McDermott continues pageant pursuit

Published 8:44 am Monday, June 9, 2008

What started as a whimsical experience three years ago for 23-year-old local Angela McDermott has blossomed to a full-time undertaking for the one-time Miss Austin and Miss Twin Cities champion, and now Miss Minnesota hopeful.

“It was a ‘Why not? It’ll be fun,’ thing,” McDermott said of her initial approach.

“It’s funny how comfortable I am doing it now,” she said.

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This coming weekend, McDermott will compete for the Miss Minnesota crown among 15 contestants following a week of appearances, sporting events and interviews across the metropolitan area.

Her second trip to the competition — she placed third runner-up in 2006 — McDermott said she’s learned several lessons from both her years in pageants and her training in college and with coaches, something she hopes will serve her as she fields judge questions, performs on stage and struts her evening wear and swimsuit look during the final two-day event.

“I’ll get freaked out about a week before, though now I just tell myself, ‘You are ready,’ and just review the stuff I can,” she said.

“And my big thing is that I only focus on my part of the competition,” she added. “I don’t watch their rehearsals … it’s really easy and a very slippery slope to compare yourself to everyone else.

“So, mine is really self-talk,” she said.

McDermott said she doesn’t stress so much about the performance part, having spent her childhood in her mother’s church choir and middle- and high-school careers performing in the school orchestra as a violinist.

“It’s the same thing as a pageant,” she said. “I’m really comfortable on stage.”

More of a challenge, she’s found, is the interview piece of the competition, in which judges privately talk to each contestant about world events, social issues and other topics before they all appear before the audience.

“It’s definitely about being able to be concise with your answers,” she said, adding that the private interview is about 25 percent of the competition.

“They want to know that you’re intelligent, and well spoken, and know what’s going on in your community and the world,” she added. “It’s about knowing you as a person and your platform.”

The talent portion represents the largest part of the total score, or 30 percent.

McDermott’s platform is “Higher Education: Journey to Your Dream,” which features a curriculum-based program from the University of Minnesota that strives to help fourth- and fifth-graders discover an interest in higher education and prepare early for the experience.

“It’s for all students, but it specifically targets low-income and minority students, because they are the least likely to get involved,” she said.

McDermott has taught the 15-week course in Austin and across the Twin Cities, and learned herself that many elementary school-age children haven’t been encouraged, as the University of Minnesota-Duluth grad was, to pursue education after high school.

“One of the children said, ‘We don’t go to college,’” McDermott said. “She’s in third-grade. She doesn’t know why she doesn’t go to college, she just knows that they don’t go.

“And I did. And knowing there were so many children who didn’t have an education in the house≠… and now going through this curriculum, and seeing how quickly they catch on. You see a transformation.”

McDermott commits nearly all of her free time to her platform and pageant training today, though she knows that this will likely be her last Miss Minnesota try.

“After Miss Minnesota, if I win it’s Miss America, and then it ends there,” she said. “I’m 23, 24 in July, which is the cut off age.”

“As of now, I’d would be done too if I don’t win Miss Minnesota.”

McDermott left Sunday for the first leg of activities, and will return Sunday. She was runner-up to Miss Austin in 2004, won it in 2005 and was crowned Miss Twin Cities in 2008.