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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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Briana Hanafin had never been in a pageant before entering the Miss Arlington 2014 contest last December, but that didn’t stop her from winning the sash, tiara and entrance into this year’s Miss Virginia pageant.

The 24-year-old Arlington native graduated from Yorktown High School and works as an I.T. consultant for Accenture. She tells ARLnow.com that she entered the pageant because all of her time in high school and college — she attended Baylor University in Texas before transferring and graduating from the University of Maryland — was devoted to playing softball.

“It was just on my bucket list of things to do, because all of my weekends in school were going to softball games and tournaments,” Hanafin said. “You have to be 24 or younger to compete, so there’s a time limit.”

She “didn’t do much training” for Miss Arlington, but, since being crowned, that’s completely changed. The Miss Arlington team has taken over her preparation, paying for a personal trainer three times a week and even sending her to Dallas, Texas, to shop for dresses, admitting “I have never done this much shopping in my life.”

Despite being a novice the pageant world, it wouldn’t be a shock if she performs well at the Miss Virginia pageant from June 26-28 in Roanoke. Miss Arlington 2009, Caressa Cameron, was crowned Miss America 2010. Last year’s Miss Arlington, Desiree Williams, won the state pageant, as did 2010 Miss Arlington winner Caitlin Uze.

“I had no idea how big of a reputation [Miss Arlington] had,” she said. “They know how to prepare the girls, which makes me feel good, but this is a lot of pressure. All the previous Miss Arlingtons have been so nice. I even got a Facebook message after I won saying ‘welcome to the best sorority ever.'”

The former shortstop sang Jar of Hearts by Christina Perri for her talent, but she can’t reveal what song she plans to sing for Miss Virginia. She’s listed as the last contestant out of 26 who will be competing in the pageant.

Miss Virginia becomes a spokesperson for the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals, and Hanafin has been giving talks for months about her social platform, global education, which was inspired by a month she spent in college teaching students in Africa.

It will be difficult for Hanafin to draw on her experience from December’s pageant: she said she was on stage for only a couple of minutes, and it was such a whirlwind that “it’s almost like I blacked out.” Her biggest memory: the surprisingly lengthy process of pinning the tiara to her hair, which took nearly a dozen hair clips. She said she was sure it was going to fall off.

It’s been a long six months between the Miss Arlington and Miss Virginia pageants, but she’s hoping this time around, she remembers the experience. No matter what, she’s enjoying the ride.

“I’ve gotten to be an ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network, and I got to meet the current Miss America, which was kind of unreal. I met her, and I was like ‘I want your job,'” she said. She’s still getting used to the public appearances, however. “I still feel like my crown’s going to fall off.”

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Morning Notes

It’s July — After the hottest June on record in DC, we have finally reached the temperate month of July.

Virginia/WMATA Deal Imminent? — The Metro board of directors is holding an emergency phone meeting this morning to approve a last-minute funding deal with Virginia’s state government. Two weeks ago Gov. Bob McDonnell threatened to withhold $50 million in funding for the agency unless the state could get two seats on the Metro board. More from the Washington Examiner.

Lawmakers Blast Arlington Cemetery Mistakes — At a hearing on mismanagement at Arlington National Cemetery, Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) told Army Secretary John McHugh that he was “downright angry” about the mistakes that led to hundreds of misidentified or unmarked graves. “Management ineptitude and neglect has resulted in a web of errors,” Skelton said. “How in the world could this tragedy be allowed to happen?” More from NPR.

State Police Cracking Down for the Fourth — Virginia State Police will step up enforcement this weekend, Dr. Gridlock reports. Officers will be on the lookout for speeders, drunk drivers and people not wearing their seat belts.

Miss Virginia Overcame Speech Impediment — Caitlin Uze, the new Miss Virginia and a Washington-Lee High School grad, still has a bit of a lisp. But as a kid in Arlington’s public schools, her speech impeach impediment was much more noticeable, and it led to her being teased mercilessly by a bully. During her reign as Miss Virginia, Uze will use her experience to encourage kids to build self-confidence. More from the Arlington Connection.

Murray Relishes Moran-Limbaugh Spat — To the delight of underdog Republican challenger Patrick Murray, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has taken aim at his opponent, congressman Jim Moran (D-Va). Limbaugh called Moran a “left-wing hatemonger” after Moran suggested that Limbaugh may be partially responsible for inciting violence against census workers. In an email, Murray’s campaign called Limbaugh’s on-air rant “a huge breakthrough.”

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Third time was a charm for 22-year-old Arlington native Caitlin Uze. The Washigton-Lee High School grad and James Madison University senior was crowned Miss Virginia on Saturday, after two prior attempts at the title.

Uze, who was competing as Miss Greater Richmond (local residency is not required to compete in regional pageants), will receive $17,000 in scholarship money and free rent for a year. She will compete for the Miss America crown next year.

Caressa Cameron, the 2009 Miss Arlington winner who went on to win Miss Virginia and then Miss America, was on hand for the pageant, which was held in Roanoke.

Uze is studying social work and family studies at JMU and graduated in the top 20% of her Washington-Lee class, according to a personal website. Her hobbies include Irish dance, photography and reading.

She “showed poise” when asked about the Gulf oil spill during the interview portion of the pageant, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Photo via web.

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