RALEIGH — Miss America will be crowned in Atlantic City in September with competitors, spectators, and the media wondering just how the phases of competition will play out. The 96-year-old program has dropped the swimsuit competition that defined the pageant since it first debuted on the Atlantic City Boardwalk in 1921. The organization also dropped men from its leadership team having jettisoned former CEO Sam Haskell in favor of new chair and former Fox News commentator Gretchen Carlson and her all-female leadership team. In fact, it’s no longer a pageant, it’s now the Miss America Competition.
But, for one last night, the Miss North Carolina pageant played out in substantially the same way as it has 80 times before. Young women from across N.C. competed in talent, on-stage questions, evening gowns, and yes, swimsuits. In the end, Chapel Hill’s Laura Matrazzo, competing as Miss Metrolina, took home the crown, earned the $20,000 scholarship that accompanies it and punched her ticket to Miss America 2.0.
Matrazzo was crowned by St. Paul’s native Victoria Huggins, Miss North Carolina 2017, on Saturday night at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium. Matrazzo opened the night in the now moot competition area of swimsuit in a pink bikini and platform heels. Her talent is tap dancing and she showed off technique and showmanship performing to Patti LaBelle’s “Ready for a Miracle.” In the evening wear competition — which Miss America says it is also dropping in favor of an as-yet unannounced alternative — Matrazzo stepped out in a silver floor-length gown that had all the flair and sparkle of the previous 80 years of pageantry. Finally, she answered a heavy on-stage question on school safety saying emphatically that schools should be safe places for students and teachers who should be protected by armed guards.
That mix was enough to convince the six judges that she was the “Queen of the Tarheel State.” The judges panel was made up of NBC News editor Dana Rosengard of Maine, Miss North Carolina 1983 Deneen Graham-Kerns, Raleigh fitness guru Greg Sims, educator and Miss Buffalo director Michael Terragnoli, N.C. Music Hall of Famer and opera singer Victoria Livengood of Concord and retired Johnston County educator Terri Sessoms.
Matrazzo has already embarked on a media blitz with appearances on Miss N.C. broadcast partner WTVD ABC 11 and several other television and radio stations. Matrazzo says those appearances are helpful as she prepares for Miss America, a process that she says began almost as soon as she received the crown and sash.
“I am a marketing major and I understand rebranding,” said Matrazzo. “This is the right time for me to be in this job.”
She is aware that many are interested in her perspective on politics and the changes to Miss America but, she is looking forward to talking to the people of N.C. about her community service platform called “Money Talks” which focused on financial literacy.
“I want to help young people understand how to manage their finances and be responsible,” Matrazzo said.
Matrazzo is directing her focus on competing to be the next Miss America though, saying, “It is my dream to bring that Miss America crown home to a very deserving state.”
Beyond the personal goal, she also wants to help grow the evolving programs at the state and national level.
“I want to help grow this program and make Miss America as relevant as she should be,” said Matrazzo.
Last week’s events also included the Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen competition where Miss Clayton’s Outstanding Teen, Caroline Credle, took home the state title. She will compete in Orlando for the title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in late July.
The teen judges panel was comprised of Miss North Carolina 2006 Lizzie Horton Peress, photographer Becki Owens, Duke University assistant vice president of Human Resources Antwan Lofton, actress and writer Leanne Bernard, dancer Alison Stroming and American Idol Season 14 runner-up Clark Beckham.
Matrazzo will make her first official appearance at the N.C. 4th of July Festival in Southport next week.