Friday, December 5, 2014

My experience with racial profiling

There has been a lot of talk recently about the treatment of African Americans by law enforcement. Growing up, this was never something that crossed my mind. I trusted the police. I knew that when something was wrong, you were supposed to call them and they would help you. I, being a white female, grew up in a town nicknamed "White Islip". It's 98.6% white. I graduated with with 450 white, Catholic, Italian or Irish kids. I'm pretty sure we had one Asian kid and one guy who had a black dad and white mom and a few half-Jews. But that was about it.

We lived a very sheltered life. I remember sitting in Mr. Chizik's world history class. He was the first person to ever tell us that our lives were the exception, not the rule. We were shocked to learn that Catholicism was not the number one religion in the country. He also told us that unless we inherited our homes from our parents, there was a pretty slim chance we'd be able to afford to buy a house in that town one day.

All of my thoughts changed when I moved to Washington, DC to go to American University. I know the exact moment that I got it. Sophomore year I was getting ready with my girlfriends to go to party off campus. We texted our friend JB who was offering sober rides to the party. JB is probably the nicest sweetest guy you could possibly imagine. He'd do anything for you. JB also happens to be a big black guy. JB was studying criminal justice with intentions to go to law school. He took his academics very seriously and studied hard. He was the president of his (all white) fraternity and he was everybody's friend. But tonight, JB was just hanging out. He had on his slick flat brimmed hat and oversized shirt. He pulled up in his BMW to the front of our dorm while 6 girls stood there in our cute little outfits.

We knew he couldn't fit all of us at once, but jokingly, we opening the back door and started piling in laying flat on top of each other with our legs hanging outside the door. JB laughed and told us to get out and he'd make two trips. Just then, campus security came running up to the car yelling. JB immediately took the keys out of the ignition and put them on the dash. "That was weird", I thought. I said "Officer, relax, we were kidding." He told all of the girls to get out of the car and sit on the sidewalk in silence. "What the heck? We didn't do anything wrong!" JB looked at me to be quiet.

For the next fifteen minutes the officer berated JB about where he was going, why he had all of these girls in his car, and where he lived. He wanted to search the car. He asked for both JB's drivers license and his student ID. JB gave him all the information he needed and was overly polite, way nicer than I would have been. I was fuming because I thought it was totally ridiculous. JB said to the security officer, "Sir, what have we done wrong?" The officer said, "You can't drive with that many people in the car!" JB calmly replied, "Sir, that's a moving violation. We were parked with the doors still open. So again, I ask, what crime have I committed?" The officer said "Oh, we'll think of something."

Just then, he called backup to "deal" with our "situation". When backup arrived, a white guy driving an SUV pulled up right in front of us. They opened the back hatch to the car and about 9 sorority girls jumped in. JB said "Sir, aren't you going to do anything about that?" The officer replied "Oh, we have our hands full with you right now!" JB asked for the officers badge number. He said "That's none of your business!" JB replied "Actually sir, I'm studying criminal justice and interning with the Justice Department. I know what my rights are and you have to provide me with your badge number."

Eventually the campus security officer let us go and let JB take four of us. All four white girls sitting in that car were silent. We all knew why that happened. None of us had ever seen that happen before. We didn't know what to do or what to say. Do we apologize to JB? Do we ask if he's OK? Do we ask if this has happened before? I felt like crying. I had lived my whole life with a privilege I never knew I had until that moment. JB broke the silence. He said, "Girls, it's ok. Go have fun at the party. I'm going to drop you off and I'm going to go back there and file a report with the head of public safety." We begged him to let us go with him, but he wanted to go alone.

I think about that day a lot. It has given me a new perspective on my own white privilege. I joke about how I've been pulled over 8 or 9 times and I've only received 2 tickets, but I know I'm the exception, not the rule. You can see thousands of examples of this if you follow #CrimingWhileWhite on Twitter. I don't think things can change until each of us "gets it".

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

10 Commandments of Womanhood

I haven't used my blog since I was Miss DC, but I needed some place to post my thoughts on this.

