said Murray, who won fourth place in last year’s pageant. “Miss Delaware last year, Maria [Cahill], during rehearsals I hurt my foot really badly and had to be rushed off to get X-rays, and she left with me during dress rehearsals to go with me to get X-rays. It’s like a sisterhood. We’re all really close.”
During the competition, contestants have to go through a series of phases, including talent, an interview, eveningwear and an on-stage question.
“I am doing a jazz dance to ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ by Celine Dion. It’s fun. It’s really upbeat, like me,” Murray, who has been dancing for 18 years, said with a laugh. “I have an amazing choreographer. I’ve been working with an amazing personal trainer and practicing my talent all the time. But a lot of it is mental preparation, making sure you’re ready for the job of Miss Delaware, because it is a job. It’s a fulltime occupation.”
As winners of a local title, Murray and other competitors must also have to have a platform that they advocate.
“My platform is skin cancer, so I advocate for melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. We lost my cousin and godbrother a couple of years ago to melanoma,” said Murray. “So, it was important to me because I didn’t know about skin cancer, and it was such a shock that he died from skin cancer.
“I think a lot of people my age don’t realize how dangerous the sun is and UV lamps and tanning beds, so it was really important to me to get out and let people my age, especially, know that skin cancer can kill. It’s something that we don’t hear about enough, and I think we need to hear about it more. As Miss Delaware, I hope to reach a larger audience.”
Representing her local title, Murray gets to visit with local elementary- and middle-school children and speak to them about the dangers of skin cancer.
“It was amazing,” said Murray of a recent visit she had with sixth- and seventh-graders at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts. “I asked how many kids knew someone with skin cancer, and almost everyone in the room raised their hand. I really never expect 12-year-olds to listen to me, but I’m always so impressed with how interested they are in it.”
Murray said she hopes that, if she is crowned Miss Delaware, she would be able to reach more people and, hopefully, inspire young girls to follow their dreams.
“When I was little — I was 8 years old and I talked to the Miss Delaware at the time. She sat and talked to me about following my dreams and that one day I could be Miss Delaware, too. I’ve seen Miss Delawares in the past have that kind of effect on people, on young girls especially. I love kids. I have an 8-year-old sister. It’s really important to me. A lot of it comes down to determination, and I know that I have the determination and perseverance that it would take.”
Murray, who is going into her junior year as a communications major and Spanish minor at the University of Delaware, said she knows that walking away with the crown will be difficult but that she hopes that she’ll be able to represent the First State in the Miss America pageant.
“A lot of the experiences I’ve had in my life have molded me into who I am and make me a great Miss Delaware. You try not to get your hopes up, but we’re all there to win and we want that opportunity,” said Murray. “You have to go in with an open mind and be ready for the possibility that you’re going to be left onstage clapping for someone else. We all go in with the hope of winning but know that, out of 18 girls, any one of us would be a great representative for the state.”
To learn about efforts to combat melanoma, visit mela-no-more.org. You can follow Murray’s blog, at misscoastalbay2012.blogspot.com.