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April 16, 2014

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Alana Lee: My year representing Nevada in the Miss America Pageant

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

The 2012 Miss America Pageant contestants arrive at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 5, 2012. Josh Strickland and Miss Nevada Alana Lee are pictured here.

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Miss Nevada Alana Lee in the second-night preliminary competition in the 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 11, 2012.

2012 Miss America Pageant: The Big Night

The 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, with the crowning of Miss Wisconsin Laura Kaeppeler, 23, of Kenosha as the new Miss America. Launch slideshow »

2012 Miss America Pageant: First Preliminaries and Judges

First-night preliminary competition and the introduction of the judges in the 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 10, 2012. Launch slideshow »

2012 Miss America Pageant: Second-Night Preliminaries

Second-night preliminary competition in the 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 11, 2012, with Miss Americas Teresa Scanlan (2011, pictured), Katie Stam (2009) and Kirsten Haglund (2008)  and Miss America Outstanding Teens in attendance. Launch slideshow »

2012 Miss America Pageant: Third-Night Preliminaries

Third-night preliminary competition in the 2012 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood on Jan. 12, 2012, which also included a Judge of the Year contest won by Mark Ballas. Deena Blizzard and 2011 Miss America Teresa Scanlan are pictured here. Launch slideshow »

2012 Miss America Pageant: IHOP Pancake Breakfast

The 2012 Miss America Pageant IHOP pancake breakfast on Jan. 6, 2012. Launch slideshow »

2012 Miss America Arrival Ceremony

The Miss America crown sits atop a pedestal at The Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino, Thursday Jan. 5, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Twelve pageant hopefuls begin a two-day quest today for the title of Miss Nevada in the Miss America Pageant, and Tuesday night, Alana Lee ends her year’s reign as Miss Nevada 2011, turning over her crown to the winner who will compete in the 2013 Miss America Pageant at Planet Hollywood in January.

The Silver State events are being held at the Casablanca resort in Mesquite, with swimsuit, evening gown, fitness wear, talent and judges’ questioning. We will have full coverage from the pursuit to succeed 2012 Miss America Laura Kaeppeler of Wisconsin as she relinquishes her diamond-studded crown.

With 48 hours left, Alana, the daughter of state Sen. John Lee, D-Las Vegas, who is attending Dixie State College in St. George, Utah, sat down with Vegas DeLuxe and Robin Leach to look back over her year and tell her story in her own words:

It’s a bittersweet moment, but I promise that I'm not going to run off with the crown and keep it at the last moment! I’m happy to give up the title because I feel like I’ve lived this year to the fullest. I have no regrets; I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do, and it’s been time well spent.

I’m ready to give it up because I want to see what’s next. I’d like to go back to school, I have two semesters left, and then I’ve got my bachelor’s degree from Dixie State College. I’m ready to turn this next chapter and see what awaits me.

A year ago when I was standing there, my mind and emotions changed by the moment as each runner-up was announced. I felt that I was competitive in the pageant, and as each person was announced, I thought, “Good for her. Wow, I thought that girl was competitive. I thought she was going to win.

But as the last girl for runner-up was announced, I thought, “My gosh, it’s me, I know it’s me.” I started freaking out inside. That’s the only time I thought, “OK, I’ve got this, I’ve got this.” It was blowing my mind before they called my name.

The advice I would give the girls Tuesday is to be prepared for winning or losing. To bank on winning will set you up for failure. Only one of the 12 competing is going to win, and to set yourself up to a standard that you’re not sure you can fulfill is an unfair expectation. Until that moment, I didn’t assume that I was going to win. So hope for the best, but expect the worst.

I did that at Miss America. I felt so confident going into it, and I still to this day know I would have been a fabulous Miss America. But you can’t do anything about what the judges and the organization want. If they wanted somebody that was like me, they would have chosen me. You just do your best.

The most important thing I accomplished is that I got to present Miss Nevada. I felt like nobody knows who Miss Nevada is. You can ask anyone in the North or South regardless of where she was from, and nobody had any idea of who she was or what she does or what her job is. I wanted to change that to see if I could get some exposure for the organization because it is an important title to hold.

