by MIKE CHAIKEN
When Jamie Hughes won the Miss Connecticut USA pageant early in 2018, she was fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“I grew up watching the Miss USA contest every year as a little girl,” said Hughes. “It’s something I always wanted to do.”
Hughes had crowns and sashes in her blood.
She explained her mother competed in pageants when she was younger. However, Hughes said her mother never pushed her toward doing pageants.
But, at age 14, said Hughes, she decided to compete in her first pageant. And in that first pageant, she said, she won everything.
Hughes was hooked.
Over time, as she grew older, Hughes said she competed in other pageant systems.
“But I always knew Miss USA was my ultimate goal.” And she said she used those earlier pageant programs as way to prepare for Miss USA.
When she won Miss Connecticut USA, Hughes was already a veteran of the Miss USA system. Her dad was a Navy surgeon, so she grew up in Virginia and competed in the Miss Virginia USA pageants.
She moved to New York afterward, and didn’t compete there.
But when she moved to Connecticut, Hughes figured she’d try again.
Hughes knew if she was going to go to Miss USA time was running short. She had just two more years left to be eligible to compete. (Contestants must be at least 18 years old and no older than 28.)
So the hunt for Miss Connecticut USA was on.
When she arrived to compete last year for the pageant, Hughes said she was feeling okay about her readiness. But, she said, “You can be so prepared but you have no idea what will happen.” Since the title is dependent on a group of judges to select you, “It’s subjective (who wins). It’s someone’s opinion” as to who is best, she said.
But, Hughes said, “I went into last year’s competition with the peace of mind that I had prepared as well as I could.”
“As long as you do your best, that’s all you can ask,” she said.
After that, Hughes said, “It’s all in God’s timing.”
And last year, for Hughes, the timing was on her side.
Once she won Miss Connecticut USA, Hughes was then on her way in July to Miss USA, which was held in Shreveport, La.
“It was absolutely surreal,” said Hughes about arriving at competition she had long dreamed about. “It was indescribable.”
Hughes also arrived knowing she had a certain responsibility. Yes, she was living her dream. But she also knew she arrived at the national pageant as a representative for the state of Connecticut and all the organizations, sponsors, and businesses who had given her support since she won the title.
“I wanted to do myself justice and I wanted to do them justice,” said Hughes.
When she arrived in Louisiana, Hughes and the other contestants from across the country had two weeks to prepare for the preliminaries and, hopefully, the final competition.
Hughes said the days were long in Louisiana. The contestants had a 6 a.m. call time, which meant waking up around 4 a.m. to prepare for the day. Once they arrived for the call, the contestants spent their days making appearances, taking media tours, and rehearsing. She said the contestants then would get to bed at 11:30 p.m. When she and her roommate returned to the hotel, Hughes said, “We just passed out.”
Although the days were long, said Hughes, “It was such an honor to be there.”
The national pageant also gave Hughes a chance to interact with contestants from across the country.
“It was beautiful to meet so many girls from different backgrounds with different beliefs,” said Hughes. It was also interesting to meet women of a wide variety of ages and who worked in a wide variety of professions.
“All the women were unique,” said Hughes.
This most recent Miss USA pageant also took a moment during its national broadcast to tackle a serious issue facing women. In a pretaped segment, contestants spoke about the #MeToo movement and sexual assault. Several contestants in the segment spoke about how they themselves had been assaulted.
“It was beautiful to be part of such a current and relevant topic (facing women),” said Hughes. “(Organizers) did not tip toe around the topic. We got asked a lot of hard questions.”
“It was eye-opening,” said Hughes.
Now that she has held the Miss Connecticut USA title, Hughes said she looks forward to the day way in the future when she can talk to her yet-to-be-born grandchildren about the experience. She hopes the Miss USA pageant continues until that day and she can talk to her grandchildren about how the program had grown and evolved.
And now that her reign as Miss Connecticut USA will come to a close in January, Hughes said she will be able to focus on her professional career.
When she was crowned, Hughes said she continued to work in her profession as a fit model for Victoria’s Secret, Pink, and other prominent brands. So, she said, she had to balance that job with her job as Miss Connecticut USA. With the crown passing onto another woman in January, Hughes said she will spend more time on that career.
Hughes also promised to continue working with the Special Olympics, a cause she has grown close to as a titleholder.
“When I was a little girl, Miss USA represented beauty, strength, confidence, and empowerment,” said Hughes. “When I was 5, I said I wanted to be Miss USA. I carried that dream and goal throughout my life.”
The Miss Connecticut USA and Miss Teen Connecticut Teen USA pageant will be held Saturday, Jan. 5. Preliminaries will be at 2:30 p.m. Finals will be at 7:30 p.m. The pageant will be held at The Palace Theater, 61 Atlantic St., Stamford. For tickets, go to missconnecticutusa.com
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