"When I step on that stage, my dream will come true; it really does feel like a fairy tale," Elizabeth Denny says.
Denny, who was crowned Miss Oregon 2017 last fall, knows that she will have an unforgettable experience competing along with 50 other women in the Miss USA 2017 pageant on May 14 in Las Vegas.
The pageant will air at 7 p.m. Pacific time on the Fox TV network. The pageant previously was owned by Donald Trump, but is now owned by WME IMG. The winner of the Miss USA 2017 contest will move on to the Miss Universe 2017 pageant.
Denny, 26, competed in the Miss Oregon USA 2016 pageant as Miss Clackamas County USA and finished as second runner-up. Last October, as Miss Portland USA 2017, Denny was crowned Miss Oregon USA.
Born and raised in Southern Oregon, she moved to Portland to pursue her higher education. After completing her bachelor's degree in communications at Portland State University, she founded her own company, Betty Artistry, and now works as a freelance makeup artist.
A former Clackamas County resident who managed the Estee Lauder counter at Clackamas Town Center, Denny now lives in Northwest Portland, but she still works out at Happy Valley's Muv Fitness, her gym sponsor for the pageant.
Denny has been competing in local pageants for the past 11 years, and says that in each competition she has placed in she's learned something.
"Each interview I had helped prep me for this one. Over the years much of what used to be prep became my lifestyle," she says.
"Of course, I have put a lot of extra effort in these past several months, from working out seven days a week, biweekly sessions with my interview coach, staying informed on all U.S. and world-related news and much more."
Denny adds, "More than anything, I've learned to embrace who I really am and to confidently convey that to the judges."
"Elizabeth is confidently beautiful. She is someone who knows herself and her worth," says Maureen Francisco, the co-executive producer of NW Productions, a media company that produces live shows, among them state-pageant qualifiers to Miss USA and Miss Teen USA in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.
"I admire her work ethic and how she never gave up on her dreams. Oftentimes, people quit on their dreams when the journey gets too tough. Elizabeth is an example of how dreams do come true."
Miss USA 2017
As Miss Oregon USA, Denny has had many opportunities in the community, state and beyond. She recently spent a day volunteering with Princess for a Day in Eugene, and is always looking for new opportunities and partnerships to get more involved in the community.
Denny is very proud to be representing Oregon at the national Miss USA 2017 competition.
Denny says she is looking forward to all three phases of the Miss USA 2017 competition: interview, fitness and evening gown.
"Each one holds different elements of excitement for me. I've worked hard for interview, and I cannot wait to have the chance to show the judges who Miss Oregon USA really is," she says. Many people might think that wearing a tiny swimsuit in the fitness competition would be scary, but Denny says she loves to perform and has worked hard to look her best for this portion of the competition.
And finally, she is really looking forward to putting on her evening gown, which she has nicknamed "edgy Cinderella," and walking the runway on national television in front of judges and a live audience.
"The Miss USA title is a huge job and responsibility. Therefore, the judges are looking for a woman who is confidently beautiful, strong, healthy, independent, relatable and smart," Denny says. "Throughout each phase of competition, they look for a woman who exudes these qualities. Miss USA is a woman who can both speak to children in a classroom and represent our nation with confidence."
"The Miss Universe organization is about embracing women to be confidently beautiful, [which] means working on being the best version of yourself every day. Working on your confidence is a lifelong journey," Francisco said. "Our goal is to create a program for these women to understand that they can dream as big as they want. If their dream doesn't scare them, that means they need to dream bigger."
"The opportunity to represent our state at the national competition is such an honor. I'm so proud to be an Oregonian," Denny says.