Monday, December 7, 2009

Children's Miracle Network

Happy holidays! I am in full swing getting prepared to leave for Miss America! I am so excited and so honored to show you all how hard I have been working and how prepared I am to be the next Miss America.

Part of my preparation is to raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network. This is a nonprofit organization that helps raise money for children's hospitals all over the country, including the Children's National Medical Center here in DC.

My goal is to raise $10,000 by Miss America. If everyone could donate just $10, I could reach my goal very quickly and we can really make a difference in the life of a child. Thank you so much for your continued support on my journey to Miss America!

To donate please click here.
Thank you!


Friday, November 20, 2009

...and then I got too busy to post?

So I’ve been slacking on the posts. But I can promise you, I have NOT been slacking on life. Miss DC has kept me busy this past month and now I am in full swing preparing for Miss America!

After meeting Obama, not much else can compare, but here are some appearance highlights:

MEXICO: Not an appearance, but I did get to sneak away for a few days down to Monterrey, Mexico to visit some good friends. This only motivated me more to spend some time in a foreign country to learn Spanish. I took Spanish in school, but never seriously studied it. Every person I met there spoke at least Spanish and English and all very well! I want that! Hmmmm …. Can I use my Miss DC scholarship money abroad??

CAPS/RANGERS: On October 8th, I was invited to sing the National Anthem at the Caps/Rangers game. This had to be one of my favorite singing experiences. Growing up in NY, my dad raised us to be diehard Ranger fans. He is a 27-year season ticket holder and when I was growing up you could find little 7-year old me sitting on the couch with my daddy on game night in my Ranger jersey screaming at the TV. He taught me that hockey is hands down the best sport ever. One of my favorite sports memories was getting to go to Mark Messier’s retirement game. He is my all-time favorite athlete. Now that I’m in DC, I can get my hockey fix with the Capitals, who happen to be awesome. I love going to games and cheering on my home team. So it was such a thrill to have the Rangers here in DC and being allowed to sing for them. While I did root for my Caps, my mom sat next to me cheering for the Rangers so I think we evened it out. ;) Just don’t tell my dad I’m a Caps fan. hehe

USMC MARATHON WEEKEND: Kicked off the weekend on Friday morning by singing the National Anthem at the Convention Center (at 8am!!!).

That night I attended a banquet for the USMC Marathon and met some fun people like Montel Williams! I also got my first coin! I didn’t know what it meant, but after receiving 3 that weekend, I now understand what an honor it is to receive one. Saturday morning was the Healthy Kids Fun Run. I think they said something like 4000 kids came through to run their one-mile race. Even though it was cold and raining, not a single kid seemed to notice. I had a great time taking pictures with the kids at the CNN booth and high-fiving every single kid as they crossed the finish line (even though I desperately craved hand sanitizer after high-fiving 4000 kids… haha) That night I was asked to sing at American University’s Alumni Dinner where they announced that the school will be holding a Miss America viewing party for the students! I never went to bed that night because I thought it was a good idea to spend some time with my friends and I had to be at the real Marine Corp Marathon at 5 am. Oops. Luckily my mom was in town to get me down there! The marathon was an unbelievable sight. It took them 21 minutes to just cross the starting line! I got to see my friend, Andy Baldwin from The Bachelor, before the race, but couldn’t find my bff/pretend boyfriend Jon-Michael Eclar. There were THOUSANDS of people just in the race, let alone all the supporters there cheering each other on. What an amazing thing to experience. Miss DC 2008, Kate Marie Grinold, was there too running the 10K. She inspired me to want to do it next year! Who’s with me!?

MISS AMERICA COMES TO DC: Later that same day as the marathon, Miss America, Katie Stam, arrived in DC for a fabulous fundraiser we were hosting at the Embassy of Uzbekistan. We both got to spend some time with the Ambassador of Uzbekistan along with his wife and we got a tour of their BEAUTIFUL embassy. The embassy was the former Canadian Embassy and was designed by an architect that died on the Titanic! Katie and I had a great time taking pictures and performing for everyone there. And believe me, we took A LOT of pictures.

