In 1921, the Miss America pageant was created to attract visitors to Atlantic City's boardwalk. Then in the mid 1940s, a time when only 76,000 women in the USA graduated from college, Miss America added scholarships to their prize package.
College scholarships changed the pageant dramatically and eventually helped the Miss America organization become the United State's leading provider of educational scholarships for women. Since then, education has been an important component, but—aside from the interview—the connection to the pageant wasn't on prominent display.
Camille Schrier is a 24 year-old with Bachelor of Science degrees in Biochemistry and Systems Biology from Virginia Tech—where she graduated cum laude—and is working on her Doctor of Pharmacy Degree at Virginia Commonwealth University. Until earlier this month she was also Miss Dominion—a regional pageant title in Virginia—but now Schrier is Miss Virginia.
Next stop: Miss America.
How did she win the crown?
Partly through her performance in the talent competition. But Schrier didn't dance, sing or play an instrument—talents we associate with pageants.
Camille Schrier demonstrated the "catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide."
Yep, she pulled a Bill Nye on stage, complete with white lab coat and safety glasses.
Watch footage of her performance here:
How Miss Virginia Won Her Crown Thanks to Science youtu.be
Schrier competed in pageants beginning at the age of 14 and stopping when she began college.
After learning that the Miss America organization eliminated the swimsuit portion of their pageants and vowed to focus more on professionalism and social impact, Schrier decided to return to the pageant world.
And her choice to make a chemistry experiment her talent?
Schrier said on an Instagram post:
"When I said during my chemistry demonstration that 'I've loved science since I was a little girl' I wasn't kidding. Who would have thought that this little girl would grow up to not only be a Miss Virginia, but also start an international media firestorm about SCIENCE!"
Her unconventional talent created quite a stir.
"I'm trying to be like Bill Nye [the Science Guy]. That's what I'm going for. I want to get kids excited [about science], but I don't want it to be boring."
"I expected to hear some feedback saying that my talent wasn't really a talent. But I will tell you, I was overwhelmed with messages saying how cool my talent was, how refreshing it was and how everyone was impressed that I was able to tie education and science into something that was also entertaining."
"I didn't have that kind of role model who had gone through the same experiences that I had of being an undergrad in a science career."
"And now I'm in a graduate program. It's not easy [getting a science degree] and I want to be that person to go out there and encourage and show [children] that I did it. And so can you."
STEM stands for: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
In another Instagram post, Schrier said:
"WOW! Hi everyone, I'm Camille Schrier and I'm MISS VIRGINIA 2019! I am SO EXCITED to start this journey."
"This year, I'll be traveling across the commonwealth visiting schools & children's hospitals, as well as advocating for STEM education & drug safety and abuse prevention. LET'S DO THIS!"
As for pageants, the new Miss Virginia said:
"It taught me a lot about being professional … in terms of just being able to prepare a resume, go into an interview confidently, and how to prepare for something like that."
"The evolution of the Miss America competition, which reflects greater inclusiveness, and an opportunity to make a difference and win scholarships inspired me to step forward this year and compete."
"I am more than Miss Virginia. I am Miss Biochemist, Miss Systems Biologist, Miss Future PharmD looking toward a pharmaceutical industry career."
"Now was the time for me to create a mind shift about the concept of talent by bringing my passion for STEM to the stage. To me, talent is not a passion alone, but also a skill which is perfected over years of learning."
Schrier won $21,000 in scholarships out of $75,000 total offered during the Miss Virginia pageant.
And her experiment?
The catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide is a science experiment where the giant spurts of foam occur when potassium iodide (Kl) is added to a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and dish soap. The process resembles what happens when hydrogen peroxide is applied to a wound and bubbles form.
In September, Schrier will join talented, educated women from across the United States to compete for the Miss America 2020 crown.
"...insights, wisdom and stories from twenty-two former Miss Americas, who are not just pretty but pretty smart, and how they pursued their passions all the way to professional and personal success. With their thoughtful intelligence and insightful eloquence these women shatter the myth that the Pageant is 'just a beauty contest'."
"Their stories, woven into a tapestry of inspiration and wisdom, prove that it takes vision, discipline, drive and, yes, brains to win the crown."