Ah, Miss America week in it's original home: Atlantic City! I felt like I had made a pilgrimage to a sacred shrine. Or found the mother ship. An entire town filled with pageant fans couldn't be bad. Right?
Right! And also a little wrong.
Now, I'm not one to write a bad review. Anyone can have a bad day. But the hotel we stayed at was scary. Like the Overlook Hotel in "The Shining" kind of scary. Name a crime, any crime. It was being committed in the lobby. We have photos of the blood to prove it. Our room looked like something out of a Tarantino film. Only, I'm pretty sure the vomit wasn't a Hollywood effect. I can't say for certain that someone had died in that room; but we were fortunate to have neighbors throwing a bash, and the smell of their party favors wafting into our suite really helped mask the smell of death. I'm also positive we paid off the mafia on more than one occasion (for "protection"), and we aren't sorry. Money well spent.
Yet, there we were in a suite on the top floor. Every hotel jam packed with pageant fans and contestants' families. No switching rooms, much less hotels. And we had a dozen young women coming to see us for their headshots while we were in town.
ACNJ has it's problems, and if you have been, you're pretty aware of them. But, if you look a little deeper, you see the marvelous history. And if you squint a little, you can visualize it through the eyes of a visitor at the turn of last century. What a destination it must have been for families! You could experience the whole world on that wooden walkway. Oddities, foreign foods, a ferris wheel, the smell of the ocean. It had to have been unlike any other place on the planet. When I think of it, I don't see casinos. I see an adventure and a true piece of Americana.
So enough about the bad stuff that went down. Here is the GOOD stuff:
1. We could see the Miss America "Show Us Your Shoes!" parade right outside of our hotel room. We knew when to dart downstairs and see the contestants drive down the boardwalk, kicking up their custom made heels! It was adorable, and I can see why lifelong pageant fans wanted to bring the tradition back. So very Miss America!
2. I got to shoot on the beach twice! Once at sunrise with a sweet young woman that we have known for a few years. Mikaela custom makes shell crowns, and she donned one for a seaside queen of the sea shoot. I will never regret getting up before the sun and filling our shoes with sand. There was something really serene about being the only ones on the beach. And when the sun decided to rise, it was really beautiful.
The other shoot was at night, right before the fireworks. Alia brought along her pointe shoes and a couple of costumes, and Marina had some beautiful outfits and a super sexy black bikini. We somehow talked our way into an outdoor bar, and somehow further talked them into letting Marina get into their pool right before the fireworks. We had the best time with these girls! I won't go into exactly what all went down that night, but it ended with us being chased four blocks by some crazed fans and a confused bouncer. We ran until the coast was clear and then stopped to laugh. Really hard. Then vowed to never speak of it again. I didn't spill any details, so this doesn't count.
3. We did headshots for some AMAZING young women in our suite! And we met a makeup team that I really hope to get to work with again. Nicole, you are awesome and so are your partners. They made these girls feel like royalty. And we are happy to say that we made a lot of friends that day and took some beautiful photos as a bonus.
**EDITED FOR A SIDE NOTE** One of these women was Brittinay Nicolette, who became Miss Maryland USA 2018! She got 1st runner up in 2017, came back, and took the crown! We are so proud to be your friend!
4. We took the long way home one day early. Yep. We left the morning of the final competition. Didn't even stay for the show! Stopped in the mountains of Tennessee at one of our favorite spots, ordered our favorite whole wheat crust pizza, and watched the show from our very non-Tarantinoesque room. It was heaven. And one of my favorite days ever.
I did write a very descriptive review of our stay and sent it to hotel management when we got home. If reviews were novels, my poetic rundown of our stay would be on the best sellers list. It was all over cyberspace. People in Sweden were refusing to ever stay there, even though they never really had plans to visit Atlantic City. The manager felt my writing was entertaining, yet completely horrifying, much like a Stephen King novel. She refunded the bulk of our charges, and invited us to stay with them again for free.
Too late. It is now an empty lot. Demolished pretty much before I could respond with my decline to take her up on her very nice offer.