Fall River Native Crowned Miss Massachusetts 2006
By Allison Klamkin
Fall River Spirit Correspondent
Fall River native Michaela J. Gagne is headed to Los Angeles in September for the chance of a lifetime. Gagne, a 23 year old graduate of Lesley University, will be competing in the Miss America preliminaries as Miss Massachusetts 2006. Crowned last Saturday night, Michaela, who is Miss Southcoast and a former Miss Fall River, was one of 18 girls competing for the coveted title of Miss Massachusetts. “I’m thrilled.” says Gagne, “I’m proud to be able to represent Fall River and Massachusetts. I am so appreciative of everyone who has helped me get her. I’m thrilled for both the year and the possibilities ahead.”
For Michaela’s mother, Denise Gagne, a B.M.C. Durfee High School science teacher, the excitement of her daughter being crowned was still sinking in moments after the pageant concluded. “A woman just asked me what affiliation I had with the pageant, and I told her that I am the mother of Miss Massachusetts! I can’t believe I’m the mother of Miss Massachusetts!” she said.
Throughout last week, the 18 contestants not only rehearsed for the two-night pageant, but also made several public appearances, visiting the Massachusetts State House, the Fall River Historical Society and Tea House, The Shawmut Diner, JC Pennys in Dartmouth and several other notable local locations. Gagne really enjoyed visiting the State House, having the opportunity to meet several Massachusetts politicians.
The 18 girls were judged by a panel of five distinguished judges, including Miss Massachusetts 1995 Marcia Turner Murray, a Miss America Top Ten Finalist, who recently returned to the United States after living in New Zealand for several years. Thursday morning the girls each competed in a private interview with the judges, giving them a first look at each contestant before onstage competition took place the following night.
Each contestant was required to choose a platform in which they would advocate to the community throughout their year of service as a local titleholder or Miss Massachusetts or perhaps even Miss America. Gagne’s platform focused on bringing public awareness to Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes (SADS), which includes Long QT Syndrome, which Gagne herself has been genetically diagnosed with. Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes are especially dangerous to athletes because of the response they cause to stress on the heart. Gagne plans to advocate awareness of SADS through future lectures, information distribution, throughout the local school systems, and as the Southern New England spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign.
In the onstage portion of competition, contestants compete in Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimsuit, Evening Wear, Onstage Interview and Talent. After Friday night’s preliminary competition awards were given to Gagne and Miss New Bedford, Beth Ann Leblanc as preliminary swimsuit winners. Preliminary talent winners were Miss Taunton Marissa Voller and Miss Metro, Nickie Nicholson.
Not only did the pageant contain competition, it also included special performances by the On Stage Academy of Performing Arts Dancers and Vocalists, as well as performances by Outgoing Miss Massachusetts Kristin Michelle Gauvin, including the talent that she preformed at Miss America Preliminaries last year. Massachusetts’ Outstanding Teenager Cherise Marie Leclerc performed the talent she will present at the Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant in August, a harp solo.
Saturday night brought more anticipation as the Top 10 were announced and would compete again in all phases of onstage competition. These 10 were narrowed down to a Top 5, in which the judges’ panel ranked each contestant on a final ballot for placement in the Top 5. The Top 10 were Gagne, Miss Southcoast; Karen Hammel, Miss Bay State; Francine Bouska, Miss Commonwealth; Nickie Nicholson, Miss Metro; Jaclyn Mullavey, Miss North Shore; Valerie Amaral, Miss Cambridge; Ashley Glenn, Miss Western Massachusetts; Austyn Mayfield, Miss Middlesex County; Jennifer Dickman, Miss Boston; and Emily Scout Durwood, Miss Greater Holyoke. Miss Taunton, Marissa Voller received the Most Talented Non-Finalist Award, and that night presented her jazz dance to “And I Am Telling You” from the musical Dreamgirls.
After each contestant competed once again, the Top 5 were announced, those being Austyn Mayfield, Jennifer Dickman, Valerie Amaral, Nickie Nicholson and Gagne. While the judges completed the final ballots, the Top 5 participated in an informal, non-scored question and answer session with Mistress of Ceremonies Ami Schmitz-Levine, who was third runner-up in the 1996 Miss Massachusetts Pageant and is now an Emmy-winning television producer for many major broadcast networks. Before the announcement of the winner was made, outgoing Miss Massachusetts Kristin Michelle Gauvin presented a slideshow featuring many photos from her year as Miss Massachusetts. Gauvin competed for the title of Miss America this past January in Las Vegas, Nevada.
When the time came to announce the winner, four runners-up were also named.
The fourth runner-up was Jennifer Dickman of Brookline. A graduate student at Boston College currently majoring in Social Work, received a $1,000 scholarship and was also the recipient of the People’s Choice Award.
Austyn Mayfield of Allston, third runner-up, a graduate student at Boston University, received a $1,250 scholarship.
Second runner-up Nickie Nicholson of Amherst, is a graduate of Shorter College with a bachelors in Music Education. As a preliminary talent winner, her scholarship total will be $1,700.
Valerie Amaral of Acushnet was named the first runner-up. Currently a student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth received a $2,000 scholarship and an additional $1,000 Community Service Award from the Miss America Organization. She has also been offered the chance to compete in the National Sweetheart Pageant in Hoopeston, Illinois on Labor Day weekend.
Michaela Gagne, the new 2006 Miss Massachusetts, not only received the title, but also Preliminary Swimsuit and Interview Awards and a Scholastic Achievement Award given by the Miss America Organization. She earned over $7,000.00 in scholarship money at the state competition and is guaranteed at least a minimum of $3,000.00 for participating at the national pageant. Gagne is a 23-year old graduate of Lesley University with a Master’s Degree in Art Therapy and Mental Health Counseling. She is has an undergraduate degree in Art Therapy from the University of Massachusetts. She is a 2000 graduate of B.M.C. Durfee High School where she was a strong athlete. Gagne recently completed an internship at Durfee as an adjustment counselor. She has also substituted in the local middle schools and at also at Durfee. She is the daughter of Ronald and Denise Gagne of Fall River.
When asked why Michaela was chosen to represent the state of Massachusetts at Miss America in the fall, judge Marcia Turner Murray said: “We saw comfortable elegance, a very significant platform and a realistic plan for how to promote it. We also saw a genuine potential in Michaela to become the next Miss America.”
Gagne will go on to Los Angeles in September to represent both the City of Fall River and the state of Massachusetts and to compete in the Miss America Preliminaries which will be filmed for Country Music Television as reality television series that will air in the week leading up to the final competition. Nothing has been announced as far as further plans for this year’s pageant except that it will be held sometime in January at a date and location to be announced.