"I grew up on Long Island. I wanted to be a music major in college and got a scholarship to go to the Hartt School in Hartford. I accepted and about a week later, I was hysterically crying and told my Mom that I would hate Hartford. Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to move to D.C. So, I switched and came to D.C. That one decision has completely changed my entire life.
"I watched Miss America when I was little with my sisters, but never thought about actually competing. I had all of these stereotypes of pageant girls. I was the type of girl who would never wear make up, never go the gym, and never do my hair. I ended up getting into the pageant world because my voice teacher here was the voice teacher of a former Miss D.C. She got an email asking if she had any students who would be interested in auditioning. She came to me one day and said, ‘I decided that this year you are going to be Miss D.C. and then be Miss America!’ I just laughed.
"She kept bugging me and I eventually went to the audition and made the Top 15. It actually turned out to be pretty fun. I got on stage and sang a song, O Mio Babbino Caro, and walked around in a swimsuit and an evening gown and got paid. Plus, the other girls were nothing like I expected. They worked on the Hill or were in college. One girl was even trying to get into the FBI. Many states are very 'pageanty', but not D.C. The girls here are all really smart and professionally driven.
"The experience also taught me some of the beauty tricks for pageant girls. You glue your bathing suit to your butt, so you don’t get a wedgie when you’re on stage. We all bronze our abs and legs to make them look more defined. You also put hemorrhoid cream under your eyes and on your legs the night before, so that it sucks in all of the moisture and makes you more defined. Some girls even wear Vaseline on their teeth to help their smile.
"I ended up competing three years in a row. This year, I came to Miss D.C. to win and go to Miss America. It was my senior year of college and all of my friends were applying for jobs. They asked me where I was applying and I said, 'I am not applying for jobs because I am going to win Miss. D.C.' I just knew it. Walking out on stage at the final crowning, I said to myself, I am not going to make that face and start crying. That is the first thing that I did when they called my name. I can’t believe that I did that. I am still so angry at myself.
"Everything changed after winning Miss D.C. and getting Top 10 at Miss America. I got to meet President Obama. I get to go to all of these fun events. I got to sing the national anthem at a Caps and Nationals game. I am working to promote my platforms of recycling and education all around the city. I mean, who does that? One thing, though, is that as much as I want to be myself as Miss D.C., people have certain expectations of what a pageant girl should be. I try and work to balance my life as Jen Corey and Miss D,C. to have a little of each in both. My friends make fun of me for being in full make up all of the time, but my biggest fear is to introduce myself as Miss D.C. and someone says, ‘Really?’ I still have my friend’s houses where I can go to as a refuge and I am still the sweetheart of one of the fraternities at American. I can go over there with my sweatpants and drink a beer, eat a whole pizza, watch the Superbowl, and just be Jen."