LESLIE SANCHEZ: At the Miss America party, Leslie Sanchez approached me to ask if I would speak at her book release party that was later that week. Her book, We’ve Come a Long Way, Maybe, was just released and she’s been all over CNN and Fox and even The District Dish! ( Her party was held at our fabulous friend Don Patron’s apartment at the Ritz. (I want to live at the Ritz) I love this man so much. He even thought ahead enough to hide cupcakes in his walk-in closet so I could go hide and eat a cupcake without every reporter capturing a picture of me chowing down on a chocolate cupcake! LOVE HIM. I also love Leslie. She is such an inspiration to women of all ages. I look to her to gain inspiration on how to carry myself, especially in the public eye. It is hard to balance the idea of coming across as a strong and powerful independent woman, and coming across as a b*tch. When Leslie walks into a room, you can tell she’s somebody… and that she is just filled with self-confidence. But never once does she make those around her feel that they are less than her. She inspires all to seek their inner confidence and let is shineee. I love that.

CMN TORCH WALK: On October 30th, I had the opportunity to work with my favorite organization, Children’s Miracle Network, and participate in their Torch Relay Walk. They invited me to sing the National Anthem and come with them to help carry the torch on their 3.1 mile walk. Met the cutest kids ever at this event and got some good pictures of us bonding.

GREEN AND BLUE PHOTOSHOOT: I also got to do a photoshoot for my sponsor Green and Blue which is on Connecticut Ave in Dupont. Sonya Gavankar, Miss DC producer, was the photographer.

VOICES FOR AMERICA’S CHILDREN: I was asked to perform at the organization’s gala in front of Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Congressman Patrick Kennedy who was accepting an award on behalf of his father. Both Secretary Sebelius and Congressman Kennedy gave moving speeches about the importance of providing affordable healthcare to not only all Americans, but especially all American children.

APPALACHIAN TRAIL: Finally some family time! My dad flew down for the weekend and we drove out to James Madison to visit my sister who is a junior there. We spent the weekend catching up, family tailgating, going to my first college football game (thanks AU), and hiking the Appalachian Trail! 6.5 miles. Up hill. Both ways. I thought I was in good shape. But I was dead! Luckily dad treated us to McDonald’s fries and shakes after our 5-hour hike. It is impossible to describe how unbelievable the views are from the mountaintop. No matter how much I talk about wanting to travel the world and experience other countries, this is why I know I will come home. America the Beautiful.

I had to update my facebook status once we reached the top!

DC CENTRAL KITCHEN: This was one of my most favorite events so far. All of my Vanna White dreams came true and became the official bell girl for the Iron Chef competitions with all the Food Network Stars! I finally got to meet Carla and Anthony Bourdain and Ted Allen from Queer Eye even went out of his way to introduce himself to me! Love them!! My favorite part was to see all of the graduates of the DC Central Kitchen program come on stage looking so proud of what then have become. So many of them went from being homeless to gaining a real skill and getting real jobs!

GOODWILL SPEECH: Last Friday I was invited to be the speaker at Goodwill’s graduation of their Green Construction Program. What a humbling experience. You will be able to see most of it when my Goodwill project is aired online. There was one great moment when one of the women graduating asked if she could share a poem she wrote. I don’t want to spoil it yet, but she gave everyone in the room the chills and we all teared up. What a great organization to support! Love them!

EVENT AT DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: This week was both National Opera Week AND National Recycle America Day. I was invited to work with the Department of Health on a recycling project going on at the Hubert H. Humphrey Building downtown. I had such a great time talking with people about my platform. We also collected suggestions on easy and innovative ways to recycle and posted them on a board for others to see as they walked by. I’m all about innovative fun ways to recycle! Not everyone is going to love separating their cans, glass, and paper the way I do. ☺

Monday, September 21, 2009

...and then I reached over and yelled "President Obama!!!"


WARNING: THIS WILL BE A LONG POST, but I will try to include a lot of pictures!

Let's begin with Saturday, Sept 12.
Woke up to get my hair done at 9am, then headed straight over to the Kennedy Center to dress in costume with my sister Lisa for the KC Open House. I had so much fun at the KC.

Answered so many silly questions ("Are you George Washington?"... No- I was Cherubino from Marriage of Figaro. Which is why I'm standing outside the opera house next to my sister who is dressed as Madame Butterfly.) The Education Department was doing a kids performance about opera using arias from Barber of Seville. So cute!!! I love watching little kids hear opera for the first time.

