Yes, Queen

Miss Virginia 2019 breaks stereotypes with her talent for science experiments.

Camille Schrier performs the elephant’s toothpaste demonstration for the talent portion of the Miss Virginia 2019 pageant.

Photo by Myers Photography

Some might say pageants aren’t what they used to be. Last year, the Miss America organization abolished the swimsuit competition, which had been a major feature of the contest since it began in 1921, and promised to emphasize women’s character and social contributions over appearance. The Miss Virginia competition followed suit in 2019, meaning the talent portion—in addition to interviews and evening wear—featured even more prominently toward gaining the crown.

 Camille Schrier 

Photo courtesy of Miss Virginia

A vast majority of contestants who have won the Miss Virginia title—all of them since 1979, in fact—have performed a musical talent such as singing, dancing, or playing an instrument. But this year’s winner, 24-year-old Camille Schrier, a biochemist and graduate student at VCU’s School of Pharmacy, broke with this tradition by performing a chemistry demonstration. 

“I knew it would be a huge risk,” Schrier says, “but I wanted the judges to see an authentic representation of who I would be as Miss Virginia. I was able to showcase talents I have that aren’t so traditional. I hope that will be engaging for women who aren’t necessarily singers or dancers, and that they’ll feel more welcome in the organization if they haven’t before.” 

Schrier will spend the year working full-time to promote her social impact initiative, Mind Your Meds, which draws on her work as a pharmacy student and will help educate children and adults about drug safety and abuse prevention. In December, she will compete for Miss America 2020. 

“You have to pave your own way,” Schrier says. “I’m trying to break stereotypes in my career as a woman in science, but even as a candidate for Miss Virginia, I did something out of the box, and it really worked out. When you present an authentic version of yourself, it leads to long-term success. If I can set that example for others, I’ll know that I’ve been successful.”

This article originally appeared in our October 2019 issue.

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