Meet the UVA second year who nearly won Miss America
Savannah Lane has more than just good looks
The comedy Miss Congeniality jokes about the ineptitude and empty-headedness of beauty pageants, but Savannah Lane proves this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, Savannah wants to work with the FBI, and ultimately run for Congress after her pageant career ends.
“It’s the best training for running for political office, because I’m always careful what I say, and always careful of my public image,” she says.
Savannah says every college student can relate to her balancing act, but her pursuits go way beyond the average UVA student, known for their overachievement.
“[At UVA] I worked with Iraqi refugees, giving them piano lessons as well as mentored students through music.”
Savannah offers a complete 180 from what most of us think of the pageant world, and the Midlothian native says she was surprised as well.
About the interviews she said: “They’re not some silly little, what’s your favorite color kind of thing, they’re hard hitting questions – even as a teen contestant.”
These questions range from a contestants’ thoughts on gay marriage, to whether or not transgender women should be able to compete for Miss Virginia.
Her foray into pageantry was not a flippant decision. In fact, she began when she realized it would broaden the audience for her charity work, which began in order to help her family cope with her older sister’s disabilities.
Her platform is called “The Power of Performance” which promotes music therapy. She said: “It is something that helped my family cope with the struggles that families with children with disabilities have.”
Savannah says the position is physically demanding, but she has been inspired by her twin sister Hailey, an all-American athlete and Air Force Academy Cadet, who collapsed from cardiac arrest at the age of 19.
“Having a seemingly invincible person collapse like that was shocking to the country.
“She woke up out of her coma and miraculously survived this tragic incident, and the doctor said the only reason she survived was because she was so healthy. It really turned a light bulb on.”
Savannah says Hailey was the one who picked out her talent, which is a performance of the song “Don’t Rain On My Parade”.
“I dedicated my talent to her, and she was sitting right there in the front row. I felt so moved by what we had been through, I began to cry even though it is an uplifting song.”
The pageant is judged mostly on a private interview with the judges, before the televised event.
However, audiences mostly see the focus on physical beauty. Hailey’s health battles have helped Savannah appreciate that this is not the most important thing.
“[Hailey] almost lost both of her legs from the lack of blood circulation, and she had two major surgeries which left her with major scars.
“It really keeps things in perspective to have someone like my sister. Everyone has imperfections. Her battles, her scars, some might say they’re imperfections, but those things make me proud, and they make her proud.
“It’s all about natural beauty. True beauty that resonates from within.”
However, Savannah never fails to shine during the swimsuit round.
Savannah has to take a gap year in order to keep up with her pageant duties, and expects the transition back to UVA to be quite the adjustment.
Despite this, she isn’t particularly worried. “The University of Virginia really has supported my family.
“When my sister was in a coma, people on Yik Yak started posting #hoosforhailey and #haileystrong.
“People didn’t even know me, didn’t know my sister, they just knew one of their fellow students, one of their fellow Wahoos was in need.
“To have that support is something that makes me really excited to be back on grounds.”
Obviously thrilled to win the title of Miss Virginia, Savannah is more honored by receiving the Quality of Life Award.
“It is given to three finalists who had the most inspirational story, and you have to interview about why your service platform, your driving force, is one that shows a high quality of service life.”
The Miss America pageant has introduced a social media aspect this year, trying to move the competition into the 21st century.
Savannah has taken advantage of this to document her sister’s recovery, as well as promote her service events.
Crowned Miss Virginia in June, Savannah went on to compete for the Miss America title on September 13th in Atlantic City.
Unfortunately not taking home the crown, she represented Virginia well, the seventh contestant to move up to the Top 15.
Thankful to have had the opportunity, UVA will certainly be glad to have Savannah back on grounds.