Being Miss Maumee Valley

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Pageant Press: Ohio contestant sees value in journey

Ohio contestant sees value in journey

Molly Willow
Saturday, January 21, 2006

PASADENA, Calif. — Marlia Elisha Fontaine intends to enter human-rights work at the United Nations.

First, as Miss Ohio, she’ll try to become the 78th Miss America. The resident of Massillon earned the state title in June on her fourth attempt.

A 23-year-old graduate of the University of Akron, Fontaine plans to study human rights and democratization at the University of Malta, on the Mediterranean island.

Before she sets her sights on the United Nations, though, she hopes to become a diplomat of another kind — and draw attention to her diabetes-awareness platform.

Last week, during the Los Angeles portion of the Miss America press tour, she sat down for an interview:

Q: Why did you get involved in the Miss America Pageant?

A: Originally, it was scholarship money. I’m the youngest daughter (of four children); I already create so many bills for . . . (dad Marvin), I decided I would find somehow to not make him pay for my school. He actually found through the Web site for Miss Stark County — . . . the county I’m from — that they had a program. So he was the one who gave me the paperwork and said, "Try this out."

Q: What made you keep trying?

A: I could see how the program helped me personally. I just knew that it was something better than just the scholarship money.

Q: Is it hard to be "on" all the time?

A: The first three years,...I was trying to be something I wasn’t. So this year I told everyone, "Look, I’m going to be me, and I don’t care if the judges like me or not." And, sure enough, I was, in my opinion, the most "real" I’ve ever been.

Q: You’re singing for the talent competition. What piece?

A: The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha.

Q: How apropos. What has surprised you most about your experience?

A: How well I can handle pressure. I think it’s something you don’t really know until you’re thrown into something.

Being on, having to speak eloquently, having to dress a certain way, just having to be aware of how you look in general makes you more aware of the things you do and how it should not reflect negatively on you or the organization.

Q: You mentioned having to pay attention to your appearance. Does that come naturally to you? Are you a girlie girl?

A: Gosh, no. I have, like, two worlds in my life. I’m a major tomboy,...playing sports, watching football, kicking back, relaxing. But I knew I wanted to do something that was in the public eye. I originally tried to be a model; it didn’t work out so well.

Q: How hard is it to get up in front of people in a bikini?

A: A lot of people find that it’s scary, but I don’t know if I’m weird — probably. I love being up onstage....I’m proud of the work I’ve done so far, and I want to not show it off but show everyone how proud I am. That’s the reason behind the swimsuit competition — putting girls in a difficult situation to see how they handle themselves.

Q: I have to ask: Do you really put Vaseline on your teeth for the competition?

A: No, no. My sister, who’s 15 years older,...suggested I do that. Never again will I try that. It’s gross; it’s disgusting. You do kind of get your lips stuck up, but you don’t want to ever smile again afterward.

Q: Do you have any similar tricks to share?

A: There is this stuff called "spray-on legs." I bought a bottle because they finally came out with a darker shade. That’s one of the tricks because you’re not allowed to have baby oil or anything shiny or distracting from your skin tone when you’re in swimsuit, but you still want to cover everything up to make sure you look great. . . . We’ll see if it works.

Q: Besides yourself, would you like to see anyone else win?

A: I’m a realist, so you always size up your competition. I’m glad I’m not a judge; that’s all I can really say. The great thing is, I know that any one of us can carry out the position very well because someone at their local level could see that they could potentially be the next Miss America; that’s why they won their local. I, of course, want to win, but, should I not, I wouldn’t be upset if anyone else got it.

Q: That’s very diplomatic of you; you should fit in well at the U.N.

A: Thank you.


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