An Opera-singing Manhattan native has hit the ground running as Miss New York 2013, ever since her predecessor became Miss America just one month ago. From fighting the drug war in schools to changing perceptions on classical music, meet Amanda Mason:
So, how does it feel to be the new Miss New York?
Empowering. I have the incredible opportunity to reach thousands of children across the State of New York and help each one realize they can reach their fullest potential. It’s a challenging – yet rewarding – job and one I’ve dreamed about for years. Being Miss New York means having the opportunity to educate even more kids about America’s number one public health problem: adolescent substance abuse.
You placed first runner-up to Nina Davuluri this summer at the Miss New York competition. What was your mindset after the pageant? Walk us through the experience of watching Nina win Miss America.
I was really proud of the work that I put into preparing for the Miss New York pageant and my performance on stage; particularly my preliminary wins in both the swimsuit and talent competitions. I walked away completely satisfied that I had "left it all on the stage.” I watched Miss America home in New York City with a friend, excited to see Nina compete. I was overjoyed when Nina won and realized that I was now Miss New York. I am so happy to have this incredible opportunity.
What are you goals for your year as Miss New York?
I look forward to representing the Miss New York Organization at various events around the state of New York. As the Youth Spokesperson for the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) and Safe America and an Ambassador for Boys and Girls Clubs of America, I will focus my year on Reaching Kids before Drugs do.
Drug and alcohol awareness is your social cause of choice. Why do you feel this is such an important topic for New Yorkers today?
By seventh grade, three quarters of students have already used alcohol. Adolescent Substance abuse is a huge, huge public health problem of epidemic proportion. That’s why, nine years ago, I started educating kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. I started the Middle School Movement: Reaching Kids Before Drugs Do, a comprehensive drug and alcohol prevention education program.
Tell us more about your Middle School Movement initiative. What is it? What's your plan?
The Middle School Movement is unique because it’s not a simple "just say no" approach. Instead, it's based on the idea that kids need to identify their dreams and avoid behaviors, which could prevent them from reaching their fullest potential. With tools like the Safe Tomorrows workbook, which was developed in conjunction with the Safe America Foundation and support from the NCADD and other organizations, I plan to take this program into schools and Boys and Girls Clubs across the State of New York. Through early education, we can reach kids before drugs do.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’ve had the opportunity to study with renowned opera singers such as Catherine Malfitano, June Anderson and Mignon Dunn. I started singing at the age of five and today I am in my last year as a Masters Student at Manhattan School of Music studying classical voice. I look forward to sharing my talents throughout New York. I’ve studied Martial Arts and Self-defense for 5 years. I’ve also studied all genres of dancing. I love checking out new restaurants and having afternoon tea.
What does "modern woman" mean to you?
We are smart, passionate and not afraid to be ambitious.
You seem to have pretty classic taste in style. Where does that come from?
It's important to put your best foot forward. In the opera world I learned to dress sophisticatedly while still being stylish. I think that's why I was originally attracted to opera. Opera, to me, is glamorous and living in New York I learned a lot of ways to dress up black with a modern twist. I want to show young girls that it's just as hot and fun to dress respectably.
Many people think opera is old-fashioned. Do you think modern young women can relate to your world?
I get asked all the time, "How can an opera singer win the swimsuit competition?" The opera world is changing. Now with social media and HD productions, opera is more accessible to people around the world and in areas where people have never seen opera before. Singing opera is a full mind and body experience. Opera singers don’t just sing, we act, follow the conductor, remember staging, dance and think in other languages. If you saw Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold at the Metropolitan Opera, it’s a prime example of the way opera is evolving today. In one scene three sopranos were hanging from the ceiling and singing at the same time. We are challenged to sing and move more now that ever before. It is important for me to keep my body and voice in tune for a long lasting career.