Laura Hajek, post pageant

laura hajek contestant video interview

Sheldon Crest and Laura Hajek.

Like a lot of people, we were amused and a little bit intrigued last week by Laura Hajek's bid (representing Glens Falls) for Miss New York USA. Her faux-interview contestant video was creative and playful, while her Laura Palmer-inspired photo was just kind of odd.

Laura seemed like just about the last person you'd expect to see competing in a pageant. But it looked like she was having fun playing the part -- which made it fun to watch. That she didn't end up as one of the finalists is sort of besides the point.

Curious to learn more about Laura and her experience in the pageant, we emailed with her this week -- about puppets, other pageant contestants, playing the part, and the Dougie.

laura hajek miss glens falls

What made you decide to enter the pageant? Have you done something like this before?

I entered the pageant on a whim with a desire to both win the crown in order to achieve my goal of creating an experimental theatre grant and amuse my friends and family with the absurdity of my choices. I had never competed in a state pageant before, but I didn't feel intimidated because of my background in the performing arts.

What sort of reaction did you get from your friends and family when you told them you were entering the pageant?

I am blessed to have remarkably support from my friends and family no matter what I undertake. It was with the help of the following artist collectives that I was able to compete in such a unique and distinctive way: The Ravacon Collective, Muckraker Productions and The Epoch. I was also lucky to have my promotional photo masterminded by one of the most well respected and talented photographers in New York City, Richard Gin.

Your contestant video was great. How'd that come about? Who were your collaborators? And where'd the idea for the puppet come from?

Thank you. Making the contestant video was a great deal of fun. We wanted to create a comedic video that poked fun at the simple nature of what is often viewed as an outmoded form of entertainment, pageantry. I worked with the Ravacon Collective under a tight schedule to bring Inside People with Sheldon Crest to fruition. Sheldon Crest is a brilliant journalist who is most often featured on Channel 616. In this video, he was managed by Jonathan Phelps and Nolan Murphy.

How was competing in the pageant? From a few things we've read and seen, the pageant world sounds like it can be... strange. And cutthroat.

Competing in Miss NY USA was bizarre. It could at times be exhausting with rehearsals scheduled from 7 am until 7 pm, but overall I had a remarkably positive experience. I was pleased to learn that many of the women who were competing had careers outside of pageantry and viewed the weekend as a means to helping them achieve their goals rather than an end in itself.

We kind of got the sense that you were playing a role in all this -- like it was Laura Hajek playing the role of "Laura Hajek, pageant contestant." What sort of approach did you have in mind?

For the video, I was hoping to tap into the charm that I remember seeing from interviews with the Muppets while incorporating a Lynchian edge. Throughout the competition I often found myself turning to my theatrical background to curb my cynical nature and completely allow myself to be filled with the desire to compete and win.

Pageants get a bad rap from a lot of people, that they're sexist and old fashioned. What's your take now that you've competed in one?

Pageants are old fashioned, but so am I. I'm not entirely certain if sexism should be a valid form of criticism for this event when participation is entirely voluntary, but that's something I'll have to work over in my head once the experience processes. All in all, I would suggest that most entertainment should be taken with a grain of salt.

What do you think you'll take from this experience?

I learned all sorts of popular dances such as the Dougie. I also made a remarkable connection with my community and am so grateful for the support I have received and the media attention. This is a wonderful time to be an artist. Stay tuned in for future shenanigans from the Ravacon collective.

This interview was conducted via email. It's been lightly edited.

By the way: The winner of this year's Miss New York USA crown was Johanna Sambucini, who was "Miss City of Dreams." Her previous work included a stint as Maxim's "office assistant" (they appear to have a very liberal dress code at that office).

Miss Capital Region, Brittany Jasenski, finished in the top 10.

Also: Miss New York USA is not the same thing as Miss New York, which is part of the Miss America system. We know how you like to keep these things straight.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Laura Hajek, Miss Glens Falls
+ Miss New York will have to settle for being beautiful, nerdy and kind of awesome

screengrabs: Miss New York USA / Ravacon Collective

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