Shawna L. Sinnott ’10, a midshipman in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) who plans to join the Marine Corps upon graduation, was honored over spring break after a series of demanding tests in which she answered pointed questions, performed under pressure, and modeled a hot pink bikini.
Sinnott was crowned the next "Miss Boston" on Mar. 31, placing her one step away from competing in the national "Miss America" contest next year. Although the Marine-to-be is new to the pageant circuit, she said in an interview this week that competing in pageants "keeps things balanced."
"I can keep my feminine identity while still prpmoting an issue I care about," she said.
The competition requires contestants to speak about an issue that they feel needs public attention. Sinnott’s issue was entitled, "Keeping the Faith: Giving Back to America’s Wounded Warriors," and called for an increased allocation of funds to provide support services for veterans returning from combat in Iraq and elsewhere.
Pageant winners "really have a voice. When you have a crown, you have credibility. You can promote an issue and people will really listen to you," Sinnott said. She will spend the next year speaking in public about this issue and working with legislators.
In addition to presenting her platform and modelling swimsuits and evening gowns, contestants were required to showcase a talent. Sinnott—who has experience with genres such as ballet, jazz, hip hop, and Irish step—performed a Fosse-style jazz number.
Despite being the daughter of a former Miss Rhode Island, Sinnott said she didn’t plan on following in her mother’s footsteps until recently.
When she asked her mother Sharon if she should enter the pageant, Sinnott said that her mother told her she would first "have to learn how to walk like a girl."
"I didn’t really work a lot with Shawna until the day before [the pageant]," Sharon Sinnott said. "I wanted the true Shawna to come out."
Although military training and beauty pageants may seem to be polar opposites, Sinnott said that pageants and the military have a lot in common.
"Pageants are judged based on poise, intelligence, fitness, and confidence, which are all the exact qualities we are looking for in an officer, especially in the Marine Corps," Sinnott said.
Sinnott’s fellow ROTC members teased her at first for entering the pageant, according to David F. Boswell ’10, an Army ROTC cadet and a friend of Sinnott’s. But in the end, he said, Sinnott’s fellow members respected her commitment.
"How many people do you know who are a female Marine who wins pageants?" Boswell said.
Although the Marines have always been Sinnott’s "first love," she said that she is excited about her reign as "Miss Boston." Her first appearance will take place today at Red Sox Opening Day. Sinnott plans to compete in the "Miss Massachusetts" pageant this June.
—Staff writer Emily C. Graff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.