There are dreams that our thumb-sucking, baby food eating, diaper wearing selves try to crawl into at a very, very young age. I remember wanting to be a teacher before wanting to be a Barbie doll collector before wanting to be a writer.
And then, there are dreams that in some serendipitous and gorgeous way, crawl into our lives. What seems like every little girl’s dream of wanting to become Miss America, snuck its way into Samantha Russo’s life when she was already 21. When she was already taking baby steps out of of her college life at Emerson and into the real world, as her senior year was starting to wrap itself up into an all-mighty diploma.
I met Samantha Russo through the power of social media. My sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi, had set up a Facebook group to support her (as she is a fellow sister) while she was competing in the Miss America pageant. And because my curiosity for inspiring strangers often pushes me beyond my comfort level, i reached out to her in hopes of picking her brain. Of telling her remarkable story. Of exposing her admirable dream.
I hope you’ll enjoy this interview and then, well, then i hope you X out of your Internet Explorer browser and go do something that relocates you one step closer to your wildest, two-sizes too-big, dream.1. At what age did the dream spark in your mind that you wanted to be a “Miss” (America, New Hampshire, etc.)? And after the thought came into your head, what were the first steps you took?
Honestly, my dream to be Miss New Hampshire and Miss America started very recently. My first time competing was July 2012. A professor of mine had suggested that I look into competing within the Miss America Organization my senior year of college. At first I was really against it because I only saw the surface of “beauty pageants”. But I did my research and instantly realized that the Miss America Organization stands apart from all of the other pageants. Fundamentally the Miss America Organization is a scholarship pageant and as a graduating senior in college, that is what initially sparked my interest. The first steps I took were looking for local pageants to compete in. In order to compete for Miss America you must win you state pageant, and in order to compete at your state pageant you must win a local title. There is no entry fee when you compete within the MAO system and it’s very affordable. I borrowed a dress for my talent, I wore my prom dress for evening gown and I used one of my swimsuits for the lifestyle and fitness portion.
2. What are some of the things you’ve had to let go of along the way to get to where you are now? (whether it be types of food, negative people, another hobby, career dream, etc.)
My diet changed drastically and the whole way that I saw nutrition changed. That is one of the things I will take with me forever. I also let go of alcohol as I prepared for Miss New Hampshire and Miss America. My reasoning was because I would rather eat those calories than drink them. I also had to let go of my job. It wasn’t a requirement but I wanted to give my full attention to being a good Miss New Hampshire and preparing for the Miss America competition. I’ve held a job since I was 14 years old so that was a bit strange.
3. Tell us about an awkward or embarrassing moment you experienced while preparing or competing in Miss America?
One of my sponsors is a Doctor who performs laser hair removal. The first time I went, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I decided I would start off slow with only my under arms. Since I had only ever gotten waxes before, I figured it would be similar so I let my under arm hair grow out. I was wrong. The Doctor had to shave my armpits before he could use the laser. I was absolutely mortified.
4. What’s the most challenging part of what you do?
The most challenging part is not having complete control over my schedule. I have anywhere from 4-9 appearances every week. They can range from attending local pageants to various non-profit events. For the most part I do not get paid for these events. But I really can’t complain, attending all of these events allows me to meet new people and make new connections.
5. Tell us what thing about being a beauty queen that we’d never know?
Well, I really don’t consider myself a “beauty queen” and I think that might surprise people about the women who compete in the Miss America Organization. I think for most of us the reason we got involved in the organization is for the service, scholarship, and the opportunity to perform our talents.
6. Any advice for those working hard toward their dreams but often feel like they want to give up and quit? To switch their life goals to something more mundane/boring?
You’re only given one life and you never know what opportunity is going to present itself to you. Say “yes” too much. Do what makes you happy. Don’t settle.
7. Has anyone ever told you that your dreams are too big? Too crazy? That maybe you should consider trying to become Miss NH or Miss AM? If so, what would your response be to them?
I’m so lucky to have the most supportive family and friends. They’ve stuck by me through all of my crazy dreams, this one probably being the craziest. But if anyone had told me that I think I would immediately cut ties with them. There is no room for negativity when your pursuing a dream. Even if it is ridiculous, that’s something that you need to figure out for yourself.
8. Favorite beauty tip/secret?
I’m awful at doing my make-up, but I just discovered BB cream and I’m obsessed. I also always put my mascara on first before any of my other eye make-up because I always manage to miss my lashes completely and get mascara all over my lid. If you do the mascara first you can just cover up any mistakes with you shadow!
9. Favorite type of exercise?
Get off the treadmill! Lift some weights! You’ll build sexy, toned, lean muscles. I also love Zumba!
10. Quote or words that you live by?
“She believed she could so she did”. I don’t know who said it but it’s perfect. As long as you believe it, you can achieve it.
Samantha Russo is Miss New Hampshire 2013. She is 22 years-old and graduated from Emerson College with a Bachelors in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Marketing Communication. Her platform is Kick Butts: Tobacco Education and Prevention. She competed for the title of Miss America on September 15, 2013 in Atlantic City.