Learning Experience: Miss Moore County Not Typical 'Pageant Girl'
For someone who is afraid of heights, Carolyn Mullen is doing well at the top.
Since winning Miss Moore County in July 2008, Mullen has spent the past year donning a crown and attending luncheons, parades, and festivals -- serving as a county symbol to the public. All while a student at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Mullen is the daughter of Paul and Cydney Mullen, of Southern Pines. She attended Pinecrest High School and danced at Terpsichore dance studio for 11 years.
Sitting down to coffee sans crown, she immediately makes sure the first thing she makes clear is that she was different.
"I'm not a pageant girl," she says. "There are times when I feel like I'm not exactly what people expect."
This, coming from a girl who almost attended West Point, wasn't hard to believe.
Mullen, who is from Southern Pines, applied in June 2008 to participate in the one-night pageant because she was encouraged to.
She had never been in a pageant before, and she didn't have much interest.
"But I don't like to say no," Mullen says. "I don't like to turn down a situation that I can learn from."
But this gave her just three weeks to prepare. Most other contestants spend months.
In those three weeks, Mullen had to acquire the full pageant wardrobe (which, thanks to local donors, she didn't spend money on), choreograph her dance to perform during the talent portion of the night, prepare for interviews, and devise the community service platform required of every contestant.
Time was not on her side.
"With pageants there is always a lot of 'let's buy some time so the girls can get ready,'" Mullen says. "I was contestant No. 1. I didn't have that."
As first contestant, Mullen appeared before the crowd and judges first in the progression of events, which included an interview, talent demonstration, and swimsuit competition
Though crunched for time, Mullen still captured the judges, the crown, a $1,500 scholarship and an opportunity to contend again.
During the week of June 23-27, Mullen will represent Moore County in the Miss North Carolina pageant in Raleigh.
Her wardrobe and prepared talent will change, she says, but her community service platform remains the same.
Mullen's community service platform advocates "pet responsibility" -- preventive care for animals in order to minimize the money and time spend on euthanasia. Moore County and its surrounding neighbors spent about $2.5 million in 2006 euthanizing animals, Mullen says. Money that, she believes, is too precious right now.
"Some girls try to tackle cancer or huge things like that -- but I get discouraged with not being able to solve the world's problems," Mullen says. "I think this is something I can make a big impact on."
And she's making an impact.
Outside of her Miss Moore County duties, Mullen volunteers her time at UNC's Cancer Research Center. The political science major has spent the past several weeks doing an internship with the State Department in Washington, D.C., a position to which she will return for the rest of the summer -- if she doesn't win the Miss N.C. title.
Next year, she's traveling to Thailand and then helping teach Chapel Hill high school students in the English as a Second Language program.
But she hasn't forgotten her roots.
"I'm so focused on home right now," Mullen says.
I asked Mullen what she liked to do.
"Take long walks on the beach," she replies, seeping sarcasm. Then she recants.
"Go skydiving," she says.
How does that work with her fear of heights?
"You just have to get over it," she says. "It's always worth it."
Though she declined her acceptance to West Point (Mullen says the school is "more a fortress than a college"), Mullen is still considering a career with the military.
Clearly, Miss Moore County is no sissy.
"I feel kind of ostentatious wearing a crown around," Mullen says. "It's something I've had to get used to."
Recent pageant queens, such as former Miss California USA Carrie Prejean and Miss Teen South Carolina Caitlin Upton, have fallen under the public eye with political spoofs.
"There are stereotypes for a reason in the pageant world," Mullen says.
So, she's tried to concentrate on something different.
"The North Carolina state motto is 'to be rather than to seem,'" she says. "So I'm just trying to be myself."
Dean Drescher, a student at UNC Chapel Hill, was an intern for The Pilot for a short time.
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