Relaxed and quiet off stage, Whitney Van Vleet expresses more of her personality on it – with a love for beautiful music and an appreciation for grand performance.
A gifted, classically-trained soprano and ambitious, bright student, Van Vleet came prepared and poised in her return to the Performing Arts Center on Saturday night to seize the moment and capture the Miss Auburn crown.
“My goal was not to win at all … just to have another great experience,” said Van Vleet, who was second runner-up in last year’s pageant. “This program has given me so much in terms of personal growth and confidence and preparation for … my career. I just wanted to do my best this year. I’m surprised but grateful that I won.”
Van Vleet, an Auburn High School graduate and a junior studying sociology at Pacific Lutheran University, won over the judges to overcome seven other contestants in the two-night Miss Auburn competition. She follows 2017 Miss Auburn Heather Haggin.
She won more than $7,000 in awards, gifts and scholarships and automatically qualifies for the Miss Washington Pageant later this year. The Miss Auburn program, sponsored by the Auburn Noon Lions Club, is one of the largest events of its kind in the country and serves as an official preliminary to the Miss Washington and Miss America Scholarship pageants.
Amanda Enz was first runner-up, and Marissa Modestowicz was second runner-up.
Olivia Thomas, 16, a junior at Auburn Mountainview High School, beat nine other challengers to take Miss Auburn’s Outstanding Teen tiara.
Familiarity with the show helped Van Vleet, who is accustomed to performing comfortably in front of people.
“It helps with confidence, definitely,” she said. “It’s much easier to be on stage, especially in swimsuit, your most vulnerable state.”
Contestants were scored in the following manner: talent, 30 percent; on-stage interview, 25 percent; private interview, 25 percent; evening wear, 10 percent; and lifestyle and fitness, 10 percent.
On Friday night, Van Vleet’s voice stole the show. She delivered an impressive rendition of “O mio babbino caro” (“Oh my beloved father”), a soprano aria from the opera, Gianni Schicchi (1918), by Giacomo Puccini.
Van Vleet, daughter of Dwight and Penny Van Vleet, said she would like to pursue a master’s degree in criminal justice, serve as a police officer and one day become a major crimes detective. She ran on a platform that supports guide dogs for the blind, emphasizing the importance of community service.
Jerry Honeysett of Honeysett Development was her sponsor. Her Little Sister is Myalyn McCarthy.
Thomas shone during Saturday’s talent segment. Dressed for success as Millie, a 1920s flapper girl at the heart of the musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Thomas wowed the audience by singing one of its selections, “Gimme Gimme.”
“Shock, just complete and utter shock,” said Thomas, a mezzo-soprano, of winning the crown. “I couldn’t have believed it because all these fantastic women were standing with me, and all of them had qualities that would have made them great Miss Auburn (Outstanding Teens). To know that the people believed in me and the judges believed in me enough to choose me is overwhelming shock and happiness.”
Thomas’ platform is mental illness awareness and suicide prevention. Don Small & Sons sponsored her.
She won more than $2,000 in awards, gifts and scholarships and automatic entry into the Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen Pageant later this year. She follows 2017 Miss Auburn’s Outstanding Teen Elizabeth Enz.
Lacey Edwards was first runner-up, and Jayni Bohannan was second runner-up.
Whitney and Madison Lindsay (teen) each won the People’s Choice Award, an audience-participation effort that raised $1,167 for the Auburn Food Bank.