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Miss Virginia, a VCU pharmacy student, wins Miss America crown

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — Miss Virginia, Camille Schrier, was crowned Miss America on Thursday night.

Schrier, a Pennsylvania native who won the Miss Virginia pageant in June, is a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University who is pursuing a doctor of pharmacy degree. In 2018, she graduated cum laude from Virginia Tech with degrees in biochemistry and systems biology.

She won the crown just minutes after wowing the crowd with science. Dressed in a lab coat, she gave a colorful chemistry demonstration of the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide.

Schrier said during a news conference that she hopes to “break stereotypes about what it means to be a Miss America in 2020” by being a “woman of science.”

The final night of the 99th Miss America competition kicked off with a glamorous red carpet photo shoot Thursday, but organizers hoped to make it clear this wasn’t your grandmother’s beauty pageant.

No longer called contestants, the 51 women “candidates,” who hailed from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, vied for a $50,000 scholarship and the “job” of Miss America, a one-year paid position they hoped to use as a public platform for their “social impact initiative.”

For the second year in a row, women were not judged in a swimsuit or how they looked in an evening gown. Instead, a series of interviews and talent demonstrations determined who was best qualified to wear this year’s crown.

Schrier was emblematic of the changes at Miss America under the now all-female leadership team — earlier in the competition, she won a $2,000 scholarship for a chemistry demonstration.

“To make it relevant for these young women, it was important for us as a scholarship and service organization to make sure that we were reflective of this generation, meaning that you no longer had to be defined by some sort of ideal,” said Regina Hopper, president & CEO of the Miss America Organization.

While Hopper acknowledged there has been some push-back from “old pageant” people who liked the old way of doing things, she said there’s been greater interest in the competition since the rollout of Miss America 2.0.

This year also marked the first time the multiday event was held at Mohegan Sun, tribal casino and entertainment complex in suburban southeastern Connecticut. Miss America organizers announced plans this summer to leave Atlantic City, New Jersey — for the second time in its history.

After winning the Miss Virginia competition in June, Schrier said she was excited to travel to elementary schools and also to educate people about opioid overdose reversal medication such as naloxone, which she is trained to administer.

“They can look to me and say OK, she’s a woman who is able to be successful in a organization like the Miss America organization, but she’s also a scientist,” Schrier said. “I truly am a woman of science — that’s my career. So [I want] to be able to break those barriers and to really inspire young women and men to follow this path if that’s something that they’re passionate about.”

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