Around 4:00, Lisa and I changed out of costume and left and I headed over to Nationals Stadium for Washington National Opera and Target's Free Live Simulcast of Barber of Seville. I was going to be signing autographs. Over 19,000 people came out to drink a beer, eat a hotdog, sit on the field and watch opera. I signed over 300 autographs including one to the cutest boy alive!

He asked me if I babysit and when I said no he asked me for my phone number. <3

After the show (which was so fab! best opera I've seen), I changed into a gown and headed over to the opening night gala. I kind of stuck out a bit in my hot pink gown since everyone else chose to wear black that night. oh well... seems to be my life... sticking out. Got to meet Placido's wife. Such a sweet lady. I also got to meet the entire cast including Simone Alberghini who played Figaro. What a nice guy and a total gentleman.

Got back home at 2am, only to wake back up at 7:30 to head to Arlington for taping for a project I'm working on with Goodwill. Of course I never got there because DC decided it was totally a good idea to shut down the Key Bridge, Chain Bridge and ALL exits to get out of the city on the south side. Good one DC. But can't say I'm shocked. Since we were trapped in the city, mom and I did some shopping for my apartment. Thank God for mommy. I'd still be living out of boxes and sleeping on my mattress with no sheets if she didn't come. :) thanks mommy!

**Let's keep in mind while reading this that I work a full time job and every second that I wasn't at these appearances I was at work for the opera. I didn't go home for days and was changing in bathrooms/my car/at Teri's. Also- many of these mornings I met my trainer at 6 or 7am before the day started ***

At work we had an All Staff meeting with Placido Domingo (our Exec Director) who is back from Europe. This was the first time I'd seen him since I won. When he found out about Miss DC he was so excited for me and was telling the people around us that he wants to come to Miss America in January. haha. I know he really won't be able to come, but if he did I think I might die.

Sneaker Ball and Mimi, Miss Puerto Rico, came to town!
The Sneaker Ball is a gala that honors all of the DC sports teams (Redskins, Nats, Caps, Mystics, DC United... etc.) So they were all there.

I was invited to sing the National Anthem and totally rocked it, if I don't say so myself. And I can say that because the next day I was contacted by 3 separate orgs asking me to sing, including the Caps asking if I'll perform at opening night! I'll be out of town, but I'll probably be singing the week after. :) Speaking of the Caps, Mimi and I made friends with Ovechkin and Brooks Laich. Both of them were so nice and Brooks hung out with us all night. I met so many people at this event it's hard to name them all.... I'll just say it was one of my fav events so far.

Woke up early to go to the CHCI breakfast with the Hispanas in Congress. So fun! We met Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor, and Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (CA).

This night Mimi and I were invited to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Gala. SO FUN!!!

We got to walk the red carpet and attend the gala with people like President and Mrs. Obama, Marc Anthony and JLo, Justice Sotomayor and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Of course they had added security around their table, but Mimi and I didn't. And if anyone knows anything about Latinos, it's that they LOVE pageant girls. And boyyyyy did they love us! We were the last ones to leave the 4000 attendee gala because we were taking so many pictures! I also got to use a little bit of my spanish, "Mucho gusto" and "Me encantada." I also said "si" a lot since a few people thought I spoke spanish and had entire conversations with me where I had no idea what they were saying so I just answered "si, si." oops. Obama spoke and it was like the time Claire and I went to the Inaugural Concert all over again.

I was just frozen in place and filled with so much emotion just watching him.

**Mimi and I watching Obama!**

After his speech people started gathering at the base of the stage to shake his hand. I took a look around and decided this was an appropriate time to use the fact that I was 6'5" in my crown and heels, blonde, and absolutely stuck out like a sore thumb at the Hispanic Gala, to meet Obama. I ran up to the stage (hiking my gown up to run) and snuck in behind a group of secret service who were making their way through the crowd to reach over and yell "President Obama!" He looked up and (since we're the same height) we made eye contact and he said "Ahh, Miss DC!" and came over and shook my hand. I attempted to take a picture of this situation of myself as this was happening, but instead got a 2 second video of the seconds after he shook my hand.

Teri and Michael wanted to go to the after party, but Mimi and I were so tired that we wanted to go to bed! haha.

Had a work meeting at Duke Ellington in the afternoon. Those kids are so talented. Also met Miss Teen DC USA. She was in the class I was taping for a work thing. Pageant world is so small.
Grabbed lunch at Cafe Milano with Teri and Mimi and then went back to her house to do work and get ready for that night's activities.

