Marissa Livingston, the 24-year-old Miss New Mexico, is on her way to compete for the title of Miss America. Livingston has only been in pageants for two years, and this was her second attempt at Miss New Mexico and Miss America.
She was trying to decide whether to give it another try or to focus on her career when “something inside me was like, give it one more shot. Just go for it and see what happens – you don’t have anything to lose at this point.”
Scholarship money and philanthropy are motivating factors in Livingston taking another shot.
She says the Miss America pageant is “aligned with my passions and my interests. I really like what the organization stands for. It’s community based, scholarship based, and this is an opportunity to help pay for my master’s degree.”
Livingston graduated from Albuquerque’s Del Norte High School in 2009, and from the University of New Mexico in December 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in communications and journalism.
After graduation she was granted a five-month media affairs internship at the White House. “It was just such an honor to be there,” she says. “It was kind of a ‘pinch me’ moment.”
Livingston has been dancing since the age of 3, and is a dancing instructor at Fishback School of the Dance in Albuquerque in addition to her full-time job as an account executive with a public relations firm.
It was from the Fishback studio she was recruited to be a professional magician’s assistant, performing numerous shows.
Proficiency in dancing ballet, jazz, tap, modern and hip hop is not just hobby and work, but also part of Livingston’s ethos. She was a co-founder of UNM’s LoboTHON organization and dance marathon, which has raised $69,000 to date for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals.
What is Livingston doing as the clock ticks down to the big day? “To prepare, you know, I really have just strengthened all the qualities and talents that I’ve brought to the state pageant.”
She’s also preparing for the 10-minute private interview with the Miss America panel of judges, in which “anything is fair game. And so you want to make sure that you are very well studied, you know that you can walk into that room being able to answer any question they throw at you.”
Livingston is aware of many people’s preconceived notions regarding the intellect of pageant contestants, and says, “There is that preconceived notion … I will say that every girl that I have met that has done a pageant has been ambitious, driven – they want to do something successful in their lives. They really work hard, and they’re the ones that are going to school and getting straight A’s, and the ones getting involved on campus … they’re the ones that set really high standards for themselves.”
“To represent my home state where I was born, raised and lived for pretty much my whole life is the utmost honor,” Livingston says. “It’s just the perfect place where you have so much great food, great people, and there’s just so much diversity that makes it so unique but so special. I’m so proud to represent New Mexico.”