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Alumna vies to become Miss Massachusetts

Joanne Chang
Joanne Chang

An MIT alumna who finds beauty in physics and mathematics will compete in the Miss Massachusetts 2005 pageant, to be held in Fall River, Mass., on June 24 and 25.

Joanne Chang (S.B. 2003) began rehearsing Monday, June 20, for the statewide contest, a preliminary to the national Miss America contest. If she should win, she will be following in the high-heeled footsteps of fellow alumna Erika Ebbel (S.B. 2004), who is the reigning Miss Massachusetts. This year, 16 women are contestants for the title and scholarship funds.

To qualify to enter the state pageant, contestants must win a preliminary local pageant. Chang won the Miss Collegiate Area contest in 2004 and is currently Miss Cape Ann 2005.

Life inside the pageant is not at all as it is portrayed in "Miss Congeniality," Chang said.

"Looking good is less important than having good self-confidence, which means understanding what your unique sense of self can offer the Miss Mass organization and judges and having a healthy sense of perspective. When is any movie an accurate depiction of real life?" Chang said.

Yet, the inner world of Miss Massachusetts is glamorous, she admitted. "You get to dress up, hang out with beautiful, intelligent women, and get fed constantly. It's a LOT of fun," she said.

She entered the race for Miss Massachusetts in 2004 and placed fourth runner-up, but had "so much fun that I decided to come back for another round," she said.

A life sciences management consultant for pharmaceutical and medical device companies, Chang sees her MIT experience as a good foundation for competing for scholarship funds presented to pageant winners.

"MIT forces discipline, hard work and finding fun in any situation. It made me relish challenges," she said. Korean-born but raised in Los Angeles, Chang originally competed for money to pay off her student loans, but discovered great fun and new friendships in the pageant process, she said.

"I've gotten so much more than financial aid from this program. I didn't think I would have quite this much fun. I've made some girlfriends that I will keep my whole life, relationships with very giving and selfless people who constantly inspire me and challenge me to continually give of myself," she said.

Chang, who enjoys running, likens preparing for the pageant to readying for an athletic event, such as a marathon, except that training includes piano practice, workouts, public speaking and interviews. The Miss Massachusetts contest features casual wear, swimwear and talent competitions.

Chang will play classical piano in the talent portion of the competition. Tap, jazz and lyrical dance, studio art and jazz and operatic vocals are among the other contestants' talents.

Every contestant must also have a platform, an issue she feels passionate about. Chang's platform is encouraging women in science and technology. Other platforms include Special Olympics, children's safety, American Sign Language and finding a cure for juvenile diabetes.

What if Chang wins on Saturday night? She said it would "completely change my life. I would shuffle priorities to prepare for Miss America, and travel around Massachusetts to promote my platform."

Even if Chang remains simply Miss Cape Ann 2005, she still has her sorority sisters, her friends, her job and her interests in the "fascinating, multidisciplinary, revolutionary technology within life sciences," she said.

As for beauty, well, Chang sees that everywhere.

"Science, especially physics and its evolution, including special and general relativity, is very, very beautiful. Beauty is inherent in everyone's world, and comes in so many different forms and shapes and sizes," she said.

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