Debus hopes to do Delaware proud at Miss America Pageant

Amanda Debus (Special to Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

Amanda Debus, of Middletown, is crowned Miss Delaware at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino in June. The former Miss First State winner is in Atlantic City, New Jersey to compete for the title of Miss America. She brings her platform of allergy awareness to the event, which will be televised Sept. 11 on ABC. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER –– After winning the Miss Delaware crown in June, Amanda Debus of Middletown is in Atlantic City, New Jersey this week to compete in Saturday night’s Miss America Pageant.

“I’m a very nostalgic person, so just knowing that I’m one of only 75 women who have represented Delaware at Miss America, it’s humbling and it’s an experience I know I’m always going to remember,” Ms. Debus said.

The road to Miss America has been a long one, starting when she was just a kid, twirling batons and taking dance classes.

“I started as a baton twirler but didn’t have many opportunities to perform so someone suggested I get involved in pageants so I’d practice more and get to perform more often,” she said.

Ms. Debus, 24, was crowned Ms. Delaware’s Outstanding Teen in 2008 and said she was officially hooked when she earned the accompanying scholarship.

“I’m the youngest in my family –– my brother is five years older than me so I knew my parents would still be paying off his college before I even started and I didn’t want my education to be another financial burden for them,” she said.

Ms. Debus has been able to pay for more than three years of schooling at the University of Delaware through pageant scholarships alone.

She has competed for the Miss Delaware title since 2012 and it turned out the fifth time as Miss First State was the charm.

Her talent is contemporary dance and her platform is allergy awareness –– both of which are very personal.

Miss Delaware Amanda Debus took on allergy awareness as her platform after a severe food allergy sent her to the emergency room in 2010. She will be taking her story to the Miss America Pageant this week.

Miss Delaware Amanda Debus took on allergy awareness as her platform after a severe food allergy sent her to the emergency room in 2010. She will be taking her story to the Miss America Pageant this week.

Ms. Debus stepped into her first dance class at age 2 and started teaching at 17, so dance was an obvious choice for talent. She’ll be performing a contemporary dance piece to Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” the same song she used to win the Miss Delaware title.

She took on allergy awareness as her platform after a severe food allergy sent her to the emergency room in 2010 and will be taking her story to Miss America.

“It was a Memorial Day barbecue and I was eating some pineapple and suddenly found myself unable to breathe and felt terribly itchy and had to be rushed to the hospital,” Ms. Debus said.

Since her hospitalization, she’s carried two epinephrine injections (EpiPens) –– an emergency treatment of life-threatening allergic reactions –– with her everywhere she goes and has worked to spread awareness about how serious a food allergy can actually be.

“I’ve gone to camps and schools to teach kids about food allergies. With the young kids, it’s about telling them that even if they don’t have an allergy, they need to be aware of the symptoms and know when to get help for either themselves or someone else,” she said.

“And for the older kids, I talk about the importance of being aware of friends’ and family members’ allergies. Even if you’re just giving your significant other a kiss in the hallway and you weren’t thinking about their food allergy, you could be giving them a kiss of death.”

She recently started working with the Allergy & Asthma Network after winning the Miss Delaware crown and plans to continue with them and spreading awareness about their organization for the duration of her reign.

The competition

Ms. Debus has already met her 51 opponents twice –– once in July in Washington for Miss America orientation and in August in Orlando, Florida for the Miss Outstanding Teen competition.

“Even though we’ve only met twice before, it’s like a giant sisterhood,” Ms. Debus said. “We are all on this weird, amazing, once in a lifetime experience together. So we all easily bonded.”

This past week, the women have traveled around the Atlantic City area promoting the Miss America brand, have rehearsed for the pageant and recorded on-camera interviews that will be played during the show.

The Miss America preliminary competition begins Monday with interview, talent and swimsuit competitions.

Throughout the week, seven judges will narrow down the competition to just 15 finalists.

The finalists will go on to compete during the live broadcast next Sunday.

“I’m not particularly nervous,” Ms. Debus said of the competition. “I’m just going to do my best, and being one of the very few women to ever represent Delaware at the competition makes me very proud.”

The Miss America pageant will air live on ABC at 9 p.m.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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