When Allyson Rowe, 25, was first approached by a recruiter for the Miss Washington USA pageant, it took her awhile to even acknowledge the message.
She said she had a vision of what pageant life would be like – the show “Toddlers and Tiaras” came to mind – and didn’t think it was for her.
“I’m a gym person,” she said.
A co-worker encouraged her to at least find out about it. She spent two hours on the phone with the recruiter learning about what it means to participate in the Miss Washington USA pageant.
“I was so wrong,” she said. After the conversation, she agreed to give it a shot. She was offered the title of Miss Spokane Valley and entered the competition. The next couple of weeks were spent learning how to walk and speak in front of an audience and be a pageant contestant.
“I was never nervous,” she said. A classically trained pianist, she was used to getting in front of people. It turned out the decision to enter was a good one – she was crowned Miss Washington USA out of 75 other contestants on Oct. 19 in Seattle.
The 2006 Mt. Spokane High School graduate had an idea of what it would be like to win. She’d seen the pictures of winners fluttering their hands in front of their mouths as they gasped in surprise. She vowed she wouldn’t do that.
She did it anyway.
“I don’t really remember much after that,” Rowe said. “It was the best, incredible moment of my life.”
Along with the crown and sash, which she gets to keep, she won a $45,000 scholarship to Lindenwood University in Missouri, a $3,000 scholarship to a cosmetology school, a one-year commitment to be Miss Washington and make appearances, and she moves into the Miss USA 2014 pageant next year in Miami, among other perks.
“Everything has changed,” she said. “It still hasn’t sunk in yet.”
While the Miss USA pageant has been around since 1952, only one contestant from Washington has ever won the crown – Dorothy Anstett of Kirkland, in 1968. Rowe said she believes she is the first contestant from Spokane to win the title of Miss Washington.
At the competition there are three categories in which contestants are judged: an interview, evening gown and swimsuit.
The swimsuit portion of the competition gave her pause.
“I’m a very modest girl,” she said. Rowe planned to wear a one-piece suit during the competition, although she worried it could hinder her chances of winning. She has since learned judges look for poise and grace in the suit, her stage presence and if she keeps herself fit. Rowe said she has always been very specific about her diet and workouts – one of her favorite pastimes is to run or work out – so she has decided on a two-piece.
Part of being a contestant means she has the opportunity to promote a cause important to her – helping women who have been victims of sex trafficking.
Rowe first learned about the problem while living in Phoenix a few years ago. She was at a store when she noticed a man following her through the store. She looked at him to let him know she noticed and notified a police officer on her way out of the store.
“It irritated me more than anything else,” Rowe said. The officer told her about sex trafficking and how victims are found and kidnapped, forced into a life of prostitution. She began to research the topic.
At her church, she joined a ministry that visited prostitutes in the city and prayed for them. She said the experience taught her women who come out of that life have trouble adjusting to the real world. She wants to set up a foundation that helps the women find a trade, learn to pay bills and discover they are worth something.
“I don’t want any girls to go through that,” she said. “It’s the biggest form of evil there is.”
A licensed esthetician, Rowe works at the front desk of 14th and Grand Salon and hopes to work in a dermatologist’s office someday.
She loves to play the piano – she is a worship leader in her church and composes her own music.
“My piano is my journal,” she said.
Rowe also has two dogs, Sophie, a Yorkshire terrier mix, and Daisy, a Pomeranian. She enjoys taking them on walks and spending time with them.
Regardless of the outcome in Miami next year, Rowe said she has learned much about herself. She also said it’s important to try new things.
“You never know what you’re capable of until you try,” she said.