GW Alumna to enter Miss America’s 100th Anniversary Pageant | GW today

By Nick Erickson

The first Miss America pageant was held on September 8, 1921, less than 13 months after Congress ratified the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. At the time of the inaugural competition, women could not enlist or receive military benefits, retain U.S. citizenship if they married someone from out of the country, or sit on a jury in most states.

One hundred years later, candidates like George Washington University alumnus Leigh Payne, BS’21, command not only the stage, but also the classrooms, boardrooms and markets. Ms. Payne, an economics graduate from Columbia College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS), is proud to show that it is just as possible for a woman to have an interview with a small business owner or a presentation on tax reform because it’s a track.

She won the Miss Rhode Island crown in August and will compete in the Mohegan Sun’s Miss America Pageant December 12-16 in Atlantic City, NJ. The five-day contest finale airs December 16 on Peacock TV. The renowned pageant, Ms. Payne said, is more than what some may incompletely consider a beauty pageant. It celebrates the erudition, leadership, poise and artistry of women.

She takes pride in being a part of the changing public perception of the competition and appreciates the past while representing the present of the competition which facilitates individual professionalism.

“It’s a good shade to embrace and retain a lot of the traditional history, and the more modern aspect is that women can have it all,” Ms. Payne said.

Throughout her life, the native of Barrington, RI, has always cast a big net.

Ms Payne, who entered Rhode Island’s Outstanding Teen Competition in 2016, came to GW on a Presidential Academic Fellowship with the ambition to leave her mark on the college. As a freshman during the 2018-2019 academic year, she co-founded One for the World, a section of an international organization that connects students with credible charities aiming to fight against poverty. Ms. Payne has remained active on and off campus, serving as the Director of Marketing for College Republicans while interning with Americans for Tax Reform, The Heritage Foundation, Jamestown Associates and Targeted Victory.

In high school, she founded Hope and Healing Music, an outreach organization that connects musicians with local nursing homes and rehabilitation centers to bring comfort through music to the elderly, in addition to providing instruments to the elderly. students in financial difficulty. She also volunteered at Ronald McDonald House.

Civically engaged since her teenage years, Ms. Payne is grateful that her experience with GW exposed her to different topics and perspectives that helped her become even more complete, which she says had a profound impact in becoming one of 51 candidates competing for Miss America.

“GW has been crucial in this professional experience,” Ms. Payne said. “I think that sets me apart as a candidate. “

Ms. Payne won the Miss Rhode Island Award after playing classical piano and showcasing her social impact initiative “Supporting Small Businesses: Empowering Women Through Ownership and Entrepreneurship”. conversation with business leaders who have been hit hard by the financial impact of the pandemic.

During the Miss Rhode Island pageant, Ms. Payne had to present her findings on stage in what she described as a TED Talk format, which she likened to a classroom presentation. That’s her type of element, and she’ll be performing it on a national stage during the Miss America competition.

“While I might not feel more comfortable walking around in a dress on stage or playing the piano, because it’s a little more emotional and private for me to talk about a subject that is mine. Interest comes easily and more naturally, ”Ms. Payne said. .

She enjoyed reconnecting with the piano for the pageant and was told up to 4 million people would see her performance in the Miss America pageant. While this number may seem surprising to someone reconnecting to the scene, she enjoys being pushed out of her comfort zone and plans to tackle the set as she does with her business presentations and work. volunteer – all-in-one and ready to take control.


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