Wednesday, May 11, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Determination must be Bailey Gumm’s middle name. She ignored the time-honored expression “third time’s a charm” and finally on her fourth attempt realized her dream to become our Silver State representative at the Miss America Pageant.
With official sash and tiara in place, Bailey was crowned 2016 Miss Nevada America at the pageant Friday afternoon at Tropicana Showroom where her younger sister, Carli Gumm, had just placed first runner-up in the 2016 Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen Pageant.
Bailey, the radiant 20-year-old 2016 Miss Pleasant Valley from Minden, Nev., who won a $1,000 scholarship for Community Service also gets to choose a $10,000 scholarship or a full ride at UNLV or Nevada State worth more than $20,000.
Moments after Bailey’s victory (for full disclosure, our esteemed Editor Don Chareunsy was one of the judges of both pageants this year), I talked with her (incidentally, she is related to the late screen legend Judy Garland, who was born Frances Gumm):
How many of the Gumm family are into pageants?
My sister, Carli, and I have both competed in pageants, but, oh my goodness, I guess it does run in the family because seconds ago, she just placed as first runner-up in Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen. Years ago, I won the first-runner-up placement, as well. I’m just so proud of her.
That was back in 2010. Here we are six years later. (Editor’s Note: Bailey would win Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen in 2011.)
Here we are, and she took the spot where I started! It’s a Gumm thing. We are the Gumm girls from Minden County. We are about 20 minutes south of Carson City and south of Lake Tahoe. It’s a small jewel in the state. A very small jewel, and I love it. I’m born and raised, native Nevadan. Minden’s my home, but I love the entire state.
Was there any pressure on you to enter this pageant a fourth time, or did you put it on yourself?
There was pressure for me to do well. I wouldn’t say there was necessarily any pressure for me to win. I have been the first runner-up the first couple years, so that was expected of me. But I didn’t put pressure on myself.
You were always the girl who came to the dance and didn’t win?
I was! I was! I was the fourth runner-up to Diana Sweeney and the first runner-up to Ellie Smith, the first runner-up to Katherine Kelley, who won last year. Now I’m finally able to capture the round in my fourth attempt.
So fourth time lucky?
Yes. So that whole three time’s a charm thing, I don’t know if I believe it. Four times is a real charm.
Did you learn things from why you became a runner-up in the previous three years as to why you won this time?
Yes, absolutely. You can’t lose and not learn something from that. It’s not even that you lose. It’s you have to reflect back on, wow, I placed at Miss Nevada. Not many girls get to come here, and those who do, not many place.
It’s a proud accomplishment, but you have to reflect back on, “OK, well, why did I get this placement, and how can I improve?” That’s the entire organization in general. It’s always that self-reflection and how can you improve to better not only yourself, but also your community, your state and others around you.
If you don’t have that reflection and improvement aspect, you’re missing a key piece of all of this.
So, today is one set of excitement statewide, but now comes the biggie?
Yes! Oh my gosh, I get to go to Miss America! I’m so excited. I went last year to watch Katherine and cheer her on because I was the runner-up. I watched the whole thing.
Now this year I will be competing as part of the 50 girls. I’m so excited! Just to see that boardwalk, it’s so iconic, and I’ve always watched it growing up. I’m a Miss America enthusiast. I’m excited!
You’re only 20, which is pretty young to accomplish this?
I’m still young, yes. I’m 21, though, in June. So I’ll be 21 when I go to Miss America. This is a great 21st birthday present. I’ll take it! If I’m going to celebrate 21 in Las Vegas, being crowned Miss Nevada is the best gift I could have. That’s how I want to celebrate my birthday.
How are you going to prepare for Miss America because that’s a whole different level of competition?
Oh, yes! That’s a whole other ballgame, and this is also where that self-reflection comes in. Even though I did win, there’s still that, “OK, well, what can I improve on?” There’s a lot to improve on.
Miss America, that’s the next step, and there’s so much that I’m going to be doing. Our Nevada Miss America board is going to prep me, they’ve put in so much work now, and they’ll just continue that work, as well. I’m excited to give them all my efforts.
The interview portion with the judges is probably the most crucial. It’s where you make the statement.
Then there’s this ghastly moment where you pull a question out of a fish bowl, and you can either sink or swim. Is that the most nerve-wracking because you have to be so well-versed in everything?
Yes! The interview is not as nerve-wracking as that onstage question. The interview is private and involves an array of judges’ questions in 10 minutes. You mess up on one question, you have a lot more coming at you, and it’s no big deal.
