Sylvania native heads to Miss America pageantWritten by Brandi Barhite | Associate Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
For just a second, Mike Minger thought, “Not again.” Then, he felt calm. “I knew it was her time.” And it was.
His daughter, Becky Minger, had finally won Miss Ohio on her fifth trip to the state pageant. She beat out 25 contestants to win the title. She was no longer only so close.
The first time she competed in 2006, she was first runner-up. The next year, she didn’t place at all. In 2008 and 2009, she was again first runner-up.
In the moments before the first runner-up was named, Becky looked out to her family and said, “I love you.” Then, she thought, “Hit me with it.”
As seconds felt like hours, a chant began to run through her mind, “Please don’t say 18; please don’t say 18. I love Shannon, but please don’t say 18.”
And no one did, which meant contestant No. 12, Shannon O’Neill, was first runner-up and she — contestant 18 — was going to Miss America.
Most exciting for Becky is that Miss America is back on network television and will air live Jan. 15 on ABC from Las Vegas.
“I think a lot of people have forgotten about Miss America,” Becky said. “Miss America is all about tradition; it is the original reality show. To be able to bring it back to Ohio and to be able to come home and say that Miss America is from the Toledo and Sylvania area would be really cool.”
Ohio hasn’t won Miss America since Susan Perkins, Miss Ohio in 1978.
Perkins, now Perkins Botsford, offered some advice for Becky, not as a former Miss America, but as a mother of a 22-year-old daughter.
“She should be well-read and well-informed with regard to what is happening in our country and the world today,” Perkins Botsford said in an e-mail to Toledo Free Press. “If her mindset is that she is competing with herself to do her best job in every aspect of the competition then she will truly enjoy and benefit from the experience whatever the outcome.”
The former Miss America sends her best wishes to Minger.
“Ohio is overdue for another Miss America and I am hoping that 2011 will be our year!”
Becky enjoys when her crown brings her back home. She likes to support local businesses, in particular when it comes to eating. During visits, it is Greek salad, gyros and pepperoni pizza from J&G Pizza Palace and a toasted bagel with vegetable ranch cream cheese and honey turkey from Barry Bagels. She got her first Mud Hens cap when she went to see Crystal Bowersox perform in May. Becky relates to the “American Idol” runner-up.
“We are doing it for Toledo this year. Toledo is back on the map,” Becky said.
Becky, 22, has been traveling throughout the state making appearances and promoting her platform since becoming Miss Ohio on June 19. Every contestant who competes in the Miss America system adopts a cause.
Her platform is “Discovering You, Empowering You: A Movement for Youth Development.” It has four main points: building and utilizing a healthy self-image, respecting yourself and others, setting goals and recognizing avenues of support. She has written a curriculum that was adopted by the YMCA of Greater Toledo and several schools.
Becky relates to her platform. Growing up with attention-deficit disorder (ADD), Becky was slower in school and her classmates knew it. She couldn’t concentrate and homework was hard for her. When her classmates went to recess, she had to stay inside and work on her homework. When they left for the day, she had to stay after with the teacher.
“I cannot say it was severe bullying, but those are things that stick with you,” she said. “I guess I didn’t realize it was happening while I was in the situation.”
Becky took medication until she graduated from Northview High School and started at Bowling Green State University.
“You don’t really overcome a disability; you find different ways to cope with it,” she said. “I don’t really notice it a lot anymore because it has become so much a part of who I am and how I deal with issues and things.”
Her father said ADD affected her social skills.
“We always knew she was a bright girl, but she was easily distracted,” he said. “Her mother helped her with homework to keep her focused. They spent hours and hours fighting through it and getting Becky to the end line.”
By the time she was in high school, Becky was getting noticed. Goodbye glasses and braces, hello choir and school musicals.
Journey to the crown
Becky’s involvement in pageantry began in her teens. A school counselor suggested looking into Miss Teen USA, which her parents weren’t happy about. Not only did it cost money to participate, but the Donald Trump pageant focuses on modeling.
