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Pageant phase earns Casey top national finish

Samantha Casey, the reigning Miss Virginia Teen 2006, would have had a tough decision had she won the Miss Teen USA pageant. Winning might have meant delaying her first semester at William and Mary.

As it turned out, freshman Casey was named the third runner-up in the beauty contest, the final segment of which was broadcast to a national audience on Aug. 15. Throughout the entire process—the interview sessions, the bathing-suit and evening-gown competitions and the photo shoots—the College was on her mind, she said.

“In all of the interviews I went through, I talked about my college,” Casey said. “To the panel of judges, I talked about William and Mary. It’s a gold mine to be able to attend such a great college. When I got my acceptance letter, I just cried.”

Responding to pageant judges who asked her to describe herself in five years, Casey said, “a former Miss Teen USA 2006, successful model, premiering in my first movie and just completing my business degree from the College of William and Mary.”

Casey entered her first beauty pageant
at the relatively late age of 14. It was not until one of her father’s co-workers suggested there was scholarship money available that she became interested.

“I was not a pageant-type girl,” she said. “I was big on sports and really involved in my school.”

At Highland High School in Warrenton, Va., Casey earned varsity letters in tennis and basketball. She also earned academic excellence awards in environmental science, algebra II, statistics, chemistry and calculus.

She was named Miss Virginia Teen on her third attempt. As the titleholder, she was kept busy making promotional appearances, which forced her to develop poise and self-confidence. Her favorite outreach projects included awareness campaigns about breast and ovarian cancers. At one event that tested her mettle, she spoke in front of 3,000 Harley-Davidson riders, including the president of the motorcycle-manufacturing company.

“Of course, being on national television and having to answer questions from celebrity judges is not an easy thing either, especially when you have to sell yourself to them,” she said.

Overall, she found the pageant experience rewarding, even though she had to come to terms with stereotypes that arise when young girls are walking around in high heels and bikinis, she said. She learned to ignore labels such as “ditzy” and “catty” as she concentrated on opportunities that were opened to her.

“I do pageants, but they’re not who I am,” she explained. “I like that people know I competed, but I have a lot more to me. Pageants are stepping-stones toward what you want to do.”

At William and Mary, Casey begins a new phase of her life as a college freshman. Already, she says she has spent “too much” on furnishings for her dormitory room in Barrett Hall. She is preparing to study hard in order to get the best grades possible and is planning to follow the advice offered by her brother, Michael Casey, a sophomore at the College. “He told me about time management and to make sure I get sleep,” she said. “He said I’m going to be overhelmed at first, but it’s a good feeling because it’s going to be awesome.”

For his part, Michael is excited to have his sister on campus. “I tried to convince her to come because I love this place so much,” he said.

As he rooted for her during the Miss Teen USA contest—“As a guy, I couldn’t help liking the pageant,” he admitted—he marveled at his sister’s control when challenged during the judged events. Now, as the semester has started, he said, “She’s just like everybody else. She’s my little sister. She’s going to fit right in.”

Samantha Casey envisions a relatively smooth transition. Already she has many friends on campus. She anticipates meeting other members of the William and Mary community who sent her notes of support via the Facebook Web site and by e-mail as she competed for the national Miss Teen title.

“In one sense, it’s a good thing that I didn’t win,” she said. “I had talked to my mom about what I would have done. Thank goodness, I didn’t have to make that decision. I’m ready to go to college. I’m ready to go to William and Mary. I’ve been ready for about a year. I am a typical freshman coming in.”

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