We headed over to the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs office. We met Daniel who was so nice and looked out for us. They were having a little get together in Mimi's honor for her being here in DC. Mimi even got to meet the daughter of the first Miss Puerto Rico!

We then headed over to a party for Mitt Romney where we were asked to scoop ice cream.

So fun! We got to meet Kerri Strugg too!

Mimi was pretty excited about that one. Afterwards I met up with a friend for a quick drink and then walked back to Teri's to sleep for a few hours.

After work I had to head down to the Riverside Center in Ward 7 for a work project. It's such a cool project. We recorded stories of community members of the ward who have lived, worked, and gone to school there. We then turned the stories over to local artists who created works of art based on the stories and it was going to be presented on Saturday. Friday was our dress rehearsal. The opera's project was we had people write music and lyrics and had a quartet perform the piece. So awesome.

After that I headed over to Teri's to grab Mimi. We had been invited to grab dinner and go out with some of the Caps guys that we had met at the Sneaker Ball. They were so nice the whole night, even the ones we hadn't met at the ball. We had a great time. Mimi and I stuck to lots of water at the club... we were so tired from the week that we needed to make sure we were hydrated!

I had to be up early AGAIN to get my hair (Jacob Broadstreet) and makeup (Erwin) done for the day at Erwin Gomez Salon. I knew it was going to be a LONG day and I had NO time to change/do makeup that would last all day/look presentable. I headed over to Ward 7 again for our presentation. It went really well. So moving for the few people who came. We will be doing it again at THEARC on November 17th. Stay tuned for details. I then headed over to Teri's to go with them to the National Mall for the Capital Polo Match.

Another fun day of shmoozing. We took a ton of pictures and posed for the Real Housewives of DC film crew. My dream of being on that show is finally coming true! haha See! And I didn't even need to be a wife nor did I need to own a house! Score!

After I presented awards to the winners of the match, I ran over to the Kennedy Center to see the final evening performance of Barber of Seville. I was only 10 mins late. Not too bad. The ticket that was left for me was actually a ticket to sit in a box seat. During intermission and the lights came up I realized I was sitting behind SuperNanny! It also made me start thinking.... 3 years ago I had been in that theater in the very last row watching my very first opera thinking about how excited I was to be there. Now three years later, I'm working for the company, sitting in a box seat, seeing the production for the 3rd time in 2 weeks, and getting ready to go back stage after the performance to go out to dinner with one of the cast members. Oh how far I've come in 3 years.

Once again, woke up early. I was doing the make up taping with Goodwill, but this time at their South Dakota office. I met the most amazing people while I was there that Goodwill has changed their lives. I'm not going to tell their stories here because I'm hoping they will be included in the video project we're doing.

THEN I FINALLY GOT A BREAK! I went to Starbucks, ordered a Venti Pumpkin Spiced Latte (my fav) and sat. that's it. that's all I wanted to do. Then I also finally got to have some friend time with some of my very best friends that I've been neglecting. I have the best friends in the world. The understand the importance of the fact that sometimes I just want to sit in my football jersey, ripped jeans, flip flops, no makeup, have a beer, eat some pizza/wings/ice cream/whatever I shouldn't eat, laugh and most importantly... just be Jen.

Friday, September 11, 2009

...and then my principal came over the speaker and told us what happend

When I was little my mom would always tell us that two terribly tragic things would inevitably happen to us: 1. We would experience a death of a friend in high school. 2. Something so big would happen in our lifetime that we would remember every single moment of where we were, whom we were with, and how we felt at the exact moment we heard the news. She always told us about her two friends in high school who accidentally died while sitting in their running car outside their house in the winter. And she always told us about the day John F. Kennedy died. While I always was interested in hearing my parent’s stories, I sort of brushed her warnings off as “that would never happen to me.”

Obviously, mom is always right. I did end up experiencing the loss of a friend in high school to suicide and one to a tragic accident. I also experienced the latter of my mom’s predictions.

