UA grad wins Miss Alabama

Third time was the charm Saturday for Caitlin Brunell, University of Alabama graduate. On her third trip to the Miss Alabama Pageant, which took place June 4-7 at Samford University, Brunell was crowned Miss Alabama 2014.

“The experience overall for me this week was really different,” Brunell said. “I think I gained a little extra boost of self-confidence this past week, because I felt really ready for this job.”

Brunell started doing pageants in the teen division at age 15. A spring 2014 graduate of the UA dance program, she took 22 hours of classes in the spring to graduate on time while preparing for the pageant on weekends. She won the talent and swimwear competitions held in preliminary stages of the pageant.

Brunell, who went this year as Miss Leeds, performed a dance to “Let It Go,” a song from the movie “Frozen,” as her talent and founded a non-profit organization called Caitlin’s Closet at 15 years old to provide girls with prom and homecoming dresses. They have now expanded to offering business suits and wedding dresses. Brunell will compete for the Miss America crown this September in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“I learned this past year I could do this job,” she said. “The competition was so strong, but I really believed in myself that I could do it. I just went out there and had fun. I’m really thankful for the outcome. It is a huge honor to represent this state.”

Carol Wright, director of the Miss University of Alabama program, said this year’s award show theme was titled “And the winner is.” She said girls were divided into three groups that competed in interviews, evening gown, talent and swimwear Wednesday through Friday. The top 10 competed on Saturday.

Eleven UA students were in the pageant, and both first runner-up and second runner-up were UA students.

First runner-up was Katie Malone, a spring 2014 telecommunications and film graduate. Malone, who was Miss Point Mallard, sang “Dream in Color,” made famous by Regina Belle. Her platform is The Ronald McDonald House Charities.

“I just competed with 46 of Alabama’s finest women,” she said.

Malone said she did not look forward to working out on cardio machines to prepare for the competition, but that the personal growth she experiences during pageants is worth every minute. She is studying for the LSAT and said she looks forward to going to Atlantic City to cheer on Brunell in the Miss America pageant.

“The Miss America Organization gives us all a bright future through the scholarships we receive. I have grown personally, spiritually, physically and mentally because of this program, and for that I will be forever grateful,” Malone said. “I know who I am because of this organization.”

Second runner-up Briana Kinsey, a senior majoring in biology on the pre-med track, who was Miss Marble Valley, said rehearsals were tough, but she enjoyed the friendships she developed throughout the experience.

Kinsey sang “Home,” from the musical “The Wiz,” for her talent. Her platform is Daring to Defeat Diabetes, an organization she started after her mother was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She plans to compete in preliminary pageants again in hopes of returning to the Miss Alabama Pageant next year.

“This year, I didn’t get nervous,” Kinsey said. “A lot of the girls talked about that several times. In the past, there has been a lot of nerves and apprehension about any element of the competition, especially the interview. This year, I felt a huge sense of peace, and I was very calm about the entire process.”

Miss University of Alabama Danielle DuBose competed in the pageant on a platform of dating violence and sexual assault awareness. For her talent, she played “Malagueña,” by Ernesto Lecuona, on piano. She said pageants are important for women.

“Miss America is dedicated to the personal and professional goals of young women and is the largest scholarship provider for women in the country,” DuBose said. “Participating in the Miss America system gives young women a head start on accomplishing goals for their academic and professional career"

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