Gretchen Carlson is coming home.
The “Fox & Friends” anchor and Miss America 1989 is going to be the keynote speaker Friday at the Crowns and Gowns Gala at Radisson Blu Hotel in Mall of America, where she will talk about the pageant’s relevance. The Crowns and Gowns Gala takes place the day before the crowning of Miss Minnesota 2013, the title Carlson won in 1988 on her way to the national pageant. Tickets are available at www.MissMinnesota.org.
Vicki Plaster Kueppers, gala chair and Miss Minnesota 1983, tells me that Dorothy Benham, Miss America 1977, and BeBe Shopp, Miss America 1948, will also be at the gala. “This is the first time in over 20 years that Minnesota’s three Miss Americas have appeared together within our state,” said Kueppers.
Carlson did a Q & A with me via e-mail, and she did not rule out running for office some day.
Q Where do you keep your crown?
A In my closet in the original travel carrying case I received when I won Miss America. It still has the same bobby pins in the elastic band that stretches across the width of the crown (you needed the band to be able to keep it on!) For a while I kept the crown somewhere at my mom’s house (the problem was I wasn’t really sure exactly where it was), which was horrifying news to a woman in Texas who had asked me to come and speak many years ago and bring the crown. When I told her I had to find it first she almost fainted! LOL.
Q Diamonds from 1989 must be worth a lot, so what do you have your crown insured for in your insurance rider?
A I always said if the crown was made of real diamonds I would have absconded with it years ago! The Miss America crown is unique in the sense that its shape and style is one of a kind, but the stones are not real. Last year on “Fox and Friends” I brought it in as a “treasured item” to see what an expert pawn broker would tell me it was worth and to my surprise she said one had never been auctioned off but she would value it at $25,000.
Q Did the experience you received as Miss America contribute to where you are today?
A Becoming Miss America was a part of my life experience and has helped shape who I am. From the guts it takes for any woman to compete on stage, to the interview skills I honed, to the wonderful people I met along the way, being Miss America was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (And I was always proud to say I was first Miss Minnesota.)
Q What is the continued value of beauty pageants?
A Miss America is a scholarship pageant; the largest scholarship program in the world for women. It’s the pageant with the talent category; the two reasons I even decided to enter. Saying Miss America isn’t relevant is a cop-out. Especially compared to some of the garbage on TV these days. Would parents rather have their kids emulating the 4.0 [grade-point average] Miss America contestants or Honey Boo Boo?
Q Has strutting around in a swimsuit become anachronistic?
A Strutting around in a swimsuit was something I had to do to compete and ultimately win Miss America. It’s not my favorite category, but I have to admit it was the phase of competition I had to work the hardest on to win. At 5 foot 3, I’m height challenged! So I had to work extra hard to get rid of the college 15 and at least look presentable in a swimsuit.
Q Are you imagining the members of the audience naked while you are walking around on stage in a swimsuit?
A I was always just concentrating on not tripping.
Q “Toddlers & Tiaras” is good or bad for the beauty pageant world?
A I’m not a fan of “Toddler and Tiaras” because I’m not a fan of kids competing in pageants. Tons of moms approached me when I was Miss America to ask my advice on how their daughters could also win. And I always said to concentrate on school and sports or a talent; things in life where kids can learn discipline and structure and build confidence in themselves from the inside out. Pageants should be for young women who are old enough to make their own personal decisions.
Q Name two things President Obama has done well. (And you can’t say he’s a great husband and father.)
A President Obama is a master campaigner and fundraiser. He was also effective at simplifying his message, making it easier to resonate with many of the voters.
Q You look like someone with political aspirations. Any chance you would come back and pick up the Michele Bachmann mantle after she leaves office? [And this question was written before the announcement, because I just had a feeling.]
A I’m very interested in politics because I speak about it on a daily basis. Never say never.
Q If you ran into former MSNBC show host Keith Olbermann, who savaged you regularly as a “Worst Person in the World,” what would you say to him?
A Keith who?
Q What part of a Minnesota lifestyle do you wish you could expose your children to on a daily basis?
A Minnesota nice. And I do. We visit Minnesota at least once a year so they can see how good Mommy had it growing up in a wonderful place that is so down to earth.
Q Either of your kids play the violin?
A My kids both play the piano. In fact, my 10-year-old daughter just gave a solo recital of 11 classical pieces to honor two of the little girls killed at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn. The families were there and we raised more than $10,000 for the families’ charities established in their girls’ honor. It was an amazing experience and a great life lesson.
Q How often do you play your violin these days?
A I don’t play my violin currently. I keep threatening to go back and really I should for my kids.
Q What accounts for so many Minnesotans having high profiles across a number of different national platforms?
A Minnesota was a great place to grow up. Good values, good schools, great family life.
Q What places must you always visit when you return to Minnesota?
A Target. Mississippi River. Dairy Queen.
Q What cars do you own?
A I’m a mom. I own the very cool and hip Chevy Traverse. It’s a fantastic car with a third-row seat. The best for carpooling my kids and their friends.
Q Has your morning show co-host Brian Kilmeade ever inquired as to whether you have a belly button?
A LOL. That’s why I love Brian. You never know what he might say. He’s a little like the younger brother you try to keep in line. But thank God he’s there to make me laugh.
Interviews are edited. Please send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org and feel free to watch her Thursdays on Fox 9’s “Buzz.”