Team prepares Miss Mississippi for Miss America pageant

Mel Evans | Associated Press Miss Mississippi Chelsea Rick waves as she walks on a runway as Miss America contestants arrive in Atlantic City, N.J. on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013.

Mel Evans | Associated Press
Miss Mississippi Chelsea Rick waves as she walks on a runway as Miss America contestants arrive in Atlantic City, N.J. on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013.

BY SHEENA BARNETT

Daily Journal

AMORY – A crown for Chelsea Rick is also one for her team full of, as they call themselves, “worker bees.”

Miss Mississippi Chelsea Rick, a Fulton native who also serves as Miss Amory Railroad Festival, is in Atlantic City, N.J., to compete in the Miss America pageant this Sunday. Her crew, which includes hostesses, talent coaches and pageant helpers, will cheer her on either from the comfort of their living rooms or there in Atlantic City.

Rick’s team insists on two things: This isn’t a beauty pageant, and while they’ve offered tips and advice, you’re either already prepared to be Miss America or you’re not.

“The preparation is done years before,” said her talent coach, Steve Stockton. “It’s education, and building a good work ethic, preparing for talent. The pageant is the culmination of all of the work. It’s not about being in a pageant and being prepared, it’s about being prepared and then being in a pageant.”

Bo Miller, director of the Miss Amory Railroad pageant, agreed.

“She’s intelligent, beautiful, talented,” he said. “That part’s already there; we just put the polish on it to send it over the top.”

Rick’s team includes but isn’t limited to Miller, Stockton, M.J. Westerlund, Ellen Boyd, Jean Sanders and Dot Forbus.

Forbus, Sanders and Boyd have all served as hostesses at Miss America in the past. Besides coaching Rick, they’ve also taken part in fundraisers to help send her to the state and national pageants.

One of the biggest challenges in the Miss Mississippi and America pageants is the interview. Contestants are asked a wide variety of questions – everything from their opinion on Syria to their favorite color – in rapid fire succession.

“It’s your social awareness versus your ability to know yourself,” Stockton said.

“It’s about your flexibility and adaptability,” Miller added.

“We believe Miss America is won or lost in the interview,” Sanders said.

“In this day and age, she’s a media celebrity. She has to have that likeability factor,” Miller said.

Even though she’s in a party city for the pageant, Rick is not out partying every night.

“They leave their hotel between 5 and 7 a.m. every day, not returning until after midnight,” Stockton said.

The Miss America contestants are in preliminary competitions, making appearances and rehearsing for the televised show.

“The glamor is on the stage,” Stockton said, “but it’s hard work and a lot of pressure.”

Rick’s “worker bees” are confident in their contestant.

“She’s got that spirit that rises to the occasion,” Westerlund said.

“I think she’s going to win,” Miller said. “She’s prepared. She’s put in the work.”

“She’s the epitome of what a Miss America is,” Stockton said. “The thrill I get is seeing the girl grow through this. That’s the point of this; the rest of it is window dressing.”

sheena.barnett@journalinc.com