The onstage question is in front of an audience, you don’t know the question, you have one attempt, and, also, none of us want to be the next YouTube sensation! So you want to do well. You don’t want to sink. It’s nerve-wracking. For me, it’s the most nerve-wracking thing.
How do you prepare for that question onstage in Atlantic City?
During the week, every contestant gets her onstage question during preliminary nights, and that’s solely about your platform. So you just prepare by knowing your platform. (Bailey’s platform is “Autism Through a Different Lens.”)
But the one that’s televised is a current event. So you just continue your research, and you make sure you have an opinion on everything that’s happening in the world. I know this may sound weird, so stay up on current events and have an opinion on everything.
Does that mean watching lots of television?
Yes, lots of television, news outlets, everything, listening to radio. Anything and everything you can do to stay informed. It also is an opinion question, and you have to give your opinion to America on national TV.
Half of America is going to agree with you, and half of it isn’t. So you just have to stand strong in what you’re going to say. That’s nerve-wracking.
If you deliver it with courage and conviction, then it doesn’t matter if they disagree with you because they’re going to say, “At least she sounded smart and didn’t sound stupid.”
Exactly. It’s to avoid being a YouTube sensation. As long as you don’t sink, and you’re able to present your opinion, in a polite way, a very educated way, people take it. They take it very well.
Is that the most frightening thing, that you can wind up ridiculed on YouTube and TV stations rebroadcasting it the next day? It didn’t used to be that way.
I’ve gotten over that part. It’s probably not the most frightening thing that could happen, but it’s still a concern in all of the contestants’ minds. It’s, “Ugh, people are going to watch this if I really mess up, and I don’t want to be that person and wind up being mocked the next morning.”
Did you come in with confidence of finally winning, that this was going to be it, or, if you hadn’t, would you have given up after this fourth attempt?
You know, Robin, I signed my first contract in this program in 2009, and this is the first time, and obviously, you can only be Miss Nevada once, so giving up was not an option for me. I’ve stayed in this program for a long time, and I wasn’t going to stop.
I was going to continue my involvement. Win or lose, you come back because you benefit from the Miss America Organization in so many ways. Also, you gain better confidence every year.
What do you do now? Are you out to work, or are you still in school at age 20?
Well, until just a few minutes ago, I was a college student at Westminster College in Salt Lake City and working in the admissions office. Now I will be deferring my scholarship and enrollment as a student there for the next year. I will only be working as Miss Nevada and living in the state, so I won’t be attending school during my reign here.
What are you studying at school?
I’m a communications major. Actually, governmental affairs. I love politics. I want to be a press secretary. So if there are any government officials who want me after this year, I’m up for hire.
So we may see you one day in the press briefing room at the White House?
Yes, the dream job is press secretary of the United States, so, hopefully you’ll see me at that podium. I wouldn’t lie. ... Some people are going to like what you say, some people aren’t. ... You have to stay strong in what you’re saying.
I’m ready for it. It took four tries to get this far with Miss Nevada, so I’m ready for the next long journey.
* * *
In the Miss Nevada’s Outstanding Teen Pageant, 16-year-old Heather Renner of Reno won the crown and title, with Bailey’s sister Carli as first runner-up. Heather also won $1,000 in the Spirit of America category and two $500 awards for talent and interview.
Briana Neben, 22, of Carson City was first runner-up in the Miss Nevada competition winning $3,000, and she also won $2,000 for the Spirit of America award, $1,000 for the Empowerment Award and $500 for Lifestyle & Fitness.
Las Vegas entrants Paige Melanson and Shelly Salbedo won $500 scholarships, Paige for her dance talent and Shelly as Miss Photogenic. Shelly won another $500 for the Interview Award.
This year’s Miss Nevada pageants offered nearly $100,000 in scholarships and awards. After several years of pageant hiccups and deteriorating support, Jodi Hale Fonfa, who is CEO and chairwoman of the Miss Nevada Scholarship Organization, has brought it back to the top, with Bobby Baldwin’s wife, Audra Baldwin, as COO and new board members Kaitlin Endres and Jennifer Lier.
Jennifer served as co-MC with Steve Schorr, president of Vegas Life TV and host of the TV series “Under the Vegas Sun.”
Jodi summed up: “The future of the Miss Nevada Scholarship Organization is a bright one. The lives of two young women are forever changed now that they have been selected to represent our great state.”
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.
Tropicana Las Vegas sits on the south-east corner of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard, an intersection which has the most adjacent hotel rooms in the world, also making it one of the most busy. The hotel has 1,658 rooms, three restaurants, a 62,011-square foot casino and a spa.