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Student wins state beauty pageant

Amber Travis | Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Notre Dame sophomore Charlie Buhler became the first African-American to win the title of Miss South Dakota USA on Nov. 11.

“It was incredibly important to me,” Buhler, 19, said. “I feel as if it was a step forward in pageantry, because it shows that you don’t have to look a certain way and fit into a certain mold to be a title holder.”

Buhler was the only minority in the pageant. She has participated in pageants for three years, starting with the Miss Teen South Dakota USA contest in 2006. She was in the contest a second time the following year.

The Miss USA Pageant doesn’t fit the stereotype of other beauty contests, Buhler said.

“I feel that it’s a common misconception that you have to fit a certain stereotype, but the Miss Universe Organization looks for girls from all different backgrounds,” she said.

Buhler began preparing for last week’s pageant almost immediately after the 2007 event ended.

“Everything is a process,” Buhler said. “Even after you pick out the dress, it still has to be fitted.”

Preparation for the contest involves rehearsing walks and turns and picking outfits. But Buhler was unable to begin intense preparation for the pageant until she went home to South Dakota for fall break, which gave her approximately one month.

Buhler had a number of supporters who encouraged her during the pageant.

“I definitely felt the support and love from my family and the Notre Dame family back here,” she said. “My Notre Dame family was very supportive with text messages and phone calls.”

Each contestant received scores based on an interview, swimwear and evening gown. No talent is required for the Miss USA pageant.

Even with her participation in pageants, Buhler said, school has always come first.

“School is always my number one priority,” Buhler said. “In fact, I had the pageant on Sunday. Immediately after the pageant, I jumped on the plane, flew back to Notre Dame and was in class on Monday morning”

Buhler, a double major in film, television and theatre and American studies, said her pageant titles haven’t changed her life.

“It really hasn’t changed much,” she said. “I still go to all of my classes. I’m back at Notre Dame and doing my homework.”

She also promotes a more positive image of pageants, like Miss South Dakota USA.

“I feel like there are so many opportunities that pageantry provides, which include the development of communication skills and acquiring poise,” Buhler said.

Buhler’s future plans as Miss South Dakota include interviews and appearances throughout the state. But they will only take place on weekends during the school year.

“It will be a struggle, but it will be a matter of give and take and doing my homework well in advance,” Buhler said. “It will all be worth it in the end.”

She will compete in the Miss USA Pageant, which will be broadcast on NBC, in the spring of 2008.