By: Katie Francis, Follow South Jersey Public Health Intern
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, N.J. — It’s been a month since lifelong Cape May Court House resident Alyssa Sullivan was crowned this year’s Miss New Jersey USA, and she says it still hasn’t sunk in quite yet.
Sullivan and 31 other New Jersey women traveled from all over the state to compete in this year’s Miss New Jersey USA competition in Atlantic City. The women checked into the Resorts Casino Hotel on June 14, and they spent the first half of the week rehearsing and completing personal interviews with the pageant judges. Preliminary competitions began on Thursday and included the talent, evening gown, on-stage interview, and social impact initiative categories. Sullivan’s week of success began when she won the talent portion of this year’s preliminary contest.
The entire week full of events led up to Saturday evening, which Sullivan described as “the big final night.” It started off with the announcement of the top 11 contestants. These women re-competed in every category of the competition, the top five were announced, and finally, the judges crowned Miss New Jersey 2021.
Although she’s now successful and full of honor and gratitude, Sullivan’s pageant career started with skepticism. She was a pageant skeptic her entire life and “never understood the meaning and impact behind them” — that is, until she fell in love with pageantry after entering a local teen pageant to share her love for singing and performing in the competition’s talent portion.
She continued on with her passion for pageantry and entered the Miss America sisterhood. Sullivan has held numerous local titles, and she also competed for the title of Miss New Jersey five times prior to her victory this year under the local title of Miss Seashore Line. She competed as Miss South Shore, Miss Camden County, Miss Cape Shores, and twice as Miss Atlantic Shores.
Although her experience in previous competitions did not result in the outcome she had hoped for, Sullivan said that “every year served a very different purpose” for her.
“Of course it definitely wasn’t easy… but looking back on it now, I really am so grateful that everything happened the way that it did,” she said. ”We learn so much more from the times that we don’t win than the times that we do.”
Now, Sullivan’s schedule is busier than ever. Her calendar is booked with appearances at events all across the state, including golf outings, parades, and award ceremonies. Along with appearances and media interviews, she continues to be a vocalist and advocate for Peer Challenge: Commit2Character, her social impact initiative.
According to the official Miss New Jersey website, the initiative allows Sullivan to share personal stories of peer pressure with impressionable kids to “help kids see that the ‘right path’ is the one they choose for themselves.” She went to multiple schools throughout the state to reach as many kids as possible with this message during her time as Miss Seashore Line. The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop Sullivan from continuing her work as a philanthropist. Over the past year, she moved the initiative online and she was able to connect with kids virtually.
On top of all of her accomplishments and responsibilities as Miss New Jersey, Sullivan is a successful journalist. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Rowan University in 2020 and works at PHL17 in Philadelphia as a Production Coordinator and Fill-in Reporter.
The newest Miss New Jersey is eager for the months ahead in her dream job serving the Garden State, and she is excited “to find that balance between preparing for Miss America, but doing the job of Miss New Jersey as well.”
New Jersey residents can cheer her on this December at the Miss America Competition, where the organization will celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Alyssa Sullivan graduated from Rowan University in 2021. This has been changed to reflect her graduation in 2020. We apologize for the error.
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This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.