On the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 I was sitting in my 2nd period typing class in my freshman year attending a high school on Long Island, not too far from NYC. One of the students in our class said, “Did you hear that a plane just crashed into one of the twin towers?” I immediately pictured some small crop plane that crashed into the building causing very little damage to the building and more damage to the plane. I also remembered that a week or so earlier, a man had thought it was a good idea to parachute into NYC and got stuck on the Statue of Liberty. “What an idiot!” I thought. “How did some idiot in a little plane not see the twin towers!” Never in a million years would I have pictured what was actually going on. Just then our principal came on the loud speaker to announce the reality of what had just happened. Panic and silence came over our classroom. Many of the kids in my class had parents that worked in Manhattan and some that worked in the World Trade Center. It seemed like almost every person knew someone who could have been there. I remember walking to lunch with my friend, Amanda, as we tried to get in touch with her mom. Her father was supposed to be flying out of LaGuardia to LAX that day. We still hadn’t heard where the plane had come from and we were all holding our breath waiting to hear from our loved ones. Lunch was a blur. I just remember sitting there watching frantic mothers running through the cafeteria and halls trying to find their kids. I remember kids crying in the hallways and crying in class. I remember my best friend Danielle pulling me out of my Spanish class because she needed someone to talk to about her fears that a close family friend had not been heard from yet. I remember coming home to see the first clips of what was going on on TV and my frantic mother making phone calls to all of the Elementary School kids' parents since our district announced that no Elementary School child would be allowed to go home unless a parent could greet them at the bus stop. I remember driving over the Robert Moses Bridge and being able to see the cloud of smoke sitting over the island of Manhattan.

Every once in a while in a social situation the topic of 9/11 comes up and we all sit back and remember exactly where we were, who we were with, and most importantly, how it made us feel. For the first time in my life on that day I realized that I did not live in the little safety bubble that I thought I had been in my whole life. I realized that I should not take life for granted. I learned what it means to be proud to be an American. I saw for the first time the power of a community coming together. And most importantly, I learned that my mom is always right.

Thank you to all of our service men and women all over the world. My prayers are with you, with my friend Matt Reed who was just deployed to Iraq last week, with his girlfriend and my bff Rana who misses him terribly,

with the rest of the families whose sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, cousins, friends… all serve our country, and with all those who lost someone on 9/11. God bless you.

...and I forgot to mention

Tomorrow, on Saturday, September 12 at 7pm the Washington National Opera will be hosting Opera in the Outfield. It will be a FREE live simulcast of opening night of Barber of Seville from the Kennedy Center broadcast right to the big HD screen at Nationals Stadium! I saw the dress rehearsal last night, and let me tell you, this one is hysterrical! It's perfect for first time opera goers and entire families. Plus I'll be there signing autographs starting at 5:30 when the doors open rain or shine. If you don't have anything to do, come over to Nats Park to see a FREE opera!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

...and then I realized Miami is verrryyyy different from DC

By some miracle, I did not have any events scheduled for Labor Day Weekend. Of course I realized this on the Monday before the weekend. I decided I wanted to go visit my little sister who just started her freshman year at the University of Miami. Checked for flights.... got totally screwed on the price since I waited too long... but it was absolutely worth it to get out of town and see my sister.

We had a cute little sister weekend filled with living back in the dorms with a bunch of freshmen girls, sleeping till 2, eating in the cafeteria, laying by the pool, and shopping. lots of shopping. I learned very quickly on our first night in South Beach that I was not in Kansas...err... DC anymore. The dress code in Miami is NOTHING like it is in DC. If people in DC wore some of the outfits out that these girls were all wearing people wouldn't know what to think! It wasn't Amanda's friends though... they were dressed nicely... but some of the girls that we saw out... I just don't think I could be that confident going out in an outfit like that. Thinking about it now, it makes sense. A majority of people my age in DC either work for the government or work for a company that works closely with the government. You can't exactly be seen out in Adams Morgan in a tube top bra and sequin mini skirt with 6in heels. Miiiiggght be awkward on the Hill the next day. I had so much fun exploring Miami with my sister and her friends. The city is just so beautiful. Why didn't I go to school there?

But the one thing that really made me jealous about Miami is that sooooo many people spoke Spanish. I want to learn sooooo badly. That's my year long goal. To learn Spanish. Most of my closest friends speak Spanish and I want to be a part of that.


A few weeks ago I did a photo shoot with Claire Buffie. Here are some of my fav pictures that haven't made it into cyberspace yet.






My mamma :)

Lisa, Uncle Bob, and Daddy--- Winters Brother's Employees