No sooner had Nicole Renard (BFA broadcast journalism ’17) taken off her graduation mortar board than it was replaced by a glittering tiara proclaiming her Miss Washington 2018! This September, she’ll compete against other state Miss winners to take home the title of Miss America. Tune in and watch as our Panther takes on the nation at the 91st Miss America pageant, taking place on Sept. 10, 2017 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

CU: What are your responsibilities as Miss Washington between now and when Miss America airs? 

Woman in graduation cap and gown stands next to mascot of a panther.

Nicole Renard ’17 poses with Pete the Panther for a graduation shot.

NR: I just got back from Orlando where we had the official Miss America orientation. I was able to meet all the other contestants and learn all the information we need to know for Atlantic City. Miss America’s Outstanding Teen (the teen program for Miss America) was being held in Orlando at the same time so I was able to cheer on my teen, Tia Moua who won the Spirit of America Award! I now have four weeks until I leave for Atlantic City so my job is to prepare! I have some mock interviews scheduled, a few appearances and lots and lots of practicing for my talent. My send-off party is August 20 in Renton, Wash. where people can come see the wardrobe that I will be wearing for the competition.

CU: Tell us about your pageant life. How long have you been competing? What inspires you to compete?

NR: I did my first pageant in fifth grade because I watched my sister do a few and thought it looked really fun. I grew up watching the women compete in Miss Washington and Miss America thinking I wanted to be like them one day. As I started to compete, I realized there was so much more to win than just a crown. Because of the scholarships that Miss America provides, I was able to graduate from Chapman debt free. I also gained tools that will help me in life like interviewing and public speaking and have made countless friends and expanded my network through my time and experience competing. I compete because I love the challenge and the new things I learn each time I go through the process. I love the opportunities it affords to serve others and your community and the fact that I get to be part of something bigger than myself.

CU: What has competing in pageants taught you about yourself?

NR: Competing in pageants has taught me that I don’t need a crown to make a difference. The ideals and morals Miss America promotes are ones I can embody whether or not I have a crown on my head because it’s a lifestyle and something I can choose to be every day. Being Miss Washington and potentially Miss America is an extreme honor and blessing, but it doesn’t define me. I’ve learned not to find my identity or joy in any title because they are temporary and go away after a year. My value is rooted in something much greater and deeper and doesn’t change with any success or failure I experience in life.

CU: What is the strangest pageant moment/story you can remember?

NR: I was in an elevator at a hotel once and a girl walked on and gave me the weirdest look. After a few awkward moments of silence she says to me, “I’m sorry but are you the #DoStuff girl?” She was referring to my #DoStuff blog and proceeded to tell me that she has been following me for four years after she saw me compete in a pageant and loves watching my YouTube videos and reading my blog. I was shocked that she knew who I was, but I guess it just goes to show there are people always watching and you can make a difference in people’s lives even when you don’t think you’re making an impact.

CU: What is your favorite pageant moment/story (aside from being crowned Miss Washington)?

Woman in sparking evening gown waves to crowd with one hand, while clutching a large bouquet of roses with the other.

Nicole Renard ’17 waves to the audience after being crowned Miss Washington.

NR:  My favorite pageant moments are when I receive letters in the mail or messages through social media from people, some of whom I’ve never met, telling me I inspired them to keep going. Reading notes like these actually inspires me and reminds me why I do what I do. It makes me so thankful to be a part of something bigger than myself where I’ve been given a position of leadership that can encourage hearts and impact lives.

CU: What talent will you perform for the Miss America pageant?

NR: I am doing a spunky jazz dance to a song called “I Love Me” by Meghan Trainor.

CU: What was the competition like for Miss Washington? What did you do—talent-wise, answering questions, etc.?

NR: Miss Washington was so much fun! I have never felt more at peace while I’m competing than I did that week. I did the same talent I will do at Miss America. My onstage question when I made it into the top 5 was, “The United States has become very divided, how can we become united again?” to which I answered something along the lines of, “I think we need to love people. If we were to genuinely love our neighbor, we wouldn’t have many of the problems we have now. I wish we could see beyond someone’s skin color, lifestyle and political opinions and truly love and look out for one another.

CU: What are your career goals?

NR: One day I would love to be a host on Good Morning America and then ultimately have my own cooking show where I travel to different countries and learn how to cook different ethnic foods. 

CU: How did your Chapman experience prepare you for your role as Miss Washington and for your career?

NR: Chapman stretched me and put me in situations that were outside my comfort zone which prepared me to be Miss Washington because I have to be creative and think on my feet all the time. I was a Resident Advisor my sophomore year and an Orientation Leader which taught me how to get along with all different kinds of people and facilitate hard, but meaningful, conversations. Studying at Dodge College was so valuable because I became quickly comfortable with speaking on camera which is something I have to do a lot in this role, especially on Sept. 10 when I’m on national TV! AH!

CU: Please add anything else you’d like your Chapman Family to know.

NR:  I want to say THANK YOU to my Chapman Family for loving me and supporting me on this journey. When I attended Chapman I loved serving as Miss City of Orange and that year definitely prepared me to be Miss Washington, potentially Miss America. If you want to follow more of my year I have a YouTube channel where I post weekly inspirational videos about what I’m learning in the job and I also have Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts @MissAmericaWA. Watch Miss America on Sept. 10 on ABC and don’t forget to vote for me for People’s Choice! Thank you!

Young woman in her backyard smiles while wearing a tiara and sash from a beauty pageant.

Nicole Renard ’17 poses for a post-competition photo, newly crowned as Miss Washington.

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