Miss N.H. 2019 embraces new role
NASHUA – Alexis Chinn, or “Lexi,” has known most of her life that she wanted to make a difference in the world.
“Originally, I was thinking of being a doctor or something along those lines,” said the newly crowned Miss New Hampshire, who will head to the Miss USA competition next summer. “I never dreamed of this.”
Chinn grew up in Auburn, Washington, about 34 minutes south of Seattle and was a star athlete in high school. However, she knew a little about another pageant competition, Miss America.
“When I was younger, I participated in the Miss America program,” she said. “I was a little sister. And from there, I absolutely loved the idea of it, but growing up in middle school and high school, I always played sports. It wasn’t until stopped playing competitively, that I said, ‘Hey, maybe I should stick my neck out there and try something new.’ So, I competed with Miss America for a little while, and didn’t like the talent portion, so I tried to other organizations, but I always wanted to do the Miss USA system. And now that I’m old enough to pay for it myself – instead of my parents paying for it – it’s my first year in the USA system and obviously it turned out pretty well for me.”
Chinn relocated to New Hampshire a year and a half ago to be part of its university system.
“When I went to St. John’s (University) in New York, I was planning a chemistry major, but I wanted to get into more modeling which is why I only applied to schools in Miami, Los Angeles, and New York City,” Chinn said. “But when I got there, I found myself in a totally different situation and only ended up staying for about a year because my family couldn’t afford it. So, then I just focused on going to school, working the second year to pay off the first and then move to a state that offered what I was looking for.”
While continuing her education at Southern New Hampshire University and working at a restaurant in downtown Manchester, Chinn managed to find the time to research the role and compete – and win – the title of Miss New Hampshire.
“I almost broke out in tears when I found out I had made the top five,” she said. “I was in my head a lot. I was telling myself that it was a possibility that I could win, but I didn’t want to psyche myself out too much and get too overly confident. So as the night went on, and they started announcing the top five, and I didn’t hear my name yet, I was in a whole other world. I couldn’t hear anybody else. I was just sitting there specifically listening to hear my number. When they called my number as winner, I broke down in tears. Most of the pictures of me show mascara just running down my face. But I wasn’t expecting to win at all. No waterproof makeup there, whatsoever.”
Chinn said being involved in the competition means being involved in the community and in the world.
“For me, I love the fact that the New Hampshire programs are deeply involved with the Best Buddies program,” she said. “It works with children with Down’s Syndrome and special needs, and it helps them get jobs and live more of a normal life. Tom Brady works with them very closely as well. And with that program, so much of what we do is fundraisers and raising awareness. It’s a really great thing.”
She said balancing work, school and the responsibility of the title is a little overwhelming, but she maintains a strong ethic and focuses on not just the next level of competition, the Miss USA pageant this summer, but everything the Miss New Hampshire crown brings along, adding that she can imagine putting the honor to great use.
“If I won, it would be about spreading my platform, which is domestic awareness and domestic violence,” she said. “It’s a really big situation in my life and I wanted to make sure that it’s a big priority in everyone else’s as well. I want to ensure that people know their rights and know what’s not OK, and if they need to get help and want to get out of that situation, that there are so many people that can help. So, if I was chosen to be Miss USA, I would definitely start with that. Even if you change one person’s life, that’s a huge difference.”
One setback with the Miss America pageant was the talent portion, where Chinn was unable to find her niche and comfort zone.
“I always played sports and I didn’t have a talent that I could do on stage,” she said. “With the Miss America program, it’s heavy with the interview portion and the talent portion. So even if I did really well with the interview and the evening gown portion, if I didn’t have a talent that really captivated everybody, I wasn’t going to be in the top 10 or top five. And so for me, that was really frustrating because I loved that they worked with the Children’s Miracle Network and I loved the idea of all of the community service and all the scholarships that they did, but it was difficult for me to get to that point because I knew I would be falling behind without that talent.”
With Miss USA, Chinn confirmed there is no talent portion – much to her glee.
“They have two interview processes. They have one with you and the five or six judges individually, and then they also have the on-stage question. And since Miss America cut out the swimsuit competition, Miss USA still has the swimsuit and the evening. I’m happy about that.”
When she competed in the swim competition with Miss America, she called the process “life-changing.”
“It was,” she said. “I changed my lifestyle; I changed what I ate; I went to the gym. I wanted to be a healthy representation for everybody that looked up to me if I ended up winning that title. But to get rid of that – they said they wanted women to be looked at as more than just objects – for me, I never felt like I was being looked at that way. I never felt lesser of myself. I felt so confident. And I felt empowered. And I was proud of myself every time I stepped foot on that stage. So, to hear that they took that away, it was kind of disheartening because I knew how many girls busted their butts to get to that point of being confident and comfortable.”
She also acknowledged that the “Me Too,” movement played a role, and added, “I think it was misinterpreted. Because at the same time, the ‘Me Too’ movement was and is a very big thing. But I think they did that because they didn’t want to get mixed up in the controversy. So, for them to get rid of the swimsuit, they thought they’d simply focus on the interview and talent. But the entire pageant changed at this point. You don’t see the entire pageant because most of it is backstage interviews as well.”
So, what it is the biggest misconception about the pageantry system?
“I think it’s that people expect you to be a 6′ 2,” 100 pounds, blond hair, blue-eyed girl. But each year, you see more ethnicities – black girls, Latinas, girls of Asian descent – you see these girls winning all these different titles. The system is changing. There is so much more diversity in the pageant world, so I think people just see a pretty girl standing there. These girls are some or the smartest, most driven, women I have ever met.”
Finally, Chinn sighed as she tried to wrap her head around the whole experience.
“I’m still trying to come down from the high and euphoria of winning Miss New Hampshire,” she said. “I think if I won Miss USA, it would take me a week to come to that realization. I grew up thinking I wanted to do something in medicine. So, earning that title – that would be amazing.”
George Pelletier is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.