Nervous excitement was building up backstage. It was almost time to go on stage in front of a live audience to vie for the title of Miss New York USA 2020.
I left hair and makeup and made my way to my dressing room. I put on my black cocktail dress and silver heels that I would be wearing for the opening number dance and contestant introductions.
From this point on, I felt that there was a lot of rushing then waiting. Before the doors opened, we would take a group photo on the stage in our cocktail dresses. Everyone waited in their dressing rooms, until we were told to go on stage for the photo.
Now, this is going to sound random, but I promise, I will get back to this later. A few hours earlier, my parents were at the host hotel, the Crowne Plaza White Plains-Downtown. Most of the contestants’ families stayed at this hotel. My mom woke up bright and early, eagerly waiting to go to The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College. My dad was excited to see me, but my mom’s eagerness got on his nerves, and he was bored with nothing to do in the area of the hotel. Not to mention, he was also annoyed about missing the Syracuse University basketball game that afternoon, which was conflicting with the competition. Since my parents know nothing about technology, my mom called an Uber to go to Purchase College about two hours before the doors opened. She was worried she’d struggle with the app and wouldn’t make it on time.
Returning to backstage, the excitement was heightening in the hallways. We all walked to the stage and were directed where to stand for the group photo. Suddenly, I felt something different on my eye when I blinked. I turned to someone next to me and asked if my lash came off. It was still on, but the part of the lash near the inner part of my eye came undone and was sticking up. It was too late to get it fixed. It was really just noticeable when looking at it closely. After discovering that my lash was partly off, I had to get in a really uncomfortable squatting position for the photo. I thought my feet were going to break by bending over in heels.
Shortly after we returned backstage, the doors opened for guests. When I returned to my fitting room, there were texts from my mom saying that she, my dad, and my boyfriend were seated together. To this day, I have been thanking my boyfriend for attending. I know this was not the way he envisioned spending his 25th birthday and would have much rather been home watching a game.
Backstage started buzzing as we dashed to the stage for the show to begin. The rushing and waiting continued, because it sounded like we were all going to arrive on stage late when we actually had to rush there, just to stand there waiting for 20 minutes.
It was finally showtime when a Miss USA video was played for the audience. Seconds after the video concluded, the opening number music started playing. I started walking to the stage and thought, I cannot believe I am doing this. Do not fall. Do not fall. There I was, facing the audience dancing with my dance group. At that point, I wasn’t even nervous, just excited. The dance was so fast, being about twenty seconds. My group exited the stage and parted to our respective sides of the stage for contestant introductions. It was important to be in nearly the exact order as our lineup for when we would actually compete, because we would compete in swimsuit and evening gown in alphabetical order. Those with last names early in the alphabet needed to introduce themselves first, so they could immediately go backstage, change into swimsuits, and be the first to compete.
Each introduction took a matter of seconds, so the line to the stage moved quickly. I took my first step onto the risers on the stage, with the contestant, who would stand beside me for introductions. As each pair of contestants introduced themselves, I took another step forward. I was next and stepped towards the microphone. One of the choreographers sat in the front row, and pointed to me when it was my turn. “Mikayla Mizruchi, DeWitt!” I announced. I exited the stage and dashed backstage to get in my swimsuit.
Heading towards my dressing room, contestants with last names early in the alphabet, who introduced themselves first, were already lined up in their swimsuits and ready to take the stage. Walking towards my dressing room, I asked one of the volunteers in the hall to unzip my dress, so I wouldn’t struggle with it on my own. In my dressing room, I changed my shoes, took off my rhinestone bracelet, sash, and dress, and put on my swimsuit. Once my swimsuit was on, I needed to do one more important thing…. butt glue. Using butt glue ensures that your swimsuit does not “ride up” as you walk.
I followed these steps that 2019 Miss New York USA, Florinda Kajtazi, provided at the Pre-Pageant Orientation.
- Put on your swimsuit
- Give yourself a wedgie
- Apply the butt glue to your butt cheeks
- Undo the wedgie and smoothly lay the swimsuit over your tush
I started walking and the swimsuit didn’t budge. I didn’t realize how cold it was backstage, until I was in a swimsuit. Waiting to approach the stage, we lined up in order of contestant number.
Once we were standing beside the stage, just moments before stepping out, we were handed our sarongs. I put mine on, did a test pull to make sure it easily came off, then tied it again. I stepped onto the stage. As each contestant stepped to the center to compete, the contestants on the stage risers shifted, moving closer to the front. I took each step with caution, so I wouldn’t fall. After several contestants ahead of me competed, I was directed by the choreographer in the front row to step to the center. With a big smile on my face, I listened for the correct name, began walking, removed my sarong, turned without falling, and took in every second as the hosts read facts about me from the production form. I made it to the end of the stage and was directed to turn around, as my short time competing concluded.
At this point, my feet were aching. I took off my shoes before running backstage to quickly change into my evening gown. As I approached my dressing room, the halls were filled with sparkles from contestants, who already competed in swimsuit and were ready to go out in evening gown.
Remember how I made a random comment and promised that I would get back to it later? Well, it’s later. A quick recap: my mom was bursting with excitement and my dad was impatient and frustrated that he was missing the Syracuse basketball game. My dad and boyfriend, who also preferred watching a game rather than being at the pageant, truly did enjoy seeing me on stage. According to my mom, after a while, with so many contestants, their eyes were glazed over. She felt a bit bad for them, but overall, she was too much in her glory to care! She was relieved when my boyfriend had elbowed my dad, showing him college basketball scores on his phone. It provided them with some entertainment.
Now, back to my dressing room! I removed my contestant button from my swimsuit and changed my shoes, put on my evening gown, put my rhinestone bracelet back on, and asked one of the volunteers to zip up my dress. I also needed help pinning on my contestant button. My dress was very close fitting and with all the beading, it was tough to find a place for the pin to go through. The volunteer successfully attached my button, but it was crooked, due to the beading.
Just like with the swimsuit, we lined up in order of contestant number and held up our dresses around our knees as we walked upstairs towards the stage. When I was stepping onto the stage risers, it was a bit of a struggle on the stairs in a form-fitting dress. I slightly held up my dress, so my legs could move and not fall in the process. Once again, as each contestant competed, everyone else stepped closer and closer to the center of the stage. There I was, waiting for the host to announce my name. It was announced, and I walked down the runway. As I learned from the walking class I took, when an evening gown has a train, you should walk in a circle. When the choreographer in the front row motioned for me to turn around, I carefully walked in a circle, hoping that the train would not wrap around my leg. I completed the turn successfully and exited the stage.
This time, I didn’t take my shoes off to head back to my dressing room, because the preliminary competition was almost complete! Contestants stood to the side of the stage together, waiting for our final walk at the end. My feet hurt so much, I just sat on the floor, evening gown and all. When it was time for our last walk of the night, one of the choreographers, who was backstage, paced up the line and told us to hold our trains. Many of us were going to be on the stage at once, so this was to prevent tripping over dresses. We all quickly looped around the stage and filled the risers. The reigning queens made their entrance on stage, then the host made an announcement about the fifteen-minute meet and greet for contestants and their guests.
I fought my way through the crowd to get to my parents and boyfriend’s seats. We chatted about the competition and took pictures.
The fifteen minutes flew by, and I had to go back to my dressing room to get out of my evening gown and put on the comfy clothes I arrived in. Upon boarding the buses to go back to the hotel, I was looking forward to some downtime, but the night was not yet done.