JACOB L. GRANT, Staff Writer
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Date Posted: 09/23/05 1:23:56pm
Miss Vermont USA 2006 Amanda Gilman stands with her father Dale and mother Darlene after the Miss Vermont USA pageant at the Sheraton Hotel in Burlington Sunday night.
A world of opportunity has suddenly opened wide for 19-year-old Amanda Gilman.
She won the title of Miss Vermont USA 2006 during the weekend-long competition at the Sheraton Hotel in Burlington.
When the names were announced, Gilman said, "I actually didn't think that I'd won, I thought the girl next to me had won," she said, laughing. "I gave her a big hug and said, 'Congratulations, you're going to make a great Miss Vermont!' And she was like, 'Uh, thanks, but I'm going to have to try again next year.'"
When she realized it was she who had won the title, Gilman admitted to doing a lot of the stereotypical crying.
"I really wasn't expecting to win," she said.
Gilman, a born and raised Vermonter from Danville, is a Lyndon State College sophomore double majoring in broadcasting and business administration.
She said she first competed in the Miss Vermont Teen USA competition in 2002 for the 2003 title. She made it into the top 10 and competed the following year to attain second runner-up.
Having outgrown the teen competition, her first attempt at Miss Vermont USA in 2004 landed her second runner-up.
She said the Miss Vermont USA pageant, and the impending Miss USA competition, are great launching points for her career in television broadcasting.
"I don't think people realize the opportunities that are afforded to young women in the competition," she said.
Miss USA delegates have been much more successful transferring into careers than those involved with other organizations like Miss USA's sister competition, Miss America, according to Gilman.
Even the organization's Web site claims its purpose is, "To open doors and provide career and educational opportunities, not only to the winner, but to all the young women who participate."
The main difference between the Miss America and Miss USA contests is that Miss USA bases the decision on interview, evening gown and swimsuit competitions, each counting as one-third of the score. Miss America, however, has four categories - talent, interview, swimsuit and evening gown.
And unlike Miss America that allows each participant to have a separate platform, such as business or politics, Miss USA has a national platform with the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation.
"Miss USA is incredibly competitive," Gilman said.
With Vermont being a much smaller state that is not typically successful in pageants, Gilman said it's a pretty lofty goal for a Vermonter to think she can go all the way.
But Gilman's certainly going to give it her best.
Starting in January she said she's going to be devoting 90 percent of her time to preparations for the national Miss USA competition in April. Her schedule will include rigorous time at the gym and a lot of interview training.
"[The interview] is really what makes or breaks your score," she said.
The Miss Vermont USA competition ended Sunday night after three days of interviews, rehearsals, strutting and judging.
Gilman won the title out of 23 contestants and took home a prize package worth over $60,000.
She considers herself very fortunate to have done so well, but is not lax to attribute her success where it's due.
From the many individuals and businesses that sponsored her along the way, to the people who helped her directly with her wardrobe, gym training and preparation, including Miss Vermont USA 2004, Michelle Fongemie, and Steve Parker of Body Basics in Danville, Gilman said she is extremely grateful.
However, she said her personality wouldn't even be suited for the competitive world of beauty pageants if not for her parents, Dale and Darlene Gilman.
With the Gilmans being foster parents, Gilman said her childhood was very family oriented. Throughout her life there were foster children, from many different ages and backgrounds, coming and going through their home.
"I think it really helped shape me as a more giving person because of that lifestyle," she said.
As competitive as the competition was, Gilman said there were a lot of very generous people, especially within the circle of competitors.
"I remember sitting there getting my fake eyelashes glued on while the second runner up was doing my hair," she said.
During the competition some of the women loaned her jewelry, others loaned their time and offered tips on walking, stage presence and posing.
"It was great, I had so much fun," she said.
To aspiring young women interested in competing, Gilman encourages them to be persistent.
"Just because only one person walks away with the crown," she said, "the experience itself is invaluable."
Throughout the years, she said competing has helped make her a much better person, slowly drawing her out of her shell and helping her become a much more accomplished speaker.
Nevertheless, she admits there are still some very difficult aspects.
"I was not looking forward to the swimsuit competition," she said laughing. "Believe it or not, I'm a very shy person."
Now that it's over, Gilman's looking forward to a busy few months as she does interviews, appearances and community events.
Anyone interested in having her make an appearance at an event, or any young woman looking to get involved in pageantry, is welcome to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I'm happy to help anyone that would like to experience everything that I've been so fortunate to," she said.
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