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In reality, Miss Maryland inspires and glitters

Miss America contestant gets local send-off

Miss America contestant gets local send-off

January 14, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN - Miss Maryland Shana Powell returned to Hagerstown Sunday for a send-off luncheon at Four Points Sheraton, where a gathering of about 60 people got a sneak peek at the gowns she will be wearing in the Miss America competition in Las Vegas next week.

Between appreciative murmurs and applause, guests including Miss Maryland 2006 and pageant titleholders from across the state spoke with excitement of the possibility that Powell, 22, a student at Morgan State University, could become the first Miss America from Maryland in the contest's 87-year history.

"Her talent is amazing, and she's a very, very poised individual," said Miss Maryland 2006, Brittany Lietz, 22, of Friendship. "She's so well-composed."

Lietz said she had been watching Powell prepare for the competition on "Miss America: Reality Check," a four-part TLC reality series introduced this year to boost viewership for the contest.

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Powell said the show, while entertaining, doesn't present a complete picture of what went on during the four weeks she lived with the other 51 contestants.

"As far as I'm concerned, the best parts of it were kind of left out," Powell said. "The bonds that were formed, the moments when people were respectful and kind to one another, were not so much captured on camera."

Lisa Eden, who coached Powell in the Prince George's County Public Schools Honors Chorus, had also been watching the show, but she drove from New Carrollton, Md., to see her former student in person and hear her perform her talent piece, "Glitter and Be Gay" from the operetta "Candide."

"She captured my attention right away," Eden said.

Vincent Stringer, Powell's vocal coach at Morgan State University, said Powell is a hardworking student who spends hours "chirping away" in the school's practice room and can turn his entire day around with her enthusiasm.

"It's wonderful to have a student who inspires you and makes you work, who reminds you there is so much wonder in the world," Stringer said.

Ronnie Weaver, co-owner of The Bridal Suite in Johnstown, Pa., which provided many of Powell's gowns, said the store focused on stylish clothing that complemented Powell's regal demeanor.

Her favorite is Powell's evening gown, a one-of-a-kind creation by designer Jonathan Kayne, who competed on season three of the Bravo TV reality show "Project Runway." The halter gown is made of a black and pewter silk with a burnout of concentric circles and scattered smoky crystals.

Kayne loved the material, but had only enough to make one dress, which found its way to the Bridal Suite, where it was selected for Powell to wear in the pageant, said Miss Maryland Pageant Producer Beverly Bonarigo.

Preparing for the pageant has been a long, detail-oriented process that began as soon as Powell was crowned Miss Maryland in June, said her sister, Niambi Powell.

"She'd call and say, 'Do you have a dress in pink, or knee-length and blue?'"

One of Powell's pageant dresses, a turquoise silk gown with a flowing tiered skirt with a high leg split, is borrowed from Niambi's closet.

Both girls began competing in pageants around the age of 8, and their mother, Allyn Powell, remembers Shana talking about wanting to be Miss America as a young girl.

Shana always was shy and quiet, but she wanted to be in pageants to help her get over her shyness, her mother said. Before Shana's first pageant, her mother remembers asking her what would happen if she lost.

"She said, 'Just because I don't win doesn't mean I lose,'" Allyn Powell recalled. "Ever since then, she's been working at it."

True to reputation, the Miss America hopeful was positive and self-confident as she thanked those who supported her and helped her prepare.

"Seeing what it does to be invested in someone other than yourself has taught me something," Powell said. "It has taught me that that's what makes your life rich and meaningful: giving for the sake of someone else. That's what I'm going to take with me to Miss America, and that's how I know I've already won."

The Miss America pageant airs Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. on TLC.

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