Miss Washington USA prepared to compete for national title in Las Vegas

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter

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photoMiss Washington USA Angelina Kayyalaynen will compete for the title of Miss USA next month.

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Pageant voting online

The Miss USA Pageant will air at 9 p.m. June 19 on NBC, local channel 8. Now through 6 p.m. June 18, people can vote online to help select one of the pageant semifinalists. People can vote up to 10 times per day, per email address. They can vote via text message up to 10 times per day, per phone number between 8 p.m. June 15 and 6 p.m. June 18. For more information, go to the Miss Universe website.

When TV audiences around the country tune in for the Miss USA Pageant on June 19, Washington’s representative will be ready.

Since she was crowned Miss Washington USA last fall, Angelina Kayyalaynen has been preparing to compete for the national title in Las Vegas next month.

Recently, she has been part of a media blitz promoting the pageant. Kayyalaynen and other Miss USA contestants are scheduled to appear on an episode of “Live! with Regis and Kelly” airing Monday at 11 a.m. on ABC, local channel 2.

A Ukraine native, Kayyalaynen, 21, recently moved from Vancouver to Camas. She is a junior at Washington State University Vancouver, where she is majoring in psychology.

Kayyalaynen is taking the year off from school to fulfill her Miss Washington USA obligations and to prepare for the Miss USA Pageant, but she plans to resume her studies in August.

She also has an associate’s degree from Clark College and is a 2007 Heritage High School graduate.

Kayyalaynen visited The Columbian offices two weeks ago to talk about her preparations for the Miss USA Pageant, and what winning would mean for her.

The following interview has been edited for space and clarity.

How have you been preparing for the Miss USA Pageant since being crowned Miss Washington USA in October?

There are three different categories. There’s the swimsuit, the evening gown and the interview.

For me, the swimsuit, that’s the first stage where they see you, so you have to be very fit. They’re not looking for skinny girls, they’re looking for very healthy and very fit girls.

I actually just got done with my workout today of about an hour and a half of running on the treadmill.

There’s also the evening gown portion of the competition, and my evening gown is absolutely amazing. I will not say what color it is just because you have to wait ’til the final show. My friends don’t know, my family doesn’t know what it looks like, so there’s a little bit of anticipation there.

And for the interview, you have to be up to date on all the current events. You have to have an opinion on all those issues happening around the world. Also, you have to know about your state.

Do you think your previous experience representing Washington at the National American Miss Pageant in 2008 will be an asset?

I’ve gained a lot of confidence, and my stage presence has developed. I’m able to project my voice, and I’m able to communicate my thoughts clearly. Being in that environment, you kind of learn how it works, what works, what doesn’t.

Those three weeks when I’m going to be in Vegas, a lot of girls are going to be exhausted, not only physically but also mentally. On the stage or off the stage, you always have to have the positive attitude, you always have to be energetic, so that wears you out.

Do you have a platform?

We’re not required to have a platform because Miss USA is an advocate for breast and ovarian cancer research.

But as a state title holder, I have been working with the AWARE (Abstinence Wait-training and Relationship Education) organization in Vancouver, and we do go to different schools and we talk to youth.

We cover issues such as abuse, sexting and pornography.

We’re trying to get them to think about their future and have a successful future by starting with their own family, with their own people around them.

What would it mean for you to be Miss USA?

It’s a lifelong dream, but all of that aside, the impact you can have on a national level is immense.

As Miss Washington USA, I’ve been involved with the AWARE organization ever since I won. The work that I did with them I would love to take on a national level.

Miss USA actually goes to several countries, as well. I would love to go to Ukraine as Miss USA. As a Ukrainian Miss USA.

Which aspect of the competition are you most excited about?

I would have to say swimsuit. I always thought evening gown was my best, but every time I was competing in a different pageant, evening gown always had the lowest score. Interview had the highest score, but the swimsuit I think this time around is the one I’m most excited about.

I spent so much time working out. I’m ready to show how fit I am. It’s an accomplishment in a certain way if you think about it.

How much do you work out?

Every day at least two hours. It’s not about being skinny, it’s not about not eating. It’s about being very, very fit. Definitely a little bit of discipline comes in handy.

When do you leave for Las Vegas for the pageant?

I’m leaving on June 1 to go to Miss USA, and I’m going to stay there ’til the 21st. Those three weeks are going to be really busy. Early mornings, late nights, and also trying to have a little bit of a workout.

You’re on a lockdown. You can’t go anywhere unless your chaperons are with you, which is good because it keeps all the girls safe and secure.

What do you think of the audience participation aspect of the competition, where people can vote online or text to help select one of the semifinalists?

It’s great. We’re always asked if the pageants are still relevant or not. I think we’re being asked that because people don’t really know what they’re all about.

The audience starting to follow the whole pageant competition and trying to learn about the girls will get them interested and will also take away that perception that pageants are not relevant anymore.

In a previous interview, you mentioned being excited about meeting Donald Trump, since the Miss Universe Organization under which the Miss USA Pageant falls is a joint venture between the mogul and NBC. You said were impressed by his business acumen. What did you think of all the headlines he made recently for his part in the “birther” movement, which questioned whether President Obama was born in the United States and, by extension, eligible to hold office?

It doesn’t really matter who is asking for a birth certificate. If anybody’s interested, he’s our president. We have a right to know.

However, the amount of attention that issue was given was just a little bit extended. Him asking for a birth certificate, that’s not the problem itself. The amount of time they spent on that issue, that’s what’s a little bit unnecessary I’d say.

You moved to Vancouver from Ukraine about eight years ago. As a recent immigrant, what does it mean for you to represent Washington at the national pageant level?

I think it just shows that the United States is made up of immigrants. As an immigrant, representing Washington just emphasizes that idea that everybody is welcome here and everybody can be successful.

If you win the Miss USA Pageant, what will it be like to compete against Miss Ukraine for the Miss Universe title?

For the last several years, the Miss Ukraine winners have been coming to the Miss USA Pageants.

So I’m actually really looking forward to meeting her because it’s somebody from your native country, someone who speaks your language, and in the same environment. You don’t get that very often.

Looking beyond pageants, what are your plans for the future?

I want to obtain a degree in psychology. I want to be a marriage counselor. I also want to possibly have my own seminars. I have been inspired by Gary Smalley. I remember learning about him when I was attending Clark College in one of my communications classes. He’s a psychologist and he had his own seminars. The whole pageant experience, being on stage, being in the public eye, and also public speaking events that you have as Miss Washington USA, that’s definitely going to come in handy.