Being herself

Megan Engle

There were over 11 million people watching the Miss USA pageant worldwide and 4,000 in the audience alone. The moment all 51 girls had been waiting for had finally arrived.

For Miss Kentucky, it was a night she had worked towards for a long time.

Lori Mitchell was “born to be Miss Kentucky” and now she was trying for Miss USA.

But according to the Scottsville senior, she was not the “typical” contestant. She did not have big hair and lots of make-up. She was simply herself.

And in just a few moments, she would find out if being herself was enough.

How it all began

Mitchell entered her first pageant when she was 14 and went on to enter the Kentucky State Fair pageant. After losing in her first attempt, she entered the same pageant two more times and was eventually crowned queen in 2000.

That night stands out as being one of her greatest memories and achievements. But now it takes a back seat to an experience that shines much more brightly.

On December 1 of last year, Mitchell was crowned Miss Kentucky, allowing her to compete against 51 women in the nation for the crown of Miss USA.

“Lori was born to be Miss Kentucky,” said Elizabethtown senior and Chi Omega sister Kari Critcheloe.

Mitchell has been preparing for Miss USA since winning Miss Kentucky. The first step towards the title was the preliminary competition in San Antonio, Texas.

The preliminary competition consisted of the swimsuit and the evening gown portion.

The top ten contestants were announced at 8 p.m. March 24 on NBC, where the interview process was the deciding factor.

The work

Miss USA was something Mitchell had put much effort towards. Since being crowned Miss Kentucky, Mitchell focused on nothing else. She slept, ate and breathed for the pageant.

To keep her focused on the crown, Mitchell took only one class while working at the WKYU news station.

“I’ve had to put everything on hold to make sure everything’s perfect,” she said. “I put my friends, family and life on hold. I just don’t want to look back on this with any regrets.”

Prior to the final competition, Mitchell said that no matter what the outcome, it was an experience she will never forget.

“It’s all completely worth it,” she said. “I’ll be meeting all of these girls and making memories of a lifetime.”

The night she was crowned Miss Kentucky, Mitchell met with the judges who critiqued and commented on her performance. She also met with a personal trainer who gave her a body assessment and a diet of low-carbs and high protein.

A typical day for Mitchell involved exercising for two hours, dress fittings and meeting with reporters.

Amidst all the commotion and stress, Mitchell said it got difficult not to lose sight of herself.

“It has been stressful and a headache at times, yes, but really and truly it has been so great,” she said.

She said one of the most difficult struggles was listening to about a hundred different opinions that tended to pull her in different directions.

Mitchell said one of the main factors of her success and drive was due to her friends, family and Chi Omega sorority.

Before the show, Mitchell’s sister Holly, a graduate of Western, said she would love for Lori to make it to the top ten and even further.

“She needs to make sure and know that she will have people all over the state supporting her,” Holly Mitchell said. “All she needs to do is be herself, be confident and know that this is a wonderful opportunity. She will do great.”

The big night

After months of preparation and hard work, the big night finally arrived. But for Mitchell, things didn’t go quite as planned. She was not selected for the top ten.

She said the most nerve-racking part of the evening was the countdown to the televised production.

“There were girls backstage praying, and everyone was just very fidgety,” she said.

While Mitchell’s name was not announced among the top ten finalists, she said she still saw the Miss USA Pageant as a positive experience.

“It definitely taught me a lot,” she said. “I am much more disciplined.”

Mitchell met many wonderful girls and says that she is already keeping in contact with Miss Indiana.

“I plan on traveling to Indianapolis this summer, and it will be interesting to see where our friendship goes from there,” she said.

Months of work ended that night, in just a few precious moments, but for Mitchell it was a lifetime of experiences she’ll never forget.

Reach Megan Engle at [email protected]