Chelsea Ingram thought her pageant days were over when she graduated from NC State last year and moved to Vermont. She had competed in the Miss North Carolina pageant four times, finishing in the top 10 three times, but Ingram was focused on getting her career launched as a television weather forecaster.
Ingram had majored in meteorology at NC State — drawn by the urge to understand the weather after experiencing the fury of Hurricane Fran in 1996 — but left her hometown of Raleigh to get some broadcast training at Lyndon State College in Vermont. She was able to learn from the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore, an alumnus of Lyndon State, and work on a news program broadcast by the college.
One of the viewers, as it turned out, was a former Miss Vermont. And she got in touch with Ingram to encourage her to enter the Miss Vermont pageant. Ingram was intrigued, but was not sure whether she could compete and pursue her career at the same time.
Ingram soon landed a job, as a shared weather forecaster for a Fox station and an ABC station in Vermont. And the bosses there had no problems with Ingram also competing to become Miss Vermont.
“I thought I was done with pageants, and needed to get focused on my career,” Ingram says. “I never would have thought that in the end, they would both end up going hand-in-hand.”
As a relative newcomer to the state, Ingram would seemingly be at a competitive disadvantage in seeking to become Miss Vermont. But she said her job helped her quickly gain an understanding and appreciation of Vermont, and so she was ready when she was asked during the pageant where she would take someone new to Vermont.
“The great thing about the position I’m in is that I already have credibility as a Vermonter and as a meteorologist,” she says. “That made it easier for them to adapt to me not being a native. I told them, ‘I didn’t get to choose where I was born, but now I am able to choose where I live and work.'”
Ingram was surprised, though, when they called her name last month as the new Miss Vermont. She will compete for the title of Miss America in January.
“I don’t know if it’s hit me yet,” she says. “Competing for Miss America has been a dream of mine since I was a very little girl.”
Ingram has responsibilities as Miss Vermont to make appearances around the state, but she says her bosses at the station are supportive of her role as Miss Vermont. “Everywhere I go, it promotes the station,” she says.
Besides, Ingram continues to be fascinated with the weather and appreciates having the chance to help her viewers understand it.
“My forecast is based on how it will impact people’s plans,” Ingram says. “I try to cater to my viewers and how they make their plans. I try to think about what I would like to hear.”
Ingram says that competing in pageants has been critical to her initial success in her career.
“If it wasn’t for competing in the Miss America organization, I would not have my job,” she says. “Competing in that has taught me communication, leadership and time management. I developed more confidence by performing on stage. Those are all key components in doing weather on television.”