Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 | 3:32 p.m.
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2012 Miss America Pageant
For the seventh consecutive year in Las Vegas, 53 of America’s most talented, intelligent and beautiful women arrive at Planet Hollywood on Thursday to kick off a week of preliminary competitions that will culminate in the 91st Annual Miss America Pageant airing on ABC on Saturday, Jan. 14. “The Bachelor’s” Chris Harrison and “Dancing With the Stars’ ” Brooke Burke-Charvet return as co-hosts.
The 2012 judges are Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner, “DWTS” pro dancer Mark Ballas, actress Teri Polo, “Bachelor” producer Mike Fleiss, “Good Morning America” lifestyle anchor Lara Spencer, Univision TV host Raul De Molina and “Extreme Makeover: Weight-Loss Edition” host Chris Powell.
For 18-year-old Nebraska native Teresa Scanlan, it will mark the end of her yearlong reign as she crowns the 2012 winner. One of the youngest Miss Americas reflects on the 12 months that have changed her life.
It seems like an entire year has been about 5 minutes. Growing up, I never believed that time went by really fast. My parents would always say that the years just fly by the older you get, and I never believed that until this year. This was the fastest year of my life. It was a blink, and then it was done. Now I’ve got a week left in Las Vegas before I crown the next Miss America, and she’ll set out to have the same year that I just did.
It doesn’t seem like it could possibly have been 12 months because every time I come home, I feel like I never left and that this has all been a dream. It feels like it’s been one long night of dreaming -- and now it’s over. That’s bittersweet. I’m ready to go to college, I’m ready to move on, but I’m also going to miss it a lot. I’m going to miss just about everything about it.
The Miss America Organization is kind of like my baby now. I’ve invested a year into it and my everything. It has been my passion, and I put in my energy and time and absolutely loved it. Now I want to make sure that the next Miss America takes it seriously and does the job well and is the right person. I know that it is going to be the right person, that God will choose whoever it is.
I still feel like maybe I was a little more mature than most when I won, yet in the past 12 months, I still feel like I’ve grown up about 35 years. The experiences that you have, the things that you learn, the people that you meet, the things that you see, many people don’t get these experiences until near the end of their life.
I packed about 20 years of life into one year. It’s just incredible how much that has changed me and made me grow and matured. My eyes have been opened, and my horizons have been expanded. I am more well rounded now than ever before in ways that I never would have imagined. There have been surreal experiences where I continue to think, “How is it at 18 years old I’m doing this?” It just blew me away, but then I began to let go of my age even more and stop thinking of myself as 18 because it wasn’t about how can an 18-year-old do this? It was just this is what I’m doing, this is my job and embracing everything that I was able to do.
So, at this point, I feel unfettered. I don’t think about my age as affecting anything in life. I just see the potential and the opportunities. I feel that you’ve grown up when you no longer think your age stands in the way of anything and the opportunities ahead.
What a year! So many favorites, so many different things. One day I was in Avon, Ohio, for the National Duct Tape Festival, and the next day I was in New York City with Britain’s Prince Edward. I absolutely love making things with duct tape. The Duck Brand duct tape people contacted me after the pageant, and we were able to do some really fun projects together. I was the grand marshal of the Duct Tape parade.
I signed autographs for thousands of people there, and all of these little kids gave me their duct tape creations: duct tape wallets, jewelry, all of these things. Then right to New York to work on fundraising advocacy for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. We spent four days with Prince Edward in Boston, Washington, D.C., and New York City, doing events for the award. That was really incredible. We had a wonderful time, and he’s just a great, great guy.
There is no way to decide on just one most memorable, meaningful moment. The opportunities that I’ve had this year are so diverse that I can never pinpoint just one. However, the work that we’ve done with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, with those children in the hospitals and with the military and the USO, are definitely meaningful and memorable experiences.