I think that I’ve accomplished that. I’ve been in the media, and that’s because of the things I involved myself with -- all the service and trying to get the organization’s name out there. There were a lot of things that I loved doing this year: I worked with Goodwill and wanted to help out. The SPCA helping with its “Project Playhouse” and “Winter Wonderland” for an animal adoption ceremony rehab. It was pretty cool when Nicolas Cage showed up.

I led the pledge of allegiance at the CNN presidential debate held in Las Vegas. That for me was the cherry on top of my year! I love politics, and the fact that I was able to be involved in national politics in my hometown was so exciting. I also got involved with a “smile giveaway” where I partnered with an orthodontics office in Las Vegas, and we worked to give two children of military families complete smile makeovers for free.

I did a complete tour of Nevada with Miss Teen Nevada Bailey Gumm. We went from South to North and met people in many rural communities. My favorite time was the goldmine tours. They let us tour the mine at 1,400 feet underground; I’ve now got a respect for miners you would never believe. I also did a police ride along with Metro on the Strip.

I did two prison tours, one in Carson City and a women’s prison in North Las Vegas. For fun, I became a food critic for one of our local radio stations, and of course being on the “Dancing With the Stars: Live in Las Vegas” red carpet at the Tropicana was memorable.

I am so glad that I got involved with the Miss America Organization. I never expected to be involved in this capacity. When I started doing pageants, it was by a fluke, and then I figured I could make something of myself. Little did I know I’d become Miss Nevada. That’s what makes it bittersweet in giving up the title. This is a dream I didn’t always have, but once I decided that I wanted this, I got it. It’s a beautiful accomplishment, and I’m so proud that I did it.

I learned a lot about myself, and it changed me. I think these go hand in hand. I learned that I am very extroverted. I’m social, I love people, but I didn’t understand that I can actually be kind of a wreck, too. I got to appreciate my time. I value my alone time and reflecting, planning and learning. I didn’t appreciate that before. Years ago, I would have said, “I’m alone, I need to go do something social.” Now I think, “I’m alone, this is wonderful.”

I didn’t get any advice from the girl before me. It all happened so fast; it was a couple of weeks until we talked. The advice I’ll give to the new Miss Nevada is to work your tail off! You have one chance to be Miss Nevada, and to not give this job everything you’ve got is something you’ll regret. I worked tirelessly this year getting involved with as much as I could and as many organizations as possible. I called them instead of waiting for somebody to call me. Make this shot the best you can, and you will live with no regrets.

I’m going back to Dixie State. I’ll get my bachelor’s in mass communications, and I’d like to work in public relations or marketing for a while working with people on a large scale. We’ll see what that brings career-wise, but coming from a family in politics, I do have political aspirations.

First, though, I need to come back to Las Vegas and grow some grass beneath my feet. No one is going to take me as a credible candidate right out of college; I’ve got to gain credibility first. I don’t know exactly what political field I’d be running for or what district, but it’s absolutely in my future. Nevada can expect to see me in the next five to 10 years.

I don’t think I’m going to climb the ladder for something national; I like state issues more. It’s been nice because I can see the difference in the issues. I like the work of the state-level politicians more. They’re all important, but I think the issues that I’d like to work on are at the state level.

I want everybody to be proud of my affiliation and year of service to the Miss America Organization. It’s very important because it gives young women role models that the media and pop culture deny them. Not many people out there are giving young girls somebody to look up to. We hold ourselves to higher moral standards than the world now accepts.

We promote going to college, scholarships, success and style. You can still be a modern, contemporary woman, yet hold your standards high and do community service. It’s relevant more than ever today because young women need the right role models.

I know kids are watching “Jersey Shore,” other reality TV shows and pop-star females, but a lot of those people on reality TV shows aren’t going anywhere. They’re famous for being famous, for being seen, but they’re really not amounting to their fullest potential. They get stuck in the rut of being famous and stuck in their image, which comes to an end quickly. And then what’s left?

But to see you can accomplish something with all the community service, they would understand that the networking amounted to something and contributed to society in a meaningful manner. Society is better for having you in it. I’m grateful that my family raised me right.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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