Miss Connecticut Kaitlyn Tarpey makes top 10 at Miss America competition
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Statewide - posted Thu., Sep. 19, 2013
For the second year in a row, Miss New York was crowned Miss America. Nina Davuluri, a 24-year-old native of Syracuse and graduate of the University of Michigan, won the honor as the Miss America pageant returned to its roots in Atlantic City, N.J., after spending eight years in Las Vegas.
Miss Connecticut Kaitlyn Tarpey was a top 10 finalist – the first time the Nutmeg State placed in the top 10 since Miss Connecticut 2002 Tanisha Brito.
The national pageant took place in Atlantic City, during the week of Sept. 10, with the nationally-broadcast finals and crowning on Sept. 15.
Tarpey said the experience was “awesome.” She said there was a moment of confusion when her name was called as one of the top 15, but she was soon excited, because Miss Georgia Carly Mathis was called right after her. The two had become friends at the National Sweetheart pageant a year ago.
“It was really nice to have her with me through the finals,” she said. “We held hands and said, 'We can do it.' After the top five were called, of course there was disappointment, but we looked at each other and said, 'Wow, we made it this far.'”
Performing her talent, an Irish step dance, for the national television audience, was like a dream come true.
“It was so much fun,” she said. “I was genuinely excited. That was the happiest I've ever seen myself. I was really happy. It was comforting to be recognized for the hard work that I put in, as well as the amount of energy and my life that I've given to this competition.”
Tarpey said Davuluri was very deserving of the title, and it's quite an accomplishment, given the high-caliber intelligence of this year's class of contestants. “Nina is so smart,” Tarpey said. “She is going to be a wonderful Miss America. I'm so excited for her. She's a doll.”
While Davuluri is making headlines for being the first Miss America of Indian heritage, Tarpey has also been receiving messages from girls across the country for encouraging others to embrace their different appearances. During a pre-taped segment that aired nationally, Tarpey told young girls with red hair and freckles they should not wear a lot of makeup, nor dye their hair, because they are beautiful.
“When Kaitlyn spoke on tape about owning your red hair and freckles and to never cover it up, my daughter smiled from ear to ear and felt so validated,” said one woman from Louisiana, via Facebook.
“That makes me feel like Miss America,” Tarpey said. “It's overwhelming. The amount of people who have reached out to me... that's what Miss America is about. It's so relatable to so many people. Miss America is a woman who promotes imperfection and self-love. My message is that you can be Miss America if you look like me, just like Nina's message is that you can be of Indian descent and be Miss America.”
In an interview with the ReminderNews on Sept. 11 (during the competition week), Tarpey said the contestants had been receiving the royal treatment in Atlantic City.
“It's so cool having it here in Atlantic City,” Tarpey said. “There are 53 of us, and only one of us will be Miss America, but we are all being treated like Miss Americas. Atlantic City has been so receptive, supportive and gung ho about the organization's comeback.”
Tarpey said that after the competition was over, she and some of the other contestants endulged in some tiramisu. As for her remaining nine months as Miss Connecticut, Tarpey said she plans to continue to work hard. Having taken the year off from her studies at Pace University, she is also taking some of her college classes part-time.
“I want to be the best Miss Connecticut I can be,” she said. “That means getting more sponsors for the organization, raising scholarship dollars, and increasing the number of local pageants throughout the state. My enthusiasm for this job has not deteriorated whatsoever. I hope I am able to advise people in Connecticut how to work at this program. A big part of competing in this program is to understand the big picture, and now that I've experienced that, I want to share my knowledge and my passion.”
She also may have other potential job offers coming soon.
"I was told I'm 'filmagenic,' so I don't know what is going to come of that," Tarpey added.
Miss Connecticuts have placed as high as Tarpey in 10 Miss America pageants, including 1933's Marian Bergeron, who was the only Miss Connecticut to have been crowned Miss America.