Miss America 1992 as remembered by Heather Hertling Narducci, Miss New Jersey 1992-1993
On September 4, 1992, the Miss America Pageant experience commenced in the city of brotherly (sisterly) love, Philadelphia. Here is a quote from the Agenda of Activities book each contestant received.
“Contestants and their chaperons will arrive from all across the country. They will be greeted at the airline arrival gate by uniformed staff carrying roses, and will be escorted to waiting Chevrolet vans who will transport them to the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel.”
That day was the beginning of a two-week long whirlwind in our young lives. We walked out of our “normal,” daily routines and stepped into the limelight with events, interviews, and instant national exposure. On September 7, we boarded the Amtrak train that connected Philly to Atlantic City and made our grand entrance into the historic Convention Hall. As we walked down that long runway in this vast, empty space, I know my mind was filled with excitement and possibility for what the next few days held for me and each of the women walking by my side.
We were each assigned a casino that hosted us for our stay in Atlantic City. I was housed in the casino Tropworld, along with three other contestants. Our daily schedule was rigorous: meeting early each morning at Convention Hall with interviews, breakfast, and then on to rehearsals held in the upper level of the building. I loved this room because there were huge windows that overlooked the ocean and beautiful boardwalk. These were the days of big production numbers, and we had a lot of music and choreography to learn in a short period of time! We were given about an hour break for lunch, and this time was spent eating quickly, providing more interviews, and for many of us, practicing our talent. Afternoon rehearsals, and then evening functions around town for photo OPs and pageant PR finished our time together. Bedtime was spent preparing for our interviews, and finally falling asleep by midnight.
This schedule continued until our week of preliminary pageants began. September 15 was the first of three nights each contestant competed in various categories. By this time we all had completed our interviews and were feeling a sense of relief to have that important aspect of the competition behind us. Talent, for me, was the highlight of the week. I was a trained classical soprano, and won my preliminary talent night! I had the thrill of walking down that runway and looking out at a full house of friends, family, and pageant supporters cheering on my accomplishment. Next to me was Carolyn Sapp, Miss America 1991-1992; Catherine Lemkau, Miss Iowa; and Shelli Yoder, Miss Indiana, who were tied as the swimsuit winners that evening.
As the week flew by, we continued to prepare for the big telecast, hosted by NBC at the time. Friday evening we dressed in fun attire and rode in vintage convertibles down the boardwalk for the famous Miss America Parade. Saturday, September 17 arrived quickly! In two week's time, fifty strangers became fifty pageant sisters, sharing a slice of their lives that would never be repeated again. We stood on the stage as the top ten finalists were announced, forty of us, myself included, walked off realizing that our dream to become Miss America was now ended. As I exited the stage, things seemed to be moving in slow motion, as we collectively accepted “That’s it.” I recognized some people around me had been preparing for this moment for years. I was a newcomer to the pageant world, and therefore, maybe not as deeply impacted with the feeling that I would not be Miss America. I was disappointed, but realized that there were many wonderful things ahead in the coming year as Miss New Jersey. It is a personal feeling that each of us had, and I am sure everyone would describe what that moment felt to them in their own way. At the conclusion of the evening, we watched as our sister Leanza Cornett was crowned Miss America. Leanza was a wonderful representative from our group and served as a spokesperson for educating our communities about AIDS Awareness.
On the morning of September 18, we packed our suitcases and walked back into our lives as state representatives. There were forty-nine of us who returned home with mixed feelings. Tired and overwhelmed by what we had just experienced, happy to be home, and settle into our lives. The nature of what brought us to Atlantic City helped us become active in our own states. We were, and remain achievers, energetic, talented women who embrace challenges and go the extra mile to accomplish our goals.
I enjoyed my year as Miss NJ, kept very busy, and when I gave up my crown at the Miss NJ pageant the following year, I left feeling very rich. Wealthy from the opportunities the organization gave me to grow into a stronger, communicative individual. Wealthy because of the lasting friendships I made with volunteers and people who touched my life. I moved on down my path, married, had a child, and grew my singing and teaching professional life. Much of what I was able to accomplish successfully was due to my experience with the Miss America Organization, and those two golden weeks in September.
Perhaps the story I have just shared is the reason an idea popped into my mind on the evening of November 30, 2011. As I sat checking my email , I wondered how many of the fifty state representatives from 1992-1993 I could find. So, I began my search via the Internet to seek out as many ladies as I could. I was amazed at the immediate response from many of my pageant sisters. Eventually, I was able to track down forty-five out of the fifty in our group! As a result of this enthusiasm, I decided to organize a twentieth reunion for our state contestants from the 1992 Miss America Pageant, which will be held this January during pageant week in Las Vegas. I’m looking forward to seeing many familiar faces again, reminisce, and get to know the women that they have become.
Read more about the reunion in the December issue of fourpoints!