Thursday, June 16, 2011 | 8:34 p.m.
As we write about Sarah Chapman, we first warn of a pun:
Whether slipping into a pair of Levis jeans, applying for a job as an administrator of a Green Valley preschool or entering the Miss Nevada USA beauty pageant, Vegas has always been a … good fit.
It’s a very Vegas intro for a woman who is, proudly, also very Vegas. Chapman has indeed worked as a model and as a preschool administrator and finally a pageant queen, all in Las Vegas. (Click here for a look at 10 other notable Miss USA and Miss America pageant contestants.)
What more we can tell you, up front, about the reigning Miss Nevada USA contestant who will represent the Silver State in Sunday’s Miss USA Pageant (to be broadcast, tape delayed, at 9 p.m. on KSNV Channel 3):
• She first started visiting Las Vegas at age 19, attending the twice-a-year MAGIC men’s apparel conventions as a model for Levi Strauss. She was living in San Jose during those years, attending San Jose State University.
• She graduated from San Jose State University with a bachelor’s degree in child and adolescent development.
• She moved to Las Vegas with little plan other than to change her environment and quickly found a job as a director of a preschool in Henderson she declines to identify so she can protect her own privacy and that of the children she oversees (who range in age from 15 months to 5 years).
• She is 27 years old, a leap-year baby born in 1984 who is the pageant’s oldest contestant. She won the Miss Nevada USA contest at College of Southern Nevada in November.
As she sat for a manicure hours before she and her fellow Miss USA contestants revealed four new lacquers at an OPI Products event at Michael Boychuck’s Color salon at Caesars Palace, Chapman was interviewed by myself with Sun videographer Trent Ogle supplying the accompanying video.
On what will happen to her career if she wins Sunday’s contest: My office manager is already running the preschool right now as I’m here. We’ve set up everything for summer school and put everything together for her to be able to start up in the fall, if I need to go on to be Miss USA. They have been very supportive of this whole experience. That was one of my biggest concerns when I first won: Who would be able to take care of the preschool when I’m gone? But we have a fabulous staff that can do a lot on their own, and they’re doing a fabulous job without me.
On her children’s understanding of her role as a pageant contestant: I think the majority of them comprehend it. My students start at 15 months old and they go to 5 years old. The 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, they seem to understand a little bit better than my younger ones. The younger ones kind of look at me and the crown and go, “Wow!” I remember the first time I wore my crown and banner around them, they almost felt like I was a new person. Took them a minute to warm up and realize this was still Miss Sarah.
On why she decided to move from her San Jose home to Vegas: I kind of just wanted a change. I had done the preschool director thing in California, I had graduated, and I just wanted a bigger challenge. I’m not married. I don’t have any children of my own. It’s the only time in my life when I can pick up and try to do something that I’ve never done before. My best friend from California took a trip to Europe for a month, and it kind of just inspired me that I could do anything. When you don’t have anything to tie you down, why tie yourself down? I felt like I had already given my commitment and devotion to the school I was at there, so I was happy and ready for something new and came out here.
On fulfilling the dual roles of preschool administrator and beauty pageant contestant: They are kind of polar opposite, in a way, but if you look at it from a Miss USA perspective, in my opinion it is exactly what Miss USA should be: Somebody who can work in the community, do volunteerism, somebody who can work with children and do some modeling and make appearances and do things of that nature. I think that’s what drew me to Miss USA, now as an adult. When I started pageantry when I was 16, it was all about the glitter and glitz, and I just wanted to be pretty. But now as I’ve gotten older, I’ve really looked at the job of Miss USA, and a lot of the job is currently what I do now in Las Vegas but on a grander scale, where you’re able to touch so many more lives.
On the difference between the Miss America Pageant, which awards scholarship money, and Miss USA, which is viewed as primarily a beauty contest: Miss America and Miss USA definitely have their similarities in that they are both pageants. We both understand the importance of not only being beautiful on the outside, but being beautiful on the inside. I think the difference lies in Miss USA is always looking for a way to modernize a pageant and make it applicable for everyday women to want to be involved in it, and to kind of show that women can do anything. Empowering women is a lot of what is what the Miss Universe Organization is about. Working with different organizations like the USO (Chapman’s favored organization) will help our communities feel great about what we’re doing as American citizens. … I don’t know much about Miss America to compare it too much, but I can talk definitely talk about what the Miss Universe Organization does, and how well they promote being a successful woman in our community.
On what has surprised her most about living in Las Vegas: I felt like when I first came here, no one was a stranger. Everybody I met was already a friend. I felt like so many people are in this community who have not lived here before, who are new to Las Vegas, and you kind of talk about where you’ve come from. I feel like Las Vegas is a mini-America, a whole bunch of immigrants from other states who have come here for a new experience, a new opportunity. People are willing to help each other. They want to get involved, especially when they found out I was doing the pageant. It was, “Can I offer you this outfit to wear, or can I offer you this gym membership?” People were willing to give, even before I was Miss Nevada, knowing I was going for the title.
On one of her children-inspired side projects: I am writing a children’s book. It is character-based, and I haven’t leaked any information out about it yet, other than I’ve just started to write it. What’s awesome about the book is, it is really just meant to educate children that you can really use your words to express how you’re feeling, rather than pushing or hitting or fighting. Using your words to really just capitalize on not being violent with one another, and learning how to love one another more. That is something I am really, extremely passionate about, finding ways to communicate with other people … Really, the book just capitalizes on that in language that children would understand.
On her post-pageant goals: I feel like there is nothing that I don’t want to do. I want to be a hairdresser, kind of (laughs). The lifestyle of being a hairdresser, of being able to make your own hours and being able to talk to people -- I love talking to people. … I want to open my own preschool. I love working with nonprofits. I want to leave a legacy. That’s my passion. I want to leave the world knowing I left a legacy, not just doing one thing, but doing many things. I want to touch millions of people. That’s another way I would be able to do that, being Miss USA.