I cried at Miss USA 2014, and I wasn’t even competing

I interviewed with Visit Baton Rouge the day after Donald Trump announced Baton Rouge, La. would host the Miss USA 2014 pageant. My interviewer and I talked about the opportunity that presented itself to our city, and how I could help Visit Baton Rouge, if hired. She asked me what set me apart from other candidates. Being born and raised in East Baton Rouge Parish, I told her that I am passionate about Louisiana and about Baton Rouge. I know what this great city has to offer, and I can bring that to the table.

And here I am, the morning after one of the most spectacular nights in Baton Rouge history, cheeks hurting from smiling for three hours last night during Miss USA. I was hired as the communications intern at Visit Baton Rouge, and I’ve had the most amazing first weeks on the job, helping the contestants feel at home here. I’ve been to tours and photo shoots and meet and greets, and it all culminated last night when Miss Nevada Nia Sanchez was crowned Miss USA 2014.

The six Miss USA 2014 finalists

The six Miss USA 2014 finalists

The River Center transformed into a glitzy and glamourous worldwide live telecast, and all eyes were on Louisiana. The opening montage was quite the hat tip to the Capitol City. The video showed 51 beautiful and confident women posing in front of Baton Rouge landmarks – the State Capitol, the Old State Capitol, the Old Governor’s Mansion – all places I first visited on elementary school field trips, and have visited again many times since. I could not contain my excitement when the video showed the Mississippi River, and Baton Rouge’s ever-changing skyline. It might sound silly, but tears welled in my eyes. I was incredibly proud of Louisiana, and specifically Baton Rouge. The world was seeing what I’ve known my whole life: my home is beautiful.

I’ve met my fair share of know-it-alls from other areas of the country, or even the state, who constantly put down Baton Rouge for reasons I cannot understand. They say we don’t have culture. They say we don’t have anything to be proud of. I really don’t understand why they think that way, unless they are the type to judge before exploring. Our backyard is bursting with music and art and food and architecture and yes, culture! Our people are hospitable and warm and welcoming. I really wasn’t all that surprised when Mr. Trump announced he’d take the Miss USA contest here.

We are, after all, the one and only Red Stick.