I will never forget 6-year-old Chance Armstrong from Kansas. He started developing a little crush on me in Orlando, so when we went to Washington, D.C., he went with his mom to DC cupcakes and he got me a cupcake with a heart on it and he asked me to be his girlfriend. He’s just the most fun little boy. He was a preemie, and all the medical people said that he would never be able to walk, talk -- that he would never develop any skills. His mom decided not to listen to them. She took him anywhere she could for physical therapy, and now he is much, much smarter than the children in his age group.
It’s just incredible how he’s overcome the odds and how with him and his mother having hope and working hard that he’s been able to change what they said his life was going to be like. Now to see him the way that he lives his life, it’s incredible. It’s an encouragement to anyone facing those situations.
Traveling constantly for a year over 200,000 miles is an experience. We lost our luggage for three days, but it was the only time it happened. The problem was that we were going very quickly from one place to the next, to the next, to the next. Eventually, in Lincoln, Neb., I had to run to the mall and buy clothing and toiletries in Walgreens before flying onto the next event. All they had as far as clothing or things to sleep in were some bright pink pants, a gray T-shirt and some pink flip-flops. There I am flying out of Lincoln dressed like that, and I see one of my senators and my congressmen flying out to D.C., and of course I was recognized at the airport.
Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly looking like Miss America at this point. We flew to Virginia for a 700 Club interview, and our luggage still didn’t come. That was probably one of the hardest times this year because you are so lost without your two suitcases. I really mean the entire year, you have only two suitcases, under 50 pounds each, and that can be hard enough to learn how to live with just that small amount of belongings. When you don’t even have that, it completely changes things.
I learned so much as Miss America for 12 months. I learned what I’m capable of. I think that many times we don’t push ourselves enough to find out what our true potential is. A lot of people always talk about potential and possibilities but don’t really push themselves enough. There were many moments where I thought, “Can I do this? Is this something that I’m even capable of? Will this be OK?” It can be scary, you can be very nervous, but once you do it, you realize that you are capable of far more than you ever imagined.
Once or twice, I thought that I couldn’t continue and finish the year. But you continue to push yourself, and I’ve begun to realize we truly are capable of so much more than we imagine. God will use that to show you that it’s not even just you that is capable of that, so I’ve truly learned to trust God through everything. That potential, those possibilities, those capabilities really come through Him. I learned to trust Him through everything and that you can overcome the odds and do unimaginable things.
I think more than anything, this has been a year of service, and you learn that there is truly no greater satisfaction in life, or fulfillment, or contentment, or joy than serving others. I have had many goals in my life: Ever since I was 8, I said that I am going to be the president or a Supreme Court justice. I have always had big dreams and plans, but sometimes they were all about me, and I forgot about the true meaning behind it and the fact that I need to be living my life for God and to serve others.
This year, I realized that I would not be satisfied in anything if I was not living in service to other people. I have met so many people this year -- old, young, rich, poor, from all areas of life, from all areas of the country and the world, from various sectors in different industries, and I’m always most interested in meeting successful people who are happy. Successful doesn’t necessarily mean rich, doesn’t necessarily mean highest in power, but people who maybe work for a nonprofit, who have truly found success because they are content and fulfilled and find joy in what they do. I found the one common factor is these people serve others, and that is where contentment and joy comes from.
I know that in my life that is what I’m going to live for. To love others, to show them that love, to live in service to others, to give them whatever I can, to use my talents and my abilities for other people, and to stop thinking that this life is about myself. It’s the one thing that I’ve learned this year: Life is so much bigger than just one person; the world does not revolve around me. To some people, it’s as if the year is about Miss America, but to this Miss America, the year has been about others -- not about me.
To learn to do whatever I can for people in this country was well worth an entire year of my life and sacrificing many things. I have learned so much from that -- it is now something I will continue to do for the rest of my life.
Tomorrow, Part 2 of Teresa’s reflections as she reveals how she will fulfill her dream to become president, plus her advice for the 53 hopefuls facing the seven judges who will select the woman to follow in her footsteps as Miss America.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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