Local Miss Washington’s reign comes to an end
August 30, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
With the simple placement of a crown upon her head, Newcastle resident Mandy Schendel embarked on a yearlong reign as Miss Washington on July 7, 2012.
During that time, she visited schools, made speaking appearances and competed for the Miss America title on national television.
“It was so much, so fast and it basically doesn’t stop for 365 days,” she said. “It has been a very, very good year.”
Exactly a year later, Schendel’s journey came to an end when she passed the torch to Miss Washington 2013 Reina Almon, but the 2008 Hazen High School graduate reflected fondly on her year representing the state.
“I think that I grew immensely just as a person more than anything,” she said. “I was grateful for the opportunity and really grateful to sort of let the process transform me.”
The pinnacle of her year came Jan. 15 when she competed in the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas. As the semifinalists were announced, cutting down the field of 53 to just 15, it appeared that Schendel’s night was over.
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. The panel of judges, including Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney and dancer Cheryl Burke, chose Schendel.
“It was neat to be the judges’ favorite just because it brought a little extra attention to the Miss Washington Scholarship Organization,” she said.
It also brought a sense of added pressure that may not have been there had she advanced to the top 15 normally, Schendel said.
Nevertheless, Schendel made the most of the opportunity, advancing through both the swimsuit and eveningwear portions of the show, on to the top 10, where she sang Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish” for her talent. Her night would end there, however.
“It was a very fun way to go about being able to compete on national television,” she said.
While the competition was undoubtedly the experience of a lifetime, the aftermath and response on social media was difficult at times, Schendel said.
Schendel was inundated with negative commentary about her performance on websites such as Twitter and Instagram. Some even went so far as to accuse her of being a poor representation of the state.
“That’s a very hard thing when you’re dedicating your life, you’re giving up work and school and everything else to do this,” she said.
She did her best to block out the negativity, relying on her vast group of supporters, refusing to let the vitriol spoil her yearlong experience, Schendel said.
As much as she enjoyed competition night, though, she said her favorite moment was a visit to Seattle’s Ronald McDonald House, which supports seriously ill children and their families.
Schendel met with families, and sang to kids, but one girl in particular made quite the impression on her. The girl, who had been in and out of hospitals for years, got to feel what it was like to be royalty when Schendel placed the Miss Washington crown on her head.
“She said, ‘Thank you so much for making me feel like a princess today,’ and I think that was just the most touching moment,” Schendel said. “There’s nothing that I wanted more than to be able to impact other people.”
After passing the crown to the new Miss Washington, Schendel left for a well-deserved California vacation. She plans to return to school at Azusa Pacific University and obtain her degree in February.
Her long-term goal is to become a child advocacy lawyer.
“I have spent my whole life working with the youth, and really trying my best to help them see their potential and what they can do,” she said. “Becoming an attorney allows me to make really tangible change and help people in a very positive way.”
The longtime Newcastle resident has been vocal about her roots, often correcting people who said she was from Renton. In February, the Newcastle City Council presented Schendel with a proclamation recognizing her performance in the 2013 Miss America competition.
“I love being a Newcastle resident,” she said. “It’s great knowing that I can take my Yorkie on a walk and head over to the Coal Creek area and just really have a good time. It’s a perfect place for spending time with the people that you love in a positive environment.”