AMANDA BEAGLE Will she be Miss America?
The reigning Miss Ohio will leave next week for Washington, D.C., before heading on to Atlantic City.
By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
MANDA BEAGLE IDENTIFIES WITH Sandra Bullock's character from the movie "Miss Congeniality."
In the 2000 film, Bullock plays an FBI agent who goes undercover in the Miss United States pageant to prevent a group from bombing the contest. The problem is, Bullock's character, Gracie Lou Freedbush, isn't always convincing as a beauty pageant contestant.
"I love that movie. ... I've watched it so many times. I really feel like her sometimes," said the reigning Miss Ohio, who hails from Howland. "I am such a klutz. I fall all the time. I just smashed my finger in the door the other day."
But, just like Bullock's character, the 24-year-old Beagle has the beauty -- both inside and out -- to take her high in the ranks of a scholarship pageant.
Beagle, a 2003 graduate of Youngstown State University who majored in vocal performance, spent Sunday at Powers Auditorium in downtown Youngstown, mingling with local politicians, friends, family and general well-wishers as she prepares for the upcoming Miss America pageant.
Spreading a message
"I really don't feel like a beauty pageant queen," Beagle said. "That's all like the frosting on the cake. To me, the event is all about the community service aspect and having something to say and having a platform to get that message out.
"You wouldn't believe how many people listen to you when you are wearing a crown," she said.
Beagle's platform focuses on the Students Motivated by the Arts program, for which she is a teacher. She also teaches at the James Dance and Performing Arts Center, where she studied dance and singing for more than 10 years.
The only daughter of Gerald and Ann Marie Beagle of Howland -- her three brothers are 32-year-old Gavin, 27-year-old Jason and 19-year-old Nathan -- Beagle came to the pageant circuit relatively late in life. Her first competition was only three years ago, on the advice of a former teacher that she look to the pageants as a way to earn scholarship money.
Since that first pageant in 2002, Beagle has moved up the ranks from Top 10 finalist in 2002, to first runner-up in 2003 to Miss Ohio this year. For her winning efforts, she was awarded a $15,000 scholarship, which she plans to use to pursue her master's degree in vocal performance at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
But her seemingly instant success in the world of scholarship pageants is no surprise to her mother, who's been in the wings, watching her daughter perform in recitals, competitions and school events since Amanda was 8 years old.
"She has the carriage of a dancer, and we always knew she had the talent," Ann Marie said of her daughter. "She had the stage presence, but just needed to work on her interviewing and public speaking skills.
"Even from just last year, her interview improved by 100 percent," she said.
Beagle plans to take the skills she's developed in the past three years of local and state competition with her to the national level. She realizes this is her one and only shot at becoming Miss America -- once a young woman becomes a contestant in the national pageant, she is not ever eligible for the competition again -- but says she is looking forward to the challenge.
Beagle plans to leave next week with her state-appointed traveling companion, Sharon Herlihy, and will stop first in Washington, D.C., before heading to Atlantic City, N.J., for a week of rehearsals, followed by a week of preliminary competitions before the big night.
The Miss America pageant airs on ABC, Channel 33 WYTV locally, on Sept. 18.