PORTLAND, Ore. (The Tribune) — Emma Pelett has seen their photos, she has read their bios, and now she is ready to meet the 50 other women who know exactly how she is feeling right now.
The Portland native will get that opportunity in the two weeks leading up to the Miss USA 2014 pageant, held at the Baton Rouge River Center in Baton Rouge, La., from 8 to 11 p.m. on Sunday, June 8.
The 25-year-old Pelett was crowned Miss Oregon USA on Dec. 1, and since that time has been preparing for the national pageant by doing mock interviews and taking lessons in runway walking, makeup, hair and dance.
She knows that there are people out there who think beauty pageants are trivial, but to her, this is the “gift of a lifetime.”
In fact, her pageant experience “has helped me be a better person; it has helped me overcome my fear of public speaking and helped me think critically about who I am.”
If Pelett’s name and face seem familiar, it’s because she has been appearing in ads for City Liquidators, the furniture company owned by her father Walt Pelett, since she was 6 weeks old.
“The community has watched me grow up on TV, and it has been exciting to me to have their support,” she says, noting that she also has appeared in more than 150 commercials for Fred Meyer, Nike and other companies.
She is hoping the community will support her efforts to make the top 15 in the Miss USA pageant by going to missusa.com and voting for her. The polls opened Sunday and well-wishers can vote online once a day through June 8.
She also notes that the Miss USA pageant is owned by Donald Trump and is a traditional beauty pageant with competitions in swimsuit, evening gown and on-stage interviews. She also will be interviewed by a large panel of judges prior to the finals on June 8.
This is not the same as the Miss Oregon and Miss America pageants, which are nonprofit scholarship pageants, with a talent component.
It has been Pelett’s dream to represent Oregon since she was 7 and saw a family friend win the title of Miss Washington.
“As I was watching her compete on TV, I thought she was a real-life princess, and I wondered if I could do that, too,” she says.
Her parents encouraged Pelett to focus on academics and sports so she could get into a good college. Pelett did just that, graduating from Central Catholic High School in 2006, and from Portland State University in 2011, earning a degree in communications, with a minor in psychology.
In addition to appearing in commercials, she now has an online e-commerce store and works in property management and real estate development for Pelett Properties. Her parents own a large portion of the inner east side, and Pelett is most passionate about changing warehouses into creative spaces.
“We want to help small businesses come out of garages and into their first space to get their businesses growing. All my tenants are making things to make the world a better place. That is the best part of my job,” she says.
Pelett is passionate about volunteering and has worked with the Oregon Food Bank for a decade as a speaker to raise awareness about hunger. She also is a volunteer chef at the Ronald McDonald House. When she has a spare moment, she hand-writes thank-you notes and letters to her friends.
All along, she has cherished her childhood dream to stand on a stage as Miss Oregon. So, in 2009, Pelett entered the Miss Oregon USA pageant, almost on a whim. She was named second runner-up, and most enjoyed meeting “incredible women who were so intelligent and so driven.”
Fast forward to the present, and as she worked to keep her knowledge of current events up to date to prepare for the interview with the judges, Pelett also tried to figure out how to pack nearly a dozen evening gowns to take with her to Baton Rouge.
As for meeting the other contestants who represent their states and the District of Columbia, she looked forward to meeting “these incredible women, who are all chasing their dreams. People think we are pitted against one other, but we support each other.”