May 2005: Marina Harrison, "Miss Maryland" x 2

There's the Miss America pageant, and then there's the Miss U.S.A. pageant -- similar contests, but separate titles and organizations. You might be surprised to learn how many women have entered both of them at the state level and succeeded. We were surprised when a woman we posted on our Hot List as third runner-up in Miss America 2004 turned up at Miss U.S.A. 2005, and again did well with a "top ten" finish.

MARINA HARRISON won the title Miss Maryland in both competitions, so there's little question about her beauty (yes, we know -- Miss America is not a "beauty pageant"). But what surprised us was how she changed her hairstyle between the two national pageants. The Miss U.S.A. look is above, and won broad support in a Cutting-Edge Hair News poll we posted. But then Harrison surprised us again -- writing us while the poll was in progress! It turns out she loves our site, and we love her styles. So she was happy to answer our e-mail questions about her hair:

SUPER-HAIR: First of all, congratulations on being Miss Maryland TWICE! Have you been able to check whether that's ever happened before -- or with someone competing (and doing so well) at both Miss America and Miss U.S.A.?

MARINA HARRISON: Crossovers between the two systems happen all the time--in fact six of the Miss USA delegates this year were former Miss America contestants or state title holders. My groundbreaking comes in as a Marylander. I am the first Maryland woman to do it. It is quite rare that a contestant would do as well as I did in both systems--so I am very grateful for that.

S-H: When did you decide to change from the 2003 "Miss America" look [left] -- and why did you decide to make a change?

MH: I changed my Miss America look at the conclusion of my reign as Miss Maryland 2003. I loved the layers and the "classic look" and but also during my year- I wanted to be recognizable and be the person everyone saw on TV. As summer approached I went for a shorter cropped look that just breezed my chin and loved it. No layers no fuss--just fullness--which I love. When I knew I was going to compete for Miss Maryland USA by summer's end, I knew I had to go long again--but even longer for the glamour. Miss USA is known for its high-fashion, trendy looking women. I wanted to silken my hair straight so I could get some movement out of it (which is very important to me when I'm working the stage). Also without the fuss of layers and curls, I felt the judges could just focus on me and facial or physical beauty. The Farouk Systems stylists as Miss USA CHI-ironed me to the max. I loved it.

S-H: We can't resist asking -- did you vote in our Cutting-Edge Hair News poll about your styles? And if you did, which way? 

MH: I did vote and I voted for my Miss USA style. Although I loved my Miss America style--the movement, the comfort of having layers so no hair is out of place--I prefer my simpler look today. I also have grown attached to my current longer length.

S-H: How would you describe your current style?

MH: Long, silkened, straight, no layers with some natural highlights.

S-H: What do you like about your current style? (Is there anything you dislike about it?)

MH: I love the simplicity of my hair style. It allows people to go directly to my face--and hair second. I love wearing a high ponytail with large hoop earrings to look playful. The only thing I dislike about my style is that it often comes across as looking more serious that I really am.

S-H: Is your hair naturally straight, or do you use something to relax it?

MH: I relax my hair every eight weeks--and ceramic flat iron it in between.

S-H: What's the biggest problem you face keeping your hair in place? Is the current style easier to control than the old one?

MH: My bangs are a bit shorter than I would like (damaged and broken off from heat/styling in these pageants) so they are always my flyaways.

S-H: We found a few photos from the Miss U.S.A. activities, where you wore some sort of hat outside (such as at the Ravens' stadium). Do you prefer that approach for hair control, or do you prefer to use pins and tiebacks?

MH: You will find me in hats, berets, and baseball caps throughout the year. I love hats. I hardly use hair accessories like pins or tiebacks--and only ponytail it if I am working out or I'm going out with friends and the elements (humidity) call for control.

S-H: Do you use any specific treatments to keep your hair in place? (Spray, gel, curl, etc.) What's your routine in getting ready for a public appearance, or a pageant?

MH: I hardly use any product. I try to keep my hair nice and light--but always shiny. For pageants-- body and fullness and movement are a must for me. I don't like to be able to see through my hair.

