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Miss Arlington Victoria Chuah winning Miss Virginia in June (photo courtesy of Kimberly Needles Photography)

A recent Miss Arlington is competing in the finals of the Miss America competition this week.

Last year’s Miss Arlington, Victoria Chuah, is looking to add another crown to her collection on Thursday. She is set to compete against 50 others, including Miss District of Columbia, for the title of Miss America.

In December 2021, Chuah won the title of Miss Arlington. Then, in June, she was crowned Miss Virginia.

Chuah, 22, says that one of the biggest reasons that she’s competing is to help pay off student loans.

“I definitely don’t think people realize it’s a scholarship organization. Miss America gets $50,000 and the runners-up also get tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money,” Chuah told ARLnow earlier this week while participating in the competition’s preliminary rounds. “So that’s a huge reason why so many, so many of the young women are competing.”

So far, she’s won more than $35,000 in scholarship money over the last year which helped her finish her master’s degree in computer science this past May.

Her career ambition is to become a chief technology officer for a Fortune 500 company.

Chuah is actually a Loudoun County resident but chose to compete in the Arlington competition due to the “great reputation for preparing candidates very well” as well as having one of the highest scholarship prizes available in the state.

To be eligible to compete in Miss Arlington, one only has to reside, work, or attend classes full-time in Virginia.

Chuah is not the first Miss Arlington to compete for Miss America. Caressa Cameron won the national crown in 2010.

The national competition is similar to the local competitions in terms of preparation and judging. Candidates submit a resume, a “social impact statement,” and go through a short interview leading up to the finals. In the finals, they are asked about a social cause that’s important to them and would be the focus of their year of service.

For Chuah, that’s advocating and creating awareness about adults with autism.

“My younger brother, Luke [has autism] and he actually just turned 20 a few weeks ago. As he’s become an adult, it’s so clear how few programs there are for adults with autism,” Chuah said. “There are so many adults with autism, and it’s normally seen as something [impacting] children, but all these children are growing up into adults and there’s no clear pathway for them as once they get older.”

During the finals, competitors showcase a talent, walk the red carpet in evening wear, and answer a question that’s not known in advance on stage.

Chuah’s talent is ballet, an art she’s been perfecting her “entire life.”

Over the last year, since being crowned both Miss Arlington and Miss Virginia, Chuah has been traveling around the state advocating for people like her brother Luke and encouraging young women to further their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

Earlier this year, she was appointed to the Virginia STEM Education Advisory Board and sworn in by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Chuah is also the first Chinese-American woman to be named Miss Virginia.

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It could have been the lack of advance notice. Or the low foot traffic around the somewhat unusual choice of venue. Or could it be that in the reality show age of the shrill and the controversy-addicted, where the racier Miss USA pageant seems to get all the headlines, that the wholesome Miss America institution is losing a bit of cultural relevance?

Either way, there were remarkably few people queuing up to see the woman who represented their hometown and their home state while capturing what is still one of the most prestigious and recognizable titles in American life.

Caressa Cameron, the reigning Miss America and the former Miss Arlington and Miss Virginia, signed autographs and took photos with fans at the DSW Shoe Warehouse In Pentagon City for three hours Tuesday night. The stream of fans was slow but steady. Only occasionally did a line form.

One could argue that the Miss Arlington title itself isn’t really the draw one might think it would be, since the contest actually draws young women from around the state, not just from within the county. And it could also be said that with everything else that goes on in Arlington, beauty pageants may not be high on most people’s priority list.

Nonetheless, Cameron’s “homecoming” (she’s actually from Fredericksburg, Va.) was a decidedly low-key affair. But that didn’t seem to faze someone who has made a career out of poise and grace.

“This is the first time I’ve been back in Arlington since winning,” she noted enthusiastically, saying it was exciting to see members of the local pageant board again. Familiar faces seems to be in short supply in the life of Miss America.

“I travel every 36 hours, about 20,000 miles a month,” Cameron gushed. “I’m up, most of the time, before 4:30. I have interviews in the morning, I go to children’s hospitals during the day, I do fundraising events at night. I do sponsored events like this with DSW to meet the American public and to get the Miss America brand out there. So it’s a busy life. I just got back from Germany where I was able to visit the troops there — some of our wounded warriors at Landstuhl.  I have a wonderful, wonderful job and I enjoy it.”

After her reign is completed, Cameron hopes to move back to Virginia and become a news anchor in the D.C. area.

“I don’t want to leave Virginia, I’m such a Virginia girl. Working in the Arlington-D.C. market would be absolutely perfect. So hopefully there’s a home for me when I’m done,” she said.

One person who came out to see Cameron was Lindsay Morris, who in December succeeded Cameron as Miss Arlington. The James Madison University student said one of her reasons for making the drive up with her parents was to seek inspiration.

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Reigning Miss America Caressa Cameron will be returning to Arlington tonight for an appearance in Pentagon City. Cameron, who won the Miss Arlington pageant before being crowned Miss Virginia last year, is technically from Fredericksburg, but we’ll call this a “homecoming” regardless.

Cameron will be appearing at the DSW Shoe Warehouse (1301 South Joyce Street) at Pentagon Row from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Customers will be able to meet Cameron, take a photo with her and get her autograph.

The store will be offering 15 percent off regularly-priced merchandise during the event and $100 gift cards will be raffled every half hour.

DSW sponsors the Miss America pageant.

Photo from missamerica.org.

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Photo from missamerica.org

Caressa Cameron, who was crowned Miss Arlington 2009 and then Miss Virginia 2009, was crowned Miss America 2010 on Saturday’s nationally-televised pageant. Cameron, a Fredericksburg, Va. native, wins a $50,000 and will now embark on a national publicity tour.

Cameron’s first appearance was on Live! with Regis and Kelly this morning.  She will appear on entertainment show EXTRA tonight.  The show airs locally at 2:00 AM on ABC 7 (WJLA).

Although Cameron’s media duties will keep her in New York for now, expect a homecoming for the beauty queen no later than April. Traditionally, Miss America winners participate in the National Cherry Blossom Festival parade.

The Washington Post‘s story about Cameron’s win can be found here, interviews with her parents here, and comments on Cameron’s winning qualities from pageant judge and radio host Rush Limbaugh here.

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