When Lauren Vizza entered her first pageant, the Miss Tech pageant, she never dreamed that four years later she would be walking across the stage at the Miss America.
“My first pageant freshman year was the Miss Tech pageant, so it meant everything to come back and win the pageant that started it all,” said Vizza, a senior political science major.
Vizza said for her third go at the title of Miss Tech she wore the same opening number and interview dress that she had worn the two years prior, but clearly that did not hinder her success.
In preparing for Miss Tech she took advantage of the opportunity to train with fellow Bulldog, Ben Strecker, a junior kinesiology major.
“Leading up to the pageant, he helped me get in amazing shape,” Vizza said. “One of the later nights I skipped out early on my cardio thinking he had already left and totally got caught: In all honesty I have never cheated a workout again since then.”
Strecker said Vizza was fantastic to work with, and apparently skipping out on workouts was not something she made a habit of doing.
“She has an incredible work ethic and she was easy to train because of her positive attitude,” he said.
Vizza suffered from a debilitating knee injury, which Strecker said caused him to have to modify some of her workouts. After hard work and little tips and tricks, the team began to see positive changes, he said.
“I’ll never forget the last time we worked out, right before she was competing for Miss Tech, she got on the scale and almost cried because she was so happy,” Strecker said. “Watching her change gradually, with a debilitating injury was inspiring. Her drive truly carried her all the way to Vegas.”
After competing in Miss Tech three years in a row, she won the Miss Louisiana preliminary competition her junior year in the 2011 pageant, and she was set to compete in Miss Louisiana the following June.
In preparation for Miss Louisiana, Vizza said she tried on at least 75 dresses before finally finding “the one.”
“It was a size 10 mother-of-the-bride dress that I had totally remade,” she said.
However, Vizza was not too worried about fitting into her now-smaller, altered dress.
“I went to Paris one week before the check-in date for Miss Louisiana,” she said. “I ate everything possible, but thanks to the constant walking I actually lost weight while I was there.”
Though Vizza was in top shape for the pageant, she admits to having a slip of the mind while performing in the talent portion of Miss Louisiana.
“I thought for sure I hadn’t won because I had forgotten the last 30 seconds of my dance and had to make it up on the spot,” she said.
Vizza’s friend and pageant sister Meagan Lee said she remembers sitting Vizza down after she won the preliminary swimsuit award and said, “Are you ready for this? You’re going to win.” She said Vizza started beaming, hugged her and responded, “You really think so?”
“I will never forget the rush of emotions I experienced the night Lauren was crowned Miss Louisiana,” said Lee, a junior journalism and English major. “As each runner ups’ name was called and Lauren was still standing, I began to think this might really be happing for her: This might be her year.”
Maybe it was the transformed former mother-of-the-bride dress or maybe it was as Vizza says, “The third time was the charm,” but either way, that was her year. Vizza won the title of Miss Louisiana 2012 and was set to compete in Miss America the following January.
This was it: the crème de le crème; Vizza was posed to compete in the top pageant the Miss America Organization has to offer.
Though making it to the final stage of competition was four years in the making, preparing for Miss America was still no easy task.
Though Vizza’s interview dress was a sponsored gift from Dr. Ed Johnson, tracking down the diamond in the rough was a challenge.
“I chose a Yves Saint Laurent dress and Chanel shoes,” she said. “The dress was special to track down because it was the only one in its size and color in the country.”
The next of Vizza’s tasks was to select an evening gown, which she got to design herself, sort of.
“I designed my evening gown in July but when it arrived in November, it was very different,” she said. “While we tried having it altered it actually got ruined, so three weeks before I was sending my wardrobe to Vegas, I had to pick out a new gown.”
Vizza said Tony Bowls sent over several boxes full of dresses and after several hours she and her team finally settled on the perfect evening gown.
While Vizza’s dresses would have to be shipped for the competition, she got an additional luxury when her hairdresser of seven years decided to tag along too.
“He gave me plenty of hair lessons before I left,” she said.” The most important: how to properly curl my hair.”
Though Vizza fell short of her hopes of being called for the top 15, she did accomplish her goal: leaving with no regrets.
“I felt like I had let everyone down and honestly didn’t know how to handle it,” she said. “It’s been a few days now, and I have a much better outlook on everything. My job was to go and represent Louisiana, which I did, and there was nothing I could do differently.”
Vizza said she knew 38 girls were going to be left out, and that they were there to encourage each other.
“Cheering for my Miss America sisters as they competed in each phase of competition was so exciting,” she said. “I had no idea I could go from crying to excitedly cheering so quickly.”
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