S-H: Are there differences in how women should approach a Miss America pageant, as opposed to Miss U.S.A.? Does one pageant emphasize appearance (such as hair) more than the other? And do you feel you had to make a style change, for the second competition?

MH: The Miss America program (when I competed) was more about the classic beauty or "girl next door." Miss USA is more about what current trendy style suits you best and emphasizes or enhances your beauty. I did feel I needed to make a change in my style--because the nature of the Miss USA job is much different than Miss America (a spokesperson)--Miss USA (a print/runway model). Hair is more important in Miss USA....a cute sassy cut would stand out...You would be hard pressed to find short hair at Miss USA.

S-H: We like a quote we found, where you told young people "smarts" matter most of all. We have a theory that the most intelligent women tend to have the best, top-quality hairstyles. Do you think that's true?

MH: No. I think some of the most powerful intelligent women in this country, need hair makeovers. I am constantly changing my style and reinventing myself because I know as a black woman my hair is my "crown and glory." Not all women put that kind of priority on their hair--especially in corporate America they just need something easy to work with every day. I think smart women pick some of the most sensible styles--but they often get stuck in a rut and routine wearing the rollers every night, etc. ---never branching out to trends. More women need to take risks with their hair. I know it is appreciated at work and at home when someone takes pride in their appearance. I work in P.R. and have a huge mirror at my desk (primarily for my hair) because I know how important appearance is in my job.

S-H: When was the last time your current style fell into your eyes in public? How did it happen?

MH: Every now and then I pull out my bangs--love them and I don't mind them grazing my eyes-- I think it can be sexy. Also, I do a lot of public speaking and when I get really into my speeches--and the venue gets warm...I often end up walking out completely different than the way I came in. Wind, rain, humidity my hair falls to it all. I've learned to keep it simple and straight because curls change into frizzy Afros.

S-H: You talked about "pulling out your bangs" every now and then. We've been amazed by how some celebrities "hide" their bangs well -- and we never know they're there unless a rough situation reveals them. How do you keep your bangs hidden most of the time?

MH: That is a great question. Hiding my bangs does take some maneuvering. Often times I will use a product that smooths and holds my bang straight back and out of my face. At other times I will strategically part my hair (part on my left- since my bangs favor my right side) and blend them into my longer hair (as I did for Miss USA). It takes some ceramic ironing sometimes for the bangs to really "fuse" into the longer hair but it gives it a nice, smooth, consistent and slightly eye covering looking. I'll keep my hair on my left side (near the part) tucked behind my ear or combed backward, and allow the right side to lay down on my temple and cheek. Make sense?

S-H: What advice would you give someone who wanted to develop Super-Hair?

MH: Do--look in magazines. Do--be patient and grow it out a bit. Know--your hair texture..not everyone can do layers or highlights. Do--be experimental but ALWAYS condition--and condition often. Healthy hair is most important.

S-H: Whom would you consider to have the best head of hair you've ever seen?

MH: I love Oprah's fullness-- I love Halle Berry's sleek straight Oscar look. I love Gabrielle Union's practical, classy looks.

S-H: With your twin state titles and top finishes at national pageants, we suspect there's a long line of men who would desire to spend time with you. Are you "attached" to anyone at the moment?

MH: Haha..there are a few prospects but I am single and ready to the moment.

SUMMARY: If you want to succeed in pageants or with hair, there's nothing quite like "expert advice" -- and Marina obviously is an expert in both areas. She confirms what you probably suspected about the differences between Miss America and Miss U.S.A., and how to approach each one. And if you read carefully, she even gave away how our Crown Awards got their name!

But we hope this double champion doesn't mind if we focus on her hair first and her face second -- as each complements the other, and one is quite well prepared to call attention to the other. Keep taking those hair risks, Marina. Keep finding new tricks to keep styles looking great. And please don't disappear behind that big mirror - because we want to keep admiring the results.

(Special thanks to the Miss Maryland USA pageant for several pictures of Marina's style.)


More Interviews, in the Super-Hair Q&A Archive

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