Miss Kentucky prepares for next step

Bowling Green senior Ann-Blair Thornton, crowned Miss Kentucky over the summer, visited the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce last month.

Zirconia Alleyne

Miss Kentucky is more than a pretty face and rocking body like many beauty queens are perceived.

Rather, Bowling Green senior Ann-Blair Thornton, 21, is a woman of many goals. Becoming a pageant queen was just one of her aspirations.

“My mom said I’d been saying I wanted to be Miss Kentucky since I was 3,” Thornton said.

Her dream came to fruition this summer on July 16 at the Singletary Center for Arts in Lexington.

After living a week with the other 32 contestants and three days of competing, Thornton stood on stage waiting for her fate to be announced.

Thornton, who placed first runner up in the 2010 Miss Kentucky pageant, said she was expecting to place second again.

“The idea of being Miss Kentucky was intangible,” she said. “I knew it was in my grasp, but I just didn’t know if I could grab it.”

Thornton said she couldn’t remember what happened when the announcer called her name.

“The judges told me I screamed and hit the floor, which is probably an accurate description,” she said.

As Miss Kentucky 2010 Djuan Trent placed the crown atop her head, Thornton stood there in a custom-made Sherri Hill gown screaming and cupping her hands over her face.

Adorned in her crown and sash, Thornton took her first walk as Miss Kentucky 2011.

Contrary to what happens in the TLC reality show Toddlers and Tiaras, Thornton didn’t start competing in pageants until age 15.

“I don’t think my mom ever thought I’d hold onto the dream that long,” Thornton said.

Since her parents knew very little about pageants, they wanted Thornton to wait until she could make her own decisions, but she first needed a mentor.

In 2000, she watched Miss Kentucky Heather French become crowned Miss America, a first for the state.

“I was jumping around and screaming when my dad came home,” Thornton said.

Her father took notice and called a friend who was dating French at the time.

Thornton met her later that year at a Christmas party and she took her right under her wing.

“She was truly a godsend to get me involved,” Thornton said. “Who in the world knows where I’d be.”

In preparation for the pageants, Thornton devoted her time to the piano, which she played in her first pageant at Bell County High School.

“I was contestant number one in the dead of winter,” she said. “I was scared to death.”

When the power unexpectedly went out during her piano solo, Thornton pushed through while stage hands held flashlights over her keys.

She was named second runner-up.

“I was so excited to hear my name called,” she said.

Thornton continued doing pageants through high school and won Miss Kentucky Teen in 2007.

When she came to WKU, she continued competing while also becoming involved on campus.

She joined Chi Omega and Student Government Association, where she served as secretary of student senate and public relations chair.

“I was really involved in sorority life, and now all of my friends are doing the senior things,” Thornton said. “That’s what I’m missing the most.”

Bardstown senior Laura Beth Blanford met Thornton when they roomed together freshman year and joined Chi O.

Blanford remembered when Thornton won Miss Bowling Green, which was also her title when she won Miss Kentucky this year.

“This has been a goal of hers ever since I met her,” Blanford said.

Somerset senior Jasey Beckman, who roomed with Thornton and Blanford last year, said Thornton gets a lot of support from her Chi Omega sisters.

“We wanted her to know the Chi Os were behind her,” Beckman said.

Thornton isn’t taking classes right now while she lives in a furnished studio apartment in Lexington to fulfill her duties associated with her title.

Thornton said she was nervous and excited about the move because she had never lived alone.

“I lived with my four sorority sisters, so it’s kind of sad coming home to a lonely apartment,” she said.

Throughout the year, she will travel to Kentucky public schools as the spokesperson for the Kentucky Proud program and her platform about Alzheimer’s disease.

“I want to talk to kids about hard work, patience, love and how important it is to be good to others,” she said.

Kentucky Proud encourages citizens to buy products produced in Kentucky. Her platform is in honor of her grandfather, who died of Alzheimer’s in 2009.

Blanford said she believes Thornton will do a lot with her platform because of her passion for it.

“It’s more than just a crown to her,” Blanford said. “She’ll go out of her way to represent the state well.”

Beckman said Thornton won’t let her title consume her because she’s so down-to-earth, never meets a stranger and is appreciative of everything.

“I think she’ll be same old Ann-Blair, just well-traveled and a lot of fun as usual,” Beckman said.

After her reign, Thornton wants to finish her last year at WKU and go to law school.

She said her family keeps her grounded and focused.

“It’s important to stay humble,” Thornton said. “I realize that people are excited to see Miss Kentucky, not me.”

Beckman and Blanford said they can’t wait to cheer her on as she competes for the Miss America crown in Las Vegas on Jan. 14, 2012.

Although she’s nervous, Thornton said she will be more than ready to compete.

“Every day is about preparing for the job, not just the pageant,” she said. “It’s the craziest feeling.”