Rachelle Muir didn’t plan on competing in the Miss America Scholarship Preliminary Pageant while her little sister Sarah lay unconscious in an Atlanta, Ga. hospital bed, but she did it anyway. It’s what her sister would have wanted, she said.
Rachelle, an 18-year-old senior from Litchville-Marion High School competed with six other young women for the title of Miss James River, Miss Peace Garden, or Miss Peace Garden on Saturday in Montpelier. Winners of the local pageant received scholarships and can go on the compete in the Miss North Dakota Pageant. All the young women who competed were awarded a $100 scholarship.
The teen joined the pageant less than two weeks ago at her high school counselor’s urging. The counselor, who worked with the pageant, wanted local representation and Rachelle thought it would be a great self-confidence booster.
Though she wasn’t terribly shy, Rachelle is active in speech and the Governor’s School where she learned to speak in public and to others, she thought the pageant would help with some lingering fears. And it did.
“I’m more confident now,” said Rachelle. “I’ve been in front of a crowd in a swimsuit!” she said with a laugh.
Besides a swimsuit competition, the pageant included a private interview, an evening gown competition, on-stage questions, dance routines by the participants, and a talent competition. During on-stage questioning, Rachelle explained to the judges why she thought her platform, “children’s rights during times of trouble,” was important. It’s because those kids nee an advocate, she said.
“It’s about social work. I hate to see anyone hurting,” she said.
Each part of the competition carried a percentage value, but the talent competition was the most important part of the evening comprising 25 percent of each participant’s final score.
While Rachelle had sung in front of a crowd during her school’s talent show, “The Hit Parade,” singing Nickelback’s “If Everyone Cared” was still difficult. But practice made it easier, she said.
“The more you do it the better you get,” she added.
Dancing was her favorite part of the competition, though. Participants learned a dance on the first day of practice, just a week before the pageant, and had just one day to master it, said Rachelle.
“I danced in high heels and I didn’t break my neck!” Rachelle shouted into the crowd after the competition.
Throughout the pageant, Rachelle admitted she had other things on her mind.
She worried about her sister Sarah, 16, who had gone through liver and kidney transplants the week before the pageant.
During surgery, Sarak had complications that left her without a heartbeat for an extended time, according to Rachelle. Though doctors were able to resuscitate her, Sarah hadn’t awakened from surgery when she developed a bleeding problem. Doctors discovered a large clot in a blood vessel above her new kidney. Another surgery on Friday evening resolved the clot, but Sarah remains in a coma. It’s still unclear whether Sarah is rejecting the new kidney or if she sustained extensive brain damage as a result of oxygen deprivation during the first surgery.
Just before the pageant, Rachelle spoke to her father who assured her that Sarah would want her to compete.
“Sarah was a major motivator for me,” said Rachelle. “I did it for her.”
And, after gaining experience from her first pageant, she hopes to enter another, she said.
Rachelle currently lives in Litchville with friends while her family is in Atlanta. She will remain there until graduation. After high school she plans to study veterinary technology at the Vet Tech Institute in Houston, Texas.