Miss Washington Jacquie Brown’s crowning achievement

Vancouver native's third runner-up finish at Miss America Pageant icing on amazing year




A gallery of photos from Jacquie Brown's showing at the Miss America competition is online at http://www.columbian.com/photos/galleries/.

Competing in last month’s Miss America pageant in front of 6.67 million television viewers was so intense for Miss Washington Jacquie Brown, a Vancouver native, that she sobbed during commercial breaks.

“For me to be there representing my state, it was emotional,” said Brown, 22. “Because I knew how much I put into it, and how much the people around me had put into helping me and supporting me.”

She was the first Clark County resident to vie for the Miss America title in two decades. The Evergreen High School grad didn’t win that crown, but as third runner-up, she received $15,000 in scholarships. Only two other Miss Washingtons in the history of the pageant have done so well.

A gallery of photos from Jacquie Brown’s showing at the Miss America competition is online at http://www.columbian.com/photos/galleries/.

“To make it down to each phase and get called and get called and get called, it’s something you dream about and imagine,” Brown said.

Pageants provided a path out of her rocky childhood. She lacked a stable home. She struck out on her own at 16. At 17, she entered the Miss Greater Vancouver contest and was third runner-up. She kept entering pageants until she was crowned Miss Greater Vancouver 2010, which led to the Miss Washington title in July.

Then she moved to Puyallup to live with the state pageant director and train for the nationwide pageant.

One of her first acts of preparation was to pick out a dress for the evening gown competition: a strapless number with silvery rosettes. It was the first dress she tried on. She loved its shimmer and hourglass shape. Finding it so quickly gave her a feeling that things were falling into place.

Also in preparation, she received voice coaching for the talent competition. Her song selection — The Temptations song “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” — was considered a bit daring.

“It’s hard because a lot of girls — they may be really sweet and have the best intentions — but they kind of choose something that’s been done over and over and over again. They sing it well and it’s great but we’ve all heard it 20 million times,” Brown said. “For me, I wanted to do something different that stood out.”

She went into the big event feeling prepared and confident that no matter what happened, it would be the experience of a lifetime.

“My life had been in limbo. I knew no matter what happened, I would get an answer on where my life was headed,” Brown said.

She made it to the top five. She admits that when her name was called as third runner-up, it was a bittersweet moment.

“I knew the girls who were remaining could take care of the job. At the same time, I was feeling that disappointment and that initial reaction of, ‘Darn, I got so close.’ At the same time, I had to step back and say, ‘Wow, I was able to compete in all phases of competition. I was able to get third runner-up and $15,000 for school,’” Brown said.

She was in Las Vegas for two weeks leading up to the pageant. Her days started at 7 a.m. and were packed with hours of rehearsals and appearances. Her roommate was Miss Kansas, and she got to know other contestants, as well.

“It wasn’t about competing against each other. It was understanding that we all are there for one common goal — trying to make ourselves the best we can possibly be,” Brown said. “There were so many times when girls were helping tease each other’s hair, or helping with makeup, or if someone ripped a dress, they’d lend a dress in a heartbeat. It wasn’t the cattiness you hear about. I knew it would be different, but it totally exceeded my expectations.”

Brown held Miss Nebraska Teresa Scanlan’s hand as they awaited final results. Scanlan, 17, won the crown.

“She’s very young, but she’s really mature for her age,” Brown said.

“She actually has already sent an e-mail out to all the contestants offering her personal cell phone number to us. She said, ‘Girls, if you see me doing something at any time that you don’t think represents all of us to the best that I should be, keep me accountable and here’s my phone number.’ I think that’s a tremendous mark of maturity, because she knows she’s representing all of us. It’s not, ‘I’m Miss America now and you’re nobody.’”

With the Miss America pageant behind her, Brown will continue her other duties as Miss Washington. She continues to work on her platform of encouraging adults to mentor youths. She will travel around the state to emcee local pageants, and in July, she will crown her successor.

“I’m not returning to Vancouver, even though my family and friends do live here and I’ll miss it. I have so many opportunities and open doors in Seattle,” Brown said.

She plans to enroll at the University of Washington and hopes to land an internship at a television station. Her goal is to become a broadcast journalist.

Even as she moves on, the glow of the Miss America experience stays with her.

“It was just a dream come true,” Brown said. “I know that sounds really corny, but it really was.”