When sophomore pre-nursing student Brianna Beigel was crowned Miss Sam Houston, she received a $1,500 scholarship, a one-semester meal plan, $500 to an organization of her choice, and a one-way ticket to an experience unlike any she has ever had.
During the annual Miss Sam Houston pageant on Feb. 8, Beigel’s life as she knew it changed drastically. After her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, asked her to represent them in the pageant, Beigel agreed; she never imagined where it would lead her.
“I did not know what I was getting myself into,” Beigel said. “My sorority nominated me to represent them, and of course I was happy to do that. I’m super grateful for the opportunity. It was definitely a whirlwind.”
Prior to Miss Sam Houston, Beigel had no pageant experience of any kind. She soon discovered that the pageant life was not quite as glamorous as she had expected.
“We had to get a swimsuit and a formal dress,” Beigel said. “I actually just used things I already had. I used my mom’s old bathing suit and my old prom dress. The night of the pageant, I was painting my toes backstage an hour before. It’s not all glam as people assume, but it was a lot of fun.”
Beigel grew up training to be a professional ballerina, so the stage is nothing new to her. A few portions of the competition, however, took some adjustment.
“I was not comfortable at first, walking around in a bathing suit and heels in front of people such as my grandma and my grandpa,” Beigel recalled. “But, that was the beauty of it. It really promoted believing in yourself and being comfortable in your own skin. The other girls were super supportive. We all did it together, so it was a good learning experience.”
A panel of judges based contestants’ scores on a variety of different bases. The candidate’s initial interview, spirit wear, lifestyle and fitness, evening wear, and then the question and answer portion were all taken into account. Luckily for Beigel, her Q&A portion addressed a topic she is quite passionate about—domestic violence awareness.
“They asked me about domestic violence awareness, and for me that was kind of nice because I get to answer something I’m super passionate about,” Beigel explained. “It’s actually super embarrassing—I started tearing up onstage. I didn’t mean to. People don’t know my experiences. There’s a reason why I feel super strongly about domestic violence awareness. For me to be able to express my opinion about it to Sam Houston was incredible. It’s a moment that I will remember forever.”
The $500 Beigel received will go towards SAAFE House, which stands for “Sexual Assault and Abuse Free Environment.” SAAFE House is a local organization dedicated to empowering victims of family violence and sexual assault. She hopes to spread awareness of her cause and help the organization in any way she can.
Despite her emotional Q&A portion, Beigel stood tall when she was crowned. The previous Miss Sam Houston, Chandler Berryhill, was also a member of Alpha Chi Omega. She had the honor of passing the crown to her fellow sorority sister. For Beigel, that was the biggest moment of the night.
“She’s my biggest inspiration,” Beigel said. “She’s probably the strongest woman I know, for sure. I learn from her every time I speak with her. She doesn’t realize how closely I watch her, I think. She’s the reason I chose to go A Chi O. I saw her and said, ‘I want to be her when I grow up,’ and to be able to literally follow in her footsteps and wear the crown after her is amazing to me. She’s like my big sister.”
This year will definitely be a busy one for Beigel. Aside from the pressures of nursing school, she has to make official appearances at events as Miss Sam Houston, and will have the Miss Texas Pageant coming up at the end of June. There she will compete with other women across the nation for the coveted title of Miss Texas.
“Next year is going to be busy, but I’m ready,” Beigel said. “I don’t shy away from responsibility. It will be a lot on my plate, mostly because of nursing school. Nursing school is my number one priority, even though this is an amazing opportunity and I’m not going to take it lightly. I’m going to do everything I can as Miss Sam Houston, but my end goal is to be a nurse. It will be difficult balancing those, but I’ll make it work. Sometimes, you have to.”