The Miss America Pageant takes a different twist this year with a reality TV show leading up to the pageant on Jan. 24 in Las Vegas, Nev. on the TLC network.
Richmond’s own Lacey Fitzgerald spent four weeks with 51 other Miss America Contestants this past fall on the Queen Mary ocean liner off the coast of California.
The reality show will run four consecutive weeks, starting at 9 p.m. this Friday, Jan. 2, on TLC. Tyler Harcott will host each one-hour episode.
Four contestants will be picked by television viewers for a spot in the top 15 of the Miss America competition. Voting will be conducted online and by text messaging.
In addition to individual challenges, contestants also participated in team challenges. Each week, former Miss America winners and super models consult the girls.
The filming took place in September and October, and for Fitzgerald it was a great experience and a way to make some new friends.
“I had a blast. I couldn’t think of anything better,” Fitzgerald said about the experience. “I actually met some really good girls and I’m actually going to be featured on the show more than I thought, so I’m just really anxious to see what I look like on television.”
Fitzgerald said once she was around the other girls she forged some friendships with some of the other contestants, such as Miss Nebraska, Kentucky and Mississippi.
“You get down there and you find out who you click with and you become friends with,” she said. “We all exchanged Christmas cards and we’re just ready for Miss America.”
Fitzgerald said she has competed in pageants for 20 consecutive years, but has never had this much exposure to the other contestants before a contest. She said usually the first opportunity to meet other contestants doesn’t come until the week of the pageant.
Fitzgerald said she found out she was not camera shy and was able to speak her mind freely on the show. She said she could tell some of the other ladies were a little up tight and apprehensive about saying what was on their mind. She said she just went on the show to have fun.
“A lot of girls were sometimes afraid to say what they really thought because they didn’t know how they were going to be portrayed, but since I had never been on a reality television show, I decided that whatever happens happens and I have one chance to make a first impression on television so I’m just going to go out there and be me,” she said. “Because I went into it with such a positive attitude I guess I really didn’t care. I just went in there to have fun and the experience, and if the camera hated me then they wouldn’t put me on television.”
Fitzgerald said preparing for Miss America has taught her a lot about being independent and having discipline.
“You learn to be reliant on only you,” she said. “I think over the last couple of years with all of this preparation for Miss America, it has not only prepared me for pageants but for life.”
Fitzgerald said she would approach the Miss America Pageant the same way she approached the television show by putting little pressure on herself.
“Miss America is the Super Bowl of pageants so you kind of have to go into it as prepared as you can be, but have the mentality that you are going for the fun and experience,” she said. “If you just focus on the pageant, you’re going to be a mess.”
Fitzgerald said she hopes to watch the show with several people so she can guide them through the show since she already knows what is going to happen.
“The more people I can get into a room to watch it with me the better, because I know all of the inside scoop of what actually went on and I can fill them in on what’s going on,” she said.
The Northwest Missouri State University Board of Regents recognized Fitzgerald on Monday night with a resolution presented to her by NWMSU Athletic Director Dr. Bob Boerigter. She also sang the National Anthem before the men and women’s basketball games.
Fitzgerald said she is still the same person she was five years ago but does enjoy the attention she gets when she is in Richmond, especially when it comes from children.
If she does not win the Miss America Pageant, she said she would spend the remaining time as Miss Missouri promoting her charity of Big Brothers and Big Sisters. After that, she says she hopes to land a job in sales or communications. Fitzgerald graduated from NWMSU in 2005 with a degree in Broadcasting.
Photo: Miss Missouri, Lacey Fitzgerald, explains her thoughts on life beyond earth to the advisors and her fellow contestants in the Queen’s Salon for the ‘Perfect Pitch’ TV challenge on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif., Sept. 24th. (Photo by Stephanie Diani/Getty for Discovery Communications)