Today I read this article and it made me think of the things that women sometimes forget that we should do. In a world where women are constantly trying to be equal to men, we sometimes forget the art of being a lady. Here is my list of the 10 commandments of womanhood:

1. A woman shall know how to cook one solid meal and all of its sides for a dinner party. At some point, you will have to cook for guests at your house. Have one great meal that you can cook. Don’t ever order in and don’t throw some pasta in a bowl and put out a jar of cold Ragu with a spoon in it. (If you don’t have one, check out my mom’s blog at

2. A woman shall know how to properly host a dinner party. Having a dinner party is not the same as having people over to pregame. Much more thought needs to go into it. Your dishes should match, you should have candles or some sort of centerpiece, and you should dress appropriately.

3. A woman shall not wear flip flops outside of the beach or immediately after a pedicure. No excuses. Flip flops are not cute and make you walk weird.

4. A woman shall not speak in a passive aggressive, overly generalized, non-descript complaints on facebook statuses. “SOME people need to realize that when they talk behind other’s backs it will get back to them”… You sound crazy. Stop it. If someone has pissed you off either confront them or ignore it. Don’t try to get attention from everyone to make them feel bad for you.

 5. A woman shall own a nice pair of quality high heels in both black and brown and know how to walk in them. I train girls in pageant walking and posing. A girl once called me to teach her to walk. When I got there, I realized she meant literally walk in heels. She had never worn them before. YOU MUST LEARN!

6. A woman shall own one LBD. A nice LBD can go a long way. One mistake I’ve made is that I like loud prints and colors. But if I wear a bright hot pink dress and post 900 pictures on facebook, I can’t wear that dress again for a long time. No one will remember that you just wore that LBD so you’ll get your money’s worth.

7. A woman shall know how to jump her car and at least fake other automobile knowledge. There is no reason to not know how to jump your car. Google it. Then find someone who knows and have them point out where your battery is, if you don’t know. You should never be in a position that you’re stranded and you have to rely on some random guy to “help” you. You don’t know who he is. Same thing goes for when you go get your car fixed. Don’t play dumb. You’ll get taken advantage of. Pretend like you used to fix cars with your dad on the weekends.

8. A woman shall never play dumb to get a guy to like her. On the topic of playing dumb, don’t ever play the dumb girl to get guys to like you. Exceptions- if there is a situation that you’re going to get something awesome out of it, do it. I once didn’t have enough cash to get my car out of a garage and didn’t feel like finding an ATM so I pretended to be dumb and didn’t know what the price was. If you’re dumb enough to just let me go without paying and I’m smart enough to work what I got, that’s all on you.

9. A woman shall have opinions on current events. Every woman should know what is going on in the world and have an opinion on it. People generally don’t care if you agree with them or not, but they’ll be impressed that you have something to say about it.

10. A woman shall always be a lady, but stick up for yourselves! Women should always remember proper etiquette, poise, and grace, but that doesn’t mean you have to be quiet. Speak up!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

...and then I sang for Haiti.

I have your weekend plans ready for you. My friend Claire is co-producing a benefit concert of New York Artists to raise money for The GHESKIO Medical Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Returning to my Long Island, NY roots, I'll be joining the incredible cast of NY singers, poets, dancers and actors including singer/songwriter Scott Alan, Janine Divita from Grease!, fellow Miss America contestant Leigh-Taylor Smith (Miss NY 2008) and many of the rising stars and voices you'll see in Broadway soon all hosted by the cast of Broadway's RACE We need YOU to finish our circle. So here goes:

In light of the recent disaster that has devastated Haiti, a group of New York artists are coming together to produce a benefit concert to fund medical relief. The music and voices of Broadway, the passion of spoken word and slam poetry, the rhythm of Indie rock, R&B and reggae will all come together in one night at The Canal Room in New York City. Sunday, February 28 at 8:00 pm, please join us in celebrating our gifts of song, word and laughter to benefit the Haitian people.


Purchase tickets at -- PRESALE DISCOUNT $40, General Admission $50 at the door, VIP Tickets (Open top-shelf bar, and sit with performers...aka ME!) $150.

If you are in the DC area and unable to attend, you can make donations by contacting Claire Buffie at 646.469.7559 or emailing

For more information, a complete (and incredible) list of perfomers, and to see exactly where our money is going, the GHESKIO Medical Center, go to

Friday, January 15, 2010

...and then I recorded my first rap single?

Ok, it's late and I need to rest before Miss America, but I HAD to post these. This is the culmination of a 6 month long project with Goodwill of Greater Washington. Enjoy!

Episode 1:

Episode 2:

Episode 3:

Please visit


5 days!

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.