DJ McAnenyWritten by
Kaitlyn Tarpey, Miss Connecticut and Stamford's sweetheart, is back in town coming off the heels of a Top 10 Finalists finish in the Miss America pageant last weekend, and she's feeling good.
"It was awesome," Tarpey said Thursday, sitting in Starbucks with her mom, Ann Dzenutis. "Totally awesome. I got an email from the president of the Miss America organization congratulating me on making the Top 10 in what he put as, 'the toughest Miss America competition [he's] ever seen. So, it feels really good.'"
Tarpey said her ultimate goal was achieved just by being able to perform her talent, Irish dancing, on television. She said there's a bit of a felling of, "aw, so close," but she's proud of the depth she reached in the competition and said there's a real positive energy that's followed her home.
Her hairdresser, Bunny Sempey from Elan Total Beauty Centre in Stamford—who Tarpey wasn't even allowed to visit for the competition—even drove all the way to Atlantic City to watch the competition and sent flowers to her room after the show expressing her pride.
"Miss Connecticut hasn't finished in the Top 10 in 12 years, it's very big for the program," she said. "My family, my friends, everyone is just so excited. There's such an energy of positivity that's surrounding me that I'm home now. It's just nice to start my year, I guess, realistically, since I was just crowned at the end of June, on such a high note and now I know the legacy I leave behind is that much more powerful and that much more impressive."
The trip to Atlantic City to compete in the Miss America pageant felt like a success, she said, and she was happy with the outcome, having given the last three years of her life to pursuing that dream.
"It would've been very, very hard to come back as a non-finalist," Tarpey said. "Though every single woman there was so intelligent, so talented, so beautiful and so fit. It was the cream of the crop. Obviously. It's Miss America. It's not a joke."
And Tarpey was not joking around, either. Well, not completely. Just prior to showing off her Irish dancing skills, she said out loud in her intro video the little quip she always tells herself when preparing to perform: "Chin up, boobs up and rock it!" That sentence garnered her a lot of extra attention.
"Irish dancing is very straight. You always have to have your shoulders back and stay stiff and when you're performing on a stage as big as the Miss America stage, you have to captivate that audience," she said. "Before I go and perform, that's what I think in my head to make sure that I'm on top of it. And they played that in my clip and when I was in that interview and said it, I started hysterically laughing and said, 'My mom is going to kill me,' because I knew as soon as it came out of my mouth, that's what they were going to use... Obviously it was said in humor, not in poor taste."
After it played, Twitter was blowing up with girls informing Tarpey that was the best life advice they'd ever received, she said, as well as thanks for her support in telling girls not to wear so much makeup and just be themselves and be confident.
"The fact that I touched so many people just by saying, 'Be proud of who you are,' I think speaks wonders to the power of [the Miss America] organization," she said.
When asked what it was like interacting with so many other beautiful, success-driven women, Tarpey said it might sound cliche, but it really was a tight-knit group that bonded for life.
"It was interesting because you go, and you're always told about this sisterhood that you develop with these women and everyone's always skeptical of that," she said. "Are these girls really going to be nice? Are people going to be in a really competitive mindset? It's so nice to feel normal. It's so nice to be surrounded by women who are ambitious, talented, educated and passionate about their platforms and beautiful and confident. It was so nice to be surrounded by people who held themselves to as high standards as I hold myself. There's no better honor than to represent that class of women."
Everyone was very supportive of each other, she said, and there was no sense of envy, jealousy, or competitiveness because everyone realized each woman there was qualified to do the job of Miss America, but only one woman was going to win that honor.
Now, Tarpey prepares for the rest of the year as Miss Connecticut and shows no signs of slowing down. She's enrolled in one class at Norwalk Community College and taking another online, credits that will transfer to PACE when she heads back at the end of her reign. She's still working part-time at Capital Grille and continues to make as many public appearances, interviews and service projects as she can.
"What's not next?" she said. "Because I did so well at nationals, I have all the more momentum to continue to grow this program. Recruit more girls, get more volunteers, make more scholarship money, there's a lot to do. I'm really excited. I have the work ethic to get it done... I want to bring prestige to being Miss Connecticut. I want this job, this title, to seem attractive to people. I want it to seem fun to people. It's such an amazing job to have and I want other people to want to fight for it."
For now, Tarpey said she's staying "humble, normal, dorky Kaitlyn" (and is still single, guys!—She said any sort of flowers and good tiramisu are key) and continues being an engaged citizen.
"This is my life until June 28," Tarpey said. "It's cool. It doesn't totally faze me. Normalcy for me now is being the best I can be. It's all supercool."