Becky ignored her parents and forged ahead to raise the money. She placed third out of 87 contestants.
In college, a friend convinced her to try the Miss America program, which is free and gives out scholarship money. She went to the Miss Greater Dayton preliminary and won on the first try. Every girl who wins a preliminary goes on to compete in Miss Ohio. This year, Becky represented the Miss All-American City title at Miss Ohio. She has won more than $30,000 to date.
“We are looking forward to seeing her compete and hopefully take it all,” said Eric Wagener, pageant director for Miss All-American City, Miss Maumee Valley and Miss Fallen Timbers. “It is sort of exciting that one of the local people have won.”
Shannon O’Neill, who was first runner-up at Miss Ohio, said Becky is gracious and helpful. She was one of the first to welcome her when she started competing.
“Becky’s sincerity and her absolute drive set her apart,” she said. “There was nobody who was more prepared for the job of Miss Ohio than Becky. She sees this for what it is and is willing to put in the work.”
Becky said a lot of people don’t realize how much preparation goes into competing. Her wardrobe is donated, sponsored or paid for out-of-pocket. She has to stay fit for the swimsuit competition and be prepared for the backstage interview and onstage questions. She also has to rehearse her talent.
“The women who are involved in these programs are so driven and motivated and very intelligent,” she said. “I think a lot of people think, ‘Oh she is just a pageant girl and thinks world peace and rainbows all the time,’ but each of these women is driven to make a difference in their community.”
Becky said her job as Miss Ohio is sometimes exhausting, driving hours and hours each day. She rarely gets to see her boyfriend, a teacher in the Cleveland area, or her family. She mostly stays in hotels or with host families.
Most Miss Ohio winners take a year off of school or work, but since Becky had just graduated, the timing was perfect.
“She wanted the job and she was going after it with everything she had,” said her pageant chaperone Susie Harlan. “She is a very focused young woman. This program means a lot to her, not only the scholarship money, but she believes in the program and her platform.”
One of her favorite appearances was with the Special Olympics. She also enjoys working closely with the Thank You Foundation, which honors service members and veterans. One of the coolest events was the Dayton Air Show where she met the Blue Angels.
“It is very strange that people pay to see me or be near me,” she said, laughing. “I think the funniest thing is when you pull up and you have the crown on, and they are like, ‘You can park right in the front.’ I am like, ‘Yes, I love this job.’”
Miss America bound
Becky said the best preparation for the Miss America pageant is doing her job as Miss Ohio.
“I don’t want to worry myself over if Miss Texas is so beautiful or Miss Indiana has a great talent because I know what I can do,” she said. “There is no point being someone else because the judges could be looking for you.”
Miss Ohio executive director Steven Oliveri said Becky could break Ohio’s dry spell. Ohio has had six winners, which is the most ever, tied with Oklahoma and California.
“Becky has been in the system for five years now and each year you are in, you learn something new,” he said. “Her dedication, never giving up and her constant need to improve sets her apart.”
Becky’s favorite part of the pageant is the interview. She also enjoys the talent, even though that makes her most nervous. She worries about forgetting the words to her song or dropping the microphone. The song she will sing for Miss America has not been announced yet.
The most nerve-wracking part of the pageant is the onstage question.
“You never know what you are going to be asked. It is live … and you have that one 20-second time slot in front of everyone,” she said.
If pageantry has taught her anything, it’s speaking in front of crowds and going on the fly. Her degree in interpersonal communication helps, too.
Becky would one day like to attend law school and is considering a career in child advocacy. But for now, she only has one job on her mind.
“I don’t feel pressure, but I really want to be Miss America,” she said. “Not just because it would be awesome, but to have that kind of reach to work with my platform across the country, to promote organizations like the Thank You Foundation — but also to bring it home, to represent Ohio and to finally bring Miss America back to Ohio.”