Newcastle’s Mandy Schendel places in top 10 at Miss America Pageant

January 31, 2013

By Julie Varon

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By Joe Whiteko
Miss Washington, Mandy Schendel, of Newcastle, accepts her award as winner of the Lifestyle and Fitness category after modeling a strapless white Catalina swimsuit at the Miss America pageant.


What young girl hasn’t dreamt of being a fairy princess or a beauty pageant queen? For most, they settle for the opportunity to shake the hand of one at a theme park or watch them as they wave in a parade.

This is not the case for Newcastle’s own Mandy Schendel, a 2008 Hazen High School graduate. She has gone the distance and lived out those dreams.

She became Belle, the princess from “Beauty and the Beast” at Orlando’s Walt Disney World. Then, she took the title of Miss Washington 2012. And then, Schendel took the stage at Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino with 53 other hopefuls vying for the coveted title of Miss America on Jan. 12.

Years of hard work and community service paid off for Schendel when she was crowned Miss Washington 2012 at the state pageant in July. After receiving the honor, she hit the ground running, speaking at assemblies, traveling the country to speak at national conferences and, in what were perhaps her favorite moments, taking photos with the children who loved their “princess” visits.

Schendel left for Las Vegas on Jan. 2 in preparation for the Miss America competition, which included a week’s worth of rehearsals and preliminaries, culminating with the live telecast. She started the week off strong, when she was named one of seven finalists for the Quality of Life Award.

After an initial interview with the celebrity panel of judges, including Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, dancer Cheryl Burke and television host Mary Hart, the contestants spent three nights competing in preliminaries of the talent, swimsuit and interview portions of the competition.

In her preliminary interview, Schendel spoke about her nonprofit organization, The Difference Maker Organization. By age 11, she created the nonprofit where she worked with kids and teens, teaching them how to become leaders through volunteer service. Schendel authored and published a book, “Do Something.”

On the third night of preliminaries, Schendel came out victorious as that night’s winner of the Lifestyle and Fitness category after modeling a strapless white Catalina swimsuit. The look of genuine shock on her face was priceless.

Then, the big night arrived when the Miss America pageant was televised live on ABC. After a brief introduction of the contestants, the previous night’s scores were tabulated, and the top 15 names were announced.

Schendel’s name wasn’t called and those who came out to support her, including her parents John and Kandy Schendel and sister Melanie, took a deep breath and reflected on a job well done.

But a surprise twist on the night gave new life to Schendel’s run in the competition, when judges were given the opportunity to add one more semifinalist. For the first time, a 16th candidate would be added to the competition.

That contestant, much to her own surprise, was Schendel, who hurriedly ran off the stage to prepare for the upcoming swimsuit competition that would narrow the field from 16 to 12.

As Schendel raced backstage, co-host Brooke Burke-Charvet told her, “This may be the biggest second chance in your life.” Schendel made the most of the opportunity.

With a previous swimsuit award under her belt, she had the judge’s stamp of approval in this area before, and indeed, she made the top 12.

After competing in their evening gowns, the top 12 sat together onstage as host Chris Harrison invited the contestants up one at a time to perform their talent. Only the top 10 contestants were called to perform in front of millions of people.

Nine girls had performed and with one name left to call, Miss Washington was named as the final contestant to continue on and perform the Rascal Flatts song “My Wish.”

While Schendel did not make the final top five, the more than 100 supporters who had traveled from Washington could not have been more proud of her accomplishments. The coveted title of Miss America went to Miss New York, Mallory Hagan.

Schendel is back home and continues to represent her title across the state, as she will throughout the year. She continues to have many responsibilities as Miss Washington, including speaking at schools, nonprofits and businesses who want the encouragement of teaching others how to never give up on their dreams.

On the Web

Learn more about Newcastle’s own resident queen, and book Miss Washington for an upcoming event, at


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