Beauty, talent and ingenuity don't always go hand in hand but in Claire Buffie, these traits can't be more evident! Claire is Miss New York 2010 and she is the first Miss America contestant in the 90 year history of the pageant to run on a gay rights platform. Having placed 12th in the Miss America Pageant, she keeps a very busy schedule throughout the state as her charming and inviting personality makes her much in demand for various functions and activities. Claire took a break to speak with me recently about her amazing life...
CLAIRE: The whole thing was just surreal! I went to the Miss America Pageant two years ago just to watch Katie Stam and she actually won Miss America that year. The next year I went to watch her give up her title. So I've been around the pageant for the last few years but on the other side, in the audience. So to be a part in it this was was completely surreal!
MICK: What was the hardest part of the competition?
CLAIRE: Just the subjectivity in general. That's your biggest competitor. You prepare and prepare for months! For me, it was essentially a process of four years with the prior six months of extreme preparation for it. You work very hard, you do so much work in your community and grow so much as a person. The title of Miss America is the subjective opinion of seven strangers who get to you for about 14-15 minutes. That, in relative to the entire year with all the work you've done, is a difficult thing. That subjectivity you have no control over.
MICK: Do you feel that your stand on the gay rights platform hindered your chances in the pageant at all?
CLAIRE: Not at all. In fact, that is what actually catapulted me into the finals because it was an America's Choice vote. America choose who they wanted to be the finalists. That's how I made it into the top 15. That just shows that my platform is something that related to people on a National scale more than just my city or state.
MICK: How can girls from Long Island get involved in the Miss New York competition?
CLAIRE: We have a new local on Long Island. We actually have two titles we will be giving out this year. One is Miss New York and the other will be Miss Long Island County. Once the girl is crowned, she will become either Miss Nassau or Suffolk County based on the county she lives in. The pageant is going to be on Sunday, March 26th at Hewlett High School in Woodmere. You can check out the details at missnyorg.com and that's the Miss New York website where you can find more information on the local. You can also stay in touch on my blog which is missny2010.blogspot.com. I will be posting things since this is a new local pageant We actually just got confirmation on the high school for the pageant.
MICK: You are originally from Indiana and you placed second in the 2008 Miss Indiana contest. What are the regulations as far as competing in a different state other than the one you came from?
CLAIRE: You must have six months residency based on full time employment, your university or college, or your actual residency. When I came to New York, the way I qualified for my residency was based on my apartment lease. You have to be in the city at least six months before you compete for your local and you have to maintain that residency through the state pageant that year. Last year I was new to it all. This year, I had a couple years under my belt and lots of New York taxes and rent that is already out of my pocket! The Miss America Organization is a scholarship organization so a lot of girls compete where they go to school. My first year that I competed in Indiana, the girl who was giving up her title was actually from Texas but she went to the Indiana University School of Music. In New York, it's unique in that sense. This year, we had 20 contestants. Ten were from the New York City area and ten were from thee rest of the state. Seven out of those twenty were not born in New York! It's because New York is a place girls come to go to school or for their dreams in their careers.
CLAIRE: Before Miss New York, I was doing a lot with my platform. I do a lot of personal appearances and engagements on behalf of my platform "Straight For Equality: Lets Talk" and also Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) where I'm on the board. I work with Marriage Equality in New York. After the Miss America Pageant, I've been doing a lot of schools. I did a fair amount of schools before Miss America but now is when my full tour really launches.
MICK: You have a photography business also. Please tell me about that!
CLAIRE: I started my photography business in 2005 and it is focused in commercial photography. I do head shots for actors and dancers and I do weddings too. I was actually a graphic design major in college so I also do web design and graphic design as well. My passion is definitely in photography. Although I don't do too much dance photography, that is my most exciting thing to photograph. The hard part is just finding that access to the dance companies and the magazines that pay to have you photograph the dancers!
MICK: I also see that you work for Apple! What is your job function there?
CLAIRE: I did work for Apple until November of 2010. I had to quit Apple because of the work I was doing with Miss New York was taking up my entire schedule. I was a family room specialist there so essentially I was a genius for small devices like IPods, IPads and IPhones. I also taught people how to use their computers in a one to one program.
MICK: And you know how to fix IPods also right?
CLAIRE: Yes I do!
MICK: Do you have any other hobbies?
CLAIRE: I love to travel and I love to cook. I think those two things go hand in hand being that I love to travel and eat! I played tennis growing up and still enjoy playing with my dad when I go back to Indianapolis.
MICK: How do you like living in New York City?
CLAIRE: I love it! I've known since I was in sixth grade that I would move to New York. I chose to do my internships during college in New York rather than going to school in New York. I still wanted to have that all American college experience so I did that in the Midwest. When I competed for Miss Indiana in 2008, I knew it would be a win win situation for me. Either I was going to win Miss Indiana and stay in Indiana for the year or I would be going to New York immediately after the pageant, which is what happened.
MICK: What is on your agenda for 2011?
CLAIRE: I have four months left of being Miss New York and I really want to take full advantage of that. I'm traveling a lot. Since Miss America, my platform has made a really big splash so I've been booked all over New York, Florida, Indiana and Arkansas as well. Based on those next four months, I want to see where those opportunities take me. In my future, past Miss New York, I want to continue in my photography business. I will definitely be doing consulting for interview preparation and public speaking. I feel that my design skills really support my public speaking.
MICK: What words of advise can you give future Miss New York contestants?
CLAIRE: I will give the same advise that I gave to Katie Stand. Katie was Miss America in 2009 and Miss Indiana in 2008. She was actually my first runner up in her first local at Miss Central Indiana. She was a little bummed about that as anyone would be getting close and not winning the title. She asked me for advise. I told her you have to go into the pageant with the confidence that you can win but the humility that only one girl wins. Also with the self respect and self love that you don't have anything to prove to anyone else, that you are already doing enough just by getting on that stage. That takes a lot of courage, especially for the first time in a local. I gave her that friendly advise and then crowned her in my old local. She beat me in Miss Indiana and then went on to win Miss America.
Miss Nassau/Suffolk County and Miss Southern NY Pageants
Official preliminary competitions to Miss New York in the Miss America Organization
Sunday March 27, 2011 at 2:00
GW Hewlett-Woodmere High School
Email Paul Brown firstname.lastname@example.org for application and information
Compete in Interview (10 Minutes), Swimsuit, Evening Gown, Talent (90sec), and On-Stage Question.
Over $1,000 in scholarships will be awarded with chance to represent Long Island at the 2011 Miss New York State Pageant
You can find out more about Claire at: http://www.clairebuffie.com/