Thanksgiving traditions will have to wait until next year for a 2008 Washington Community High School graduate.

Ashley Murray will forgo the turkey dinner with her family to participate in the chance of a lifetime, the chance to be crowned National American Miss USA.



She will represent Illinois at the pageant, which is the third largest in the nation, in Hollywood Nov. 28.


Thanksgiving traditions will have to wait until next year for a 2008 Washington Community High School graduate.
Ashley Murray will forgo the turkey dinner with her family to participate in the chance of a lifetime, the chance to be crowned National American Miss USA.

She will represent Illinois at the pageant, which is the third largest in the nation, in Hollywood Nov. 28.

“It’ll be a lot of fun,” said Murray, who won the title of National American Miss Illinois in September. “They give you a big Thanksgiving dinner, so you still have a Thanksgiving meal. It’s just with your pageant friends instead of your actual family.
“The pageant is definitely worth the sacrifice.”

Murray, a 20-year-old nursing student at Kaskaskia College in Centralia, said her start in pageants was “a flip of a coin.”

After receiving information in the mail, she decided to give the pageant life a try.

“I’d always wanted to try it because as a young girl I always watched Miss America and Miss USA and would say, ‘I want to be like that,’” she said. “So I was like, ‘Why not? Let’s just try it.’ I did and I absolutely fell in love with it.”

Murray’s first pageant was the National American Miss pageant in Illinois six years ago. She was a freshman in high school and had no pageant experience to speak of. She did not place that year.

But she paid attention and was persistent.

“They taught her so many things about poise and self-confidence,” Murray’s mother, Tina, said. “Because it was a nice pageant, we continued to go back every year. She always finished in a runner up spot. So now this year, she’s finally the queen after all these years.”

With a 20-year-old age limit, this was the last year Murray could participate in the pageant.

“It was my last chance,” she said. “When I won it was a bittersweet moment.”

With the national title on the line, Murray said she is more excited for the pageant than nervous.

“I think my mom’s more nervous than I am,” she said. “She’s freaking out, and calling me and texting me everyday to say, ‘Do we have this, do we have that?’ I’m just more excited. I want to see what’s going to happen.”

Murray said her favorite part of a pageant is the interview portion because it is the time that the judges get to know who she is. It is also when she can let judges know that as a title-holder, her plan is to promote her platform.

Murray’s platform is “Take back the day, take back the night, take back your life,” which informs people about violence against women. A victim of women’s violence herself, she uses her position to speak out against what she called, “the silent violence,” because many of the crimes against women are not reported.

“It’s easy for me to talk about it because I know not everybody likes to talk about it,” Murray said. “Talking about it gets the word out there, so that’s really why I chose it to promote it and make people aware that it does happen everyday and that we need to be more aware of it.”

“She’s worked so hard to get to where she is,” Tina Murray said. “She’s been through a lot and we’re so proud that she finally won and gets to try for the national title in Hollywood.”

While in California, pageant contestants will go on a Hollywood tour and have a photo shoot at Disneyland.

The pageant’s categories include top model, photogenic, casual wear, formal wear, interview, talent and actress. For the actress portion of the competition, contestants choose from a list of “commercials” to perform on stage.

“Pageants have opened up a lot of opportunities for me,” Murray said. “I was able to model at the Chicago Merchandise Mart, I volunteered for the Great Mississippi River cleanup. I can’t wait to promote more over the next year of my reign.”

Although there are many things she said she loves about pageants, Murray’s favorite moment comes down to her parents, who have supported her throughout her journey.

“The best moment was just seeing my mom and dad’s faces when I finally won,” Murray said. “I think that meant more to me than to just win the title. Just to see my parents so happy and excited because I’ve put all this time into it and they finally got to see me walk away happy and not disappointed.”