Running for Miss USA, a Cinderella story

On a balmy Saturday afternoon in Miami Beach, a fairytale was being rewritten.

The Cinderella in question was not in glass slippers, but in black patent leather Yves Saint Laurent platforms, and the men wielding pins at her feet were far from mice; they are famous dressmakers from Venezuela, flown in for the day’s fitting. There was no wicked stepmother, just her real mother, sitting on a couch with pride brimming in her eyes as her daughter walked around the room in a makeshift gown. For this Cinderella dreams do not end at midnight.

Meet senior Mackenzie Green. As a broadcast journalism and sports administration double major, she hopes to one day be a broadcaster for ESPN. And she’s also in the running for Miss USA 2010, with the Miss DC crown already in her possession.

“I really do love all sports,” she said, doing away with any misconception that this pageant hopeful is all about primping and prissiness. She has played sports all her life, and was a competitive swimmer and horseback rider throughout high school.

Along with her academic goals and new pageantry dreams, Green is thoroughly involved on campus. She’s the station manager for UMTV, a member of UM Ambassadors, a reporter for SportsDesk and she’s involved in USport. It’s a balancing act that she’s been perfecting for years and, so far, it has not overwhelmed her.

“If I’m involved with it, I’m going to do the best job I can for it,” she said.

Being so involved on campus led her to Greek life. She rushed and became a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

“I picked a school where I didn’t know anyone,” she said with a laugh. “What crazier idea than to join a sorority?”

Green likes to surprise people, and she did just that by running a marathon and becoming Miss DC without missing a beat at school.

“No one expected it,” she said, “I had what you call a 1/8 life crisis. I ran a marathon. Everyone wanted to know what would be the next thing I did. The next thing we know, I’m Miss DC and headed to Vegas.”

You would think she was a seasoned veteran.

“Nope,” she said, “I’ve never done a pageant. Never walked in heels for more than [a couple] hours. Never did my hair or make-up.”

It seems that Green is all about momentum, especially when building toward a goal she has her sight set on.

“It was something I wanted to do,” she said. “I see. I want. I get.”

If there is fear of failure in Green, she does not show it often. Her confidence is almost a physical attribute; you see it in her posture and hear it in her voice.

“I had this dream for the longest time and made it happen,” she said. “People try and sometimes fall short. This will be the second time I’ve ever [been in a pageant] and I’m just going to go out there as myself.”

She hopes that when other girls see that this is her first try at pageantry, they might feel encouraged to try new things as well.

“I used to watch a pageant and want to be that girl,” she said. “I hope some 5-year-old girl can look at me and think ‘I can do this too.’”

Her mother, Phyllis Green, believes that Mackenzie’s “Greenness” is what will take her to the top.

“Mackenzie’s a genuine person and she’s not jaded by this process. This is her first run at this, and she’s not calculating the event. She’s going on pure joy right now, just pure joy,” she said. “And it doesn’t hurt that we’ve assembled the best team you can possibly have.”

The team includes a dress maker, a PR person and a world-renowned pageant coach.

Coach Grace Fontecha has been in the business for years, with back-to-back Miss Universe titles under her belt for past competitors she has trained. In fact, she recently made the Guinness Book of World Records for her consecutive wins and, with Mackenzie, she’s ready strike again.

“I’ve never trained two women the same,” Fontecha said. “But I do always perfect the look from the inside to the outside. After you have gained self-esteem and showed your personality, we can work on the walk and appearance.”

While she has no doubt in Mackenzie’s potential to win, she did say that the situation was atypical.

“It takes years [to prepare for such a pageant],” Fontecha said. “We’re doing it in two weeks.”

Not only has Green made a change in her own life course, but she hopes to prove that some dreams may not be too farfetched to attain. She compares herself to the Disney Channel character “Hannah Montana” (though, make no mistake, she’s always been more of a “Lizzie McGuire” fan)- someone who can have the best of both worlds: a college education and a chance for the crown.

In short, Mackenzie Green is making a name for herself with her pure drive and motivation.

“By the time I graduate, you will know who I am,” she said.

Nicole Adlman may be contacted at