Grays Harbor native Lauren Kuhn will fulfill a lifelong dream of competing in the Miss America pageant this fall after being crowned Miss Massachusetts over the weekend.
The 23-year-old Aberdeen High School graduate attends the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and won the right to compete after capturing the Miss Collegiate Area title in Boston.
She’s competed in several Washington pageants in the past, and has even won a few, serving as Miss Tahoma in 2010, Miss Seattle in 2011 and Miss Grays Harbor in 2013.
Kuhn said she held her composure for most of the competition. She felt calm during the interview portion and talent portion. But when she took the stage during crowning, she said she felt a rush of emotions and nerves.
“When they called the first runner-up, I was just a ball of emotion,” she said. “They had already called the top five, so I knew I was either the winner or didn’t get the top five.”
She accepted her crown in front of a crowd that included her parents Tim and Dawn Kuhn, who live in Central Park, younger sister Paige Kuhn and relatives who live on the East Coast. Kuhn said a few of her professors showed up to watch part of the competition. Her boyfriend, local restaurateur Andy Bickar, was absent, she said, because he considers himself bad luck.
“I’ve never won a pageant when he has been in the audience,” Kuhn said. “But I win when he’s not there. So he decided at the last minute not to come, and I’m glad he changed his mind.”
“He’s very supportive, but we like to joke about it,” she added.
The Miss America pageant is in September.
In addition to winning the Miss Massachusetts crown, Kuhn was also received the Miss America Academic Scholarship Award based on her grades at Harvard and Gonzaga University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. She walked away with $11,000 in scholarship money — $10,000 from the Miss Massachusetts competition and $1,000 from the academic award.
Kuhn said she will use her earnings to fund her dental school studies at Harvard.
Just a couple days after winning the crown, Kuhn’s schedule is already starting to fill up. She will sing the national anthem at a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Fourth of July event on Wednesday, plans to meet with other New England title holders in New Jersey and will attend Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in Florida in coming weeks.
She’s also preparing for the Miss America pageant, and picked out her evening gown Monday.
“I plan to go to the gym a lot before then,” Kuhn said. “But September is so close. I don’t have a lot of time.”
Kuhn will spend the next year working on her platform — The Opportunity of Education: Empowering Young Women — and advocating for the Children’s Miracle Network. She said she is particularly excited to speak in schools.
The AHS grad said people in her home community have been very supportive. She received cards from Miss Grays Harbor volunteers, a group called Hometown Aberdeen Fans and several others. “Opening those cards brought tears to my eyes,” she said. “I’m really thankful.”