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2011 Miss America Teresa Scanlan offers advice to 53 pageant hopefuls


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Miss America Teresa Scanlan receives a key to the city from Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Sept. 8, 2011.

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Miss America Teresa Scanlan Visits Las Vegas Academy

Miss America Teresa Scanlan visits Las Vegas Academy on Sept. 8, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Miss America Teresa Scanlan and Mayor Carolyn Goodman

Miss America Teresa Scanlan receives a key to the city from Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Sept. 8, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Even though I turn over my crown to a new winner in nine days, I will always be Miss America 2011 -- but now my life changes again when I leave Las Vegas after the 2012 Miss America Pageant. First, I will head to Denver for a couple of months to start some exciting projects with the composer of the “Whitewater Chopped Sticks” piece that I played in the talent portion a year ago.

I’ll continue with speaking engagements and appearances all over the country that are continuing bookings. I’m fortunate that various groups this year that I’ve worked with have requested appearances through 2012. Then April through July, I will spend in Europe visiting my grandparents in Croatia and accompanying them on tours through Croatia and to the Holy Land. They are open for anyone who is interested in taking a tour in Europe this summer with me -- the details are at

College starts for me in August near Washington, D.C., and finally I’ll be a freshman. An exciting year is coming up! I’m looking forward to it, as it’s a lot more freedom with everything back in my hands and my decision of what I do. It’s a lot of responsibility, too, and I’m learning how to do all of that and how to handle these things. I’ll be studying government with a focus on U.S. politics and policy, and then I’d like to go to law school after undergrad.

My dream and goal still hold true. I’d like to go into criminal prosecution as an attorney and then become a judge, then pursue a career in politics and see where that takes me. My highest dreams are still to become president and a Supreme Court justice. There will be many steps along the way there, but I’m going to see those dreams come true.

Now, though, it’s time to welcome this year’s contestants. My first piece of advice to them is they should all learn Spanish, French and sign language. It would have been an incredibly wonderful advantage to have this year because of the people you meet. Any young person thinking of entering Miss America should consider this.

For the contestants arriving in Las Vegas, I’ve tried to tell all of the ones who I’ve met so far to sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep -- and more sleep! Last year, more than half of the contestants were run down while here. It’s a grueling schedule, and sleep makes such a huge difference in the kind of experience you have. If you get sick, you can’t enjoy it, and you will not do as well.

It completely changes everything. So health has to be the No. 1 priority. That’s what I also will tell the next Miss America. My health has been my No. 1 priority this year, and the only times I have been sick were when I arrived home for Easter and just before returning this week to Las Vegas.

For some reason, when I come home, my body decides it’s time to get sick, but on the road, I have not been sick at all. I met my goal to not miss any appearances because of my health; that was a huge priority for me. It should be the same for the next Miss America because the job is important enough to want to do it to the best of your ability. That means protecting your health.

The question I get all the time is if contestants are mean to one another. The answer is no, but I explain that it’s not about the crown. Each one has been working for 6 months as the state titleholder, so they’ve had a job. Now they are simply applying for another job, but if they don’t get it, they will return to complete their job as a state titleholder.

2011 Miss America Pageant: The Big Night

The 2011 Miss America Pageant and the crowning of Miss Nebraska Teresa Scanlan, 17, as the 90th anniversary Miss America at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 15, 2011. Launch slideshow »

2011 Miss America Pageant: The Winner

Miss Nebraska Teresa Scanlan, 17, on the road to winning the 2011 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 15, 2011. Launch slideshow »

2011 Miss America Pageant: Crowning Moments

The 2011 Miss America Pageant and the crowning of Miss Nebraska Teresa Scanlan, 17, as the 90th anniversary Miss America at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 15, 2011. Launch slideshow »

They already have their projects, organizations, platforms and groups in their state. So it’s basically like a group of company executives coming to a big convention, and one person is going to be named the chairperson, but you are all there to network, to have a great time, to learn, to meet new people, to make friends, so it’s a professional experience.

All of these women are working businesswomen. The Vegas pageant experience is a great opportunity to learn whatever you can moving forward. One will go off to work as Miss America, and the rest can take everything that they’ve learned to continue doing their job just as well. It’s not a competition as much as a convention for all of them to spend time together and to show the country what they’ve got.

Get onstage, in the competitions, on TV to showcase to the country who you are, what you’re about, what this organization has to offer -- and you’re there to advocate for that and spread that message. My advice to the next Miss America is to act professionally as a businesswoman, to advocate the right ideas about the organization, to help people realize that it is not simply about one night and winning a crown -- it’s about a year of service and serving others.

It’s about providing young women with the resources to further their education and career. And to a young girl, understanding that and learning the true meaning of this organization, more than just preparing for the competition, will do so much more.

I never had a professional pageant coach. I simply took my piano lessons, and my mom never let me spend over $50 on a dress when I was competing from 13 to 17 in the teen competition. It doesn’t take much, and sometimes people can get so caught up in the competition aspects -- that’s going to kill you. You have to focus on who you are as a person and become the person you want to be.

As a young girl, you have the opportunity to expand your horizons and guide them to so many different experiences, to become the most well rounded person, with the greatest heart, with a wealth of experiences that will help you succeed in this competition. Making sure your heart and mind and attitude are in the right place is going to make the biggest difference.

I never thought this would happen to me. I’d never dreamed it, yet it was something that as the years went by, just these last couple years, I decided it was something that I wanted to try. People around me though it was ludicrous. You’re from Nebraska, you’re 17, there is no way you’re going to win, but nothing is impossible. You absolutely never know until you try.

So, never let anything in life hold you back. Always try whatever you’re passionate about, find those things that you’re interested in, find your passions and pursue them no matter what.

I’m glad I’m back in Vegas not to compete again, but to share the excitement of seeing all the others compete to be the new Miss America. I know the right one will be chosen as my successor.

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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