By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Hannah Patterson’s dream is to become a professional actor and if she happens to be crowned Miss Oregon or even Miss America on the way, so be it.
“The scholarship money is the biggest pull for me,” Patterson said. “I want to go to grad school and I’d like to do so without accumulating a bunch of student debt. The Miss American organization is the largest scholarship provider to women in the world. Trying to work through and pay for school as much as possible, that part of it appealed to me a lot.”
Patterson got the idea to try pageants from her sister-in-law, Havilah, who was named Miss Emerald Valley and competed for Miss Oregon in 2011. The two watched the Miss America pageant together on television in 2012 and Patterson registered for Miss Marion-Polk the following week.
“At the time I was studying theater and I’m comfortable on stage and I like performing,” Patterson said. “I’m pretty girly which is a big part of it, at least the stage parts of it.”
Patterson was voted Marion-Polk first runner-up in 2013 and then again in 2014. After a year off to focus on graduating from Portland State University with her bachelor’s degree in theater arts, she returned to the competition on March 26 and was one of two girls out of eight to qualify for Miss Oregon.
As Miss Capital City, Patterson, and Audri Rousseau, who was crowned Miss Marion-Polk County on the same night, will compete against 21 other women for Miss Oregon.
“This year coming back had a lot to do with proving to myself that I could do it and that I wanted to continue to grow in this program,” Patterson said. “The two times I competed previously, I didn’t have the opportunity to go to Miss Oregon or to represent the program as a title holder throughout the year and I wanted that opportunity.”
The Miss Oregon pageant started Monday, June 27 in Seaside with rehearsals. Interviews took place Tuesday. Patterson competed in preliminary swimsuit and evening gown on Wednesday and talent and on-stage question Thursday.
For talent, which is one of Patterson’s favorite categories, she performed a comedic monologue from the Nora and Delia Ephron play Love, Loss, and What I Wore.
On Saturday night, all 23 contestants will come on stage and the top 10 will be announced and will compete in swimsuit, evening gown, talent and on-stage question for the title of Miss Oregon, which comes with a $10,000 scholarship and a spot in the Miss America pageant.
Patterson was awarded a $1,250 scholarship for Miss Capital City and everyone who competes at Miss Oregon gets at least $500.
Patterson, who has lived in Keizer her entire life other than four years at Portland State, would be honored to represent Oregon at Miss America.
“I’m really proud to be an Oregonian,” Patterson said. “Other than the fact that everything is green and beautiful, people from here are really nice people. I think our state is under-appreciated in the Miss America organization or sometimes overlooked.”
Only one Oregonian, Katie Harman in 2002, has ever won Miss America.
Studying theater, Patterson has progressive friends who see beauty pageants as antifeminist and only skin deep but she wants to show that’s far from the case.
Her personal platform is closing the gender wage gap.
“‘I’m not what they think of when they picture Miss America so to be able to say I compete in that and it’s a really amazing organization, not anti-feminist at all, they give lots of scholarship money to women,” Patterson said. “They’re all about promoting women and doing great things for women.”
The interview, which is 25 percent of the overall score, and on-stage questions, which are 5 percent, have helped Patterson stay up to date on politics and current events.
“The organization has helped me, one, how to study those things and how to have an opinion and two, how to feel comfortable being asked those questions,” she said.
Being Miss Capital City has also given her opportunities she wouldn’t normally have, like throwing out the first pitch of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes game Saturday, June 25.
Patterson’s family had hosted Volcano players the past four summers so she was very familiar with the minor league baseball program.
“One of my life dreams is to throw an opening pitch at a major league baseball game so this is kind of the local step on the way to do that,” Patterson said.
“I have three older brothers so I was potty trained at the little league fields. Baseball has always been part of my life and then just getting to host players and learn more about how professional baseball works and how the minor leagues work, it was a whole new world and it’s made me a really big fan of the sport.”
During her senior year of college, Patterson auditioned for the University Resident Theater Association and got into her dream school—University of Essex East 15 Acting School in London. But the opportunity turned out to be too expensive.
She plans to audition again in January and attend a school in the United States. Her top choice is Florida State University’s Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, followed by similar apprenticeship programs at University of Tennessee and University of San Diego.
Patterson was in the McNary High theater and band and graduated in 2011.
She has acted in three local shows in the past year, including Keizer Homegrown Theater’s performance of Time Stands Still in March.