by MIKE CHAIKEN
On a recent morning, Connecticut’s Kaliegh Garris’s face was beamed across the nation as she sat at a table across from the hosts of “CBS This Morning.”
Garris also has been name-checked in the national press numerous times over the past couple of weeks. Elle, People, Essence – as well as CBS—have featured stories on the Milford, Conn. 18-year-old.
But as the new Miss Teen USA explained in a recent phone call, “I keep telling people, it hasn’t set in. I’m still a normal teenager.”
Although she won the national crown on April 28 in Reno, Nev., Garris said her first priority in the days following her victory was to see her friends. When she was interviewed on May 7, she said she still had not had a chance to see them.
But Garris said her friends have been in contact at least. (Facetime has been a big help, she said.) They have been sending her all of the articles where she has been mentioned.
“It’s insane how my name is getting out there,” said Garris. She said people work their whole life to get that kind of recognition. She said she felt fortunate all of her hard work has been paying off.
Garris, who is the second Connecticut resident to win the national title (Logan West had been the first), was competing in her first Miss Universe state competition when she won the Miss Connecticut USA title.
When she competed in Miss Connecticut USA in Stamford on Jan. 9, Garris said “I went in with an open mind.”
“Everyone wants to win,” said Garris. However, if she didn’t win, she said she “wanted someone good to win.”
“My end game was to be remembered,” said Garris. “I don’t want to be forgotten.”
As things turned out, said Garris, “Being myself paid off.”
When Garris competed at Miss Teen USA, she continued the color scheme she used when she won the state pageant. Her evening gown in Reno was a pink/ fuschia similar to what she wore in Stamford.
Heading into the national event, however, Garris said, “I had no clue what my national gown would be like.”
Again, Garris said, she kept an open mind when she began her mission to find a dress.
Garris’s search was helped because she walked in a fashion show for designer Sherri Hill. She saw some dresses that caught hereye.
Garris eventually selected a Sherri Hill chiffon dress. Garris said she was drawn to the dress because it was different from the ball gowns she had worn in previous competitions. She said she liked the gown she wore because it made her feel more like a teen. Also, she said, the scarf around the neck made her fashion choice stand out.
Besides competing in pageants, Garris has been laying ground work to be a fashion model. Locally, she has posed for CTFashionMag.com and walked in runway shows for Oxford’s Dazzle Boutique. She also has walked for designers like Jovani.
Garris said the Miss Teen USA title will be helpful in expanding her career in fashion to a national stage. Being a part of the Miss Universe organization will allow her to meet new people and build relationships to assist in her modeling career.
The weeks after winning the Miss Teen USA pageant have been busy, said Garris.
However, said Garris, she was looking forward to some time for herself.
“I’m still me,” said Garris. “I’m still a teen. I still have friends and family I want to see.”
“I need to take care of myself and relax,” said Garris.