You Ought to Know: Jordyn Colao
Flowers for Miss Pennsylvania! Matt Flowers, that is.
She's been on Erie billboards, the local news, and strolling down catwalks at the far end of the country. Her endurance is commendable, as finding a moment to breathe seems to be few and far between.
Maybe it was her dark mahogany hair, her frost-white smile, or her set of dark, honest eyes that shine through the pageant make up that the judges found appealing. Perhaps it was her well-versed oration, a charming personality, or her warmth that comes only from her small-town upbringing.
No matter how you put Jordyn Colao in the box, she's the full package. Although she left Las Vegas without being crowned Miss America, she still returns to Erie with her hard-earned title, Miss Pennsylvania.
Her job – her role as Miss Pennsylvania – makes it exceedingly difficult to get a pulse on any skeletons (perhaps, those of fellow pageant queens?) in the dressing room. One might expect to hear about dirty looks, bad attitudes, or some vomit around the rim of the toilet seat, but Jordyn dishes only about the positive.
"The girls were absolutely so nice," she says, smiling, her dark eyes open wide. "Every single night before a competition, we would do a huge prayer – Miss Georgia would say it."
When responding to questions about trash talking, or less than pageant-worthy behavior, Jordyn whips back a seamless stream of answers, all validating her title. "These girls are accomplished, they have dreams, and they know they have to act appropriately because you are representing something even bigger than yourself."
Which only begs the question: which America are they trying to represent? The land of opportunity or the land where bathing suits are criteria for judging one's character?
Turns out, after the requisite one-hundred and some-odd pieces of paper work you must fill out to compete, a half-year of speech preparation, physical training, and wardrobe shopping, the Miss America experience is truly humbling. "It's not just having a bathing suit on stage. It's more than that, being a voice… being a role model in a society where we might not always have them," she tells me sincerely. "It was a great experience."
Reality television would lead you to believe the pageant life is simply based on sex appeal – superficial and objectifying.
"But that's not an accurate portrayal of what pageants really are," Jordyn informs me. "Pageants are trying to rebrand themselves, especially the Miss America Organization."
It's pretty incredible actually; The Miss America scholarship fund is "the largest provider of scholarships to women in the world." Jordyn runs down the facts like a well-studied student. "[They give out] $45 million a year – so that's a lot – given to women across the county."
Jordyn has taken a little to the bank too for her hard work. She participated in Miss Pennsylvania pageants two years in a row, first earning second runner up, and finally winning. Plus she won the swimsuit and talent competitions, stacking up a cool $13,000 in scholarships.
"That's huge going towards student loans," she says, flashing her pearly smile again. "It adds up nicely."
But Jordyn isn't just raising money to pay her school bills; she's found a cause: Heart Disease. "I'm working with the American Heart Association," she says proudly. "I'm helping them raise money by being a face for them, and through being a voice."
From school campaigns to Heart Balls (March 23 at the Marriott), she is raising not only money, but awareness of the disease. "I've lost three grandparents to heart disease," she says, in a matter-of-fact, yet melancholy tone.
Jordyn, who graduated from Penn State University with a degree in bio-behavioral health with a 3.73 GPA, is planning on earning a master's degree in physician assistant studies at Chatham University. But until she is practicing in a cardiology unit, she's determined to still make a difference.
"Being a voice, being a spokesperson, [Miss America] is an avenue for [making that difference]." In turn, all her competing has allowed her voice to reach wide audiences about Heart Disease. Plus, "It's also an avenue to be a role model for others."
Good role models always have great role models. So who's hers? "My dad and his family – my grandparents – came here from Italy. And my grandma on my mother's side came from England when she was 19. So I think my inspiration was them," she tells me, seemingly dreaming of their long journey. "If they could bring their family – bring their entire life here – to a new country for a better tomorrow, a better future for their kids and their grandchildren, then that was really my push to be a better role model so that everyone else can have those opportunities too."
Her role models have given her a glimpse of the American Dream, an ideal she was brought up with and still believes in today.
Like Jordyn's belief in the American Dream, her hometown believes in her. WJET TV, WICU, and WSEE ventured out to Las Vegas to cover the story, and, in an even greater measure of support, 85 Pennsylvanians made the trip to Nevada to cheer on Jordyn.
"There was a ton of support across Erie. Not that I wasn't expecting it, but it was so overwhelming in a humbling way for everyone to show so much support."
But after 12 grueling days, it was time for Miss Pennsylvania to come home.
Jordyn left without the crown, but she promises, "It was a wonderful experience. I have no regrets coming out of it.", Upon her welcome home, she was awarded an official citation from the PA House of Representatives for her outstanding achievements by State Representative Ryan Bizzarro.
However, just because the Miss America pageant is over doesn't mean Jordyn is finished as Miss Pennsylvania. Having the title is like owning a business.
"What happens is, I have a business manager and she gives me a contract before every event… She tells me what I need to speak on." The array of subject matter in these speeches can be vast, ranging from her specialty topic: Heart Disease, to the dangers of steroid use. "I need to be well-versed in everything," she says. Jordyn's even been asked to speak at the capital by State Senator Sean Wiley, an opportunity about which she is ecstatic.
It's a 7-day-a-week job, according to Miss Pennsylvania. The emails stack up, the phone ringing becomes more of a buzz – but she's got back up. "There are my executive directors… and I also have a whole board. I have a president, a secretary, a treasure, everything…" she says, laughing.
As part of her job as Miss Pennsylvania, she recruits new girls for local, state, and national competitions. She also informs them of the generous scholarships the Miss America Organization distributes. She advocates this path for young women, as it's an incredible opportunity, but she'll be the first to say, "Definitely do your research and make sure it's for you." Once it starts, it is a marathon of speeches, public appearances, and interviews. On the flip side she says, "You just have to go out for your dreams; there is nothing that should stop you."
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Matthew Flowers can be contacted at mFlowers@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @MFlowersER