Nashua's Samantha Russo proud to compete for Miss America title
"It's been a bit of a whirlwind," said Russo, who was crowned Miss New Hampshire last April and has been prepping for the national pageant ever since.
"We all have very busy schedules this week, and really the only time we have to slow down is at lunch," said Russo late last week. "We just look at each other and say, 'Can you believe we are here?' I am having such a great time."
On Tuesday, she won a $2,000 scholarship in the talent competition, singing "Don't Rain On My Parade" from the Broadway musical "Funny Girl," which starred Barbra Streisand. Russo said she picked the song because of the positive feedback she received after performing it during the Miss New Hampshire competition - despite being cautioned by friends the song was too difficult to pull off on such a grand stage.
As the preliminaries began last week, each contestant introduced herself and her home state in a humorous way.
"I said I was from the Granite State and hope to rock this stage tonight," said Russo. "Another day, I said I was from the state that's home to the first in the nation presidential primary, and I hope to be first on your ballots tonight."
"I went a different way with my shoes," said Russo. "Growing up in Nashua, and interning with the Nashua Silver Knights, I spent a lot of time at Holman Stadium, so I went with a baseball theme. The shoes are white and bedazzled with red to look like baseball stitches, and the heels are baseball bats."
After being crowned Miss New Hampshire, Russo was awarded a $13,500 scholarship, which went toward paying off her student loans. She earned her bachelor of science degree in broadcast journalism from Emerson College and is pursuing a career in sports journalism.
"I think what keeps it so relevant is the scholarship money that this organization gives out," said Russo. "College isn't getting any cheaper. Plus, there are a lot of people in this world we look up to as heroes, like athletes and celebrities, who we've seen aren't such good people sometimes. I think the women in the Miss America organization are people you can look up to. They're getting educations and working hard in their communities."
"The Miss America organization provides more scholarship money to young women than any other organization in the entire world," said Russo. "It really values the everyday woman, the girl next door and intelligence."
She has her share of supporters back home, as well. A former employer tweeted last week: "Congrats to our ex-Chunky's employee Samantha Russo ... for winning the first night of preliminary competition in the Miss America pageant yesterday! We guess she won't be picking up shifts any time soon! GO SAMANTHA!!!"
"To be able to capture that crown, it would mean the world to me, but I think it would mean so much more for the state of New Hampshire," said Russo. "Just to show the quality of people we have here, would be amazing."