WHEN LEIGH-TAYLOR SMITH competes in the 2009 Miss America pageant as Miss New York, she will own a debt of gratitude to Kimberly Thomas. With all the recent publicity surrounding the Miss Brooklyn contest, which Smith won before going on to become Miss New York, it is interesting to note that until this February, there had been no Miss Brooklyn pageant for 16 years. That hiatus started when its director, Linda Carbo, left to become executive director of the Miss New York pageant.
KIMBERLY THOMAS, as Miss Brooklyn’s new executive director, is changing all that.
The former beauty pageant competitor and Fort Greene resident, now a stay-at-home mom, adopted the revival of the Miss Brooklyn contest as her personal quest. In a recent interview, Thomas cited a number of Miss America contestants from the past several years who hailed from Brooklyn, but never held the borough title. However, in a reverse situation, when 22-year-old Leigh-Taylor Smith recently won, many blogs, and this column, noted that she wasn’t even from Brooklyn. But Thomas says this wasn’t just a case of mistaken identity.
“The Miss America pageant rule is that if you have less than five contestants, you can’t have a contest,” said Thomas.
So when the Brooklyn applicants began dropping out of the competition, she decided to open it to all residents of New York. Even with the rule expansion, there were a total of just seven contestants, only three of whom resided in Brooklyn.
“I just wanted to make sure we had a Miss Brooklyn contest,” she said. “And we did.”
Frank Gehry’s Miss Brooklyn tower may have been a failed project in its original form, but Miss Brooklyn — the woman — is anything but. Yet similarities between the two Miss Brooklyns don’t end with their name, as controversy has also stuck with Smith since she captured the title of Miss Brooklyn — both from the issue of her Manhattan address and more recently, questioning the authenticity of her “assets.”
Smith originally hails from Virginia, and only moved to New York a little more than a year ago after receiving her bachelor’s degree at the University of Virginia. She currently works in Manhattan as an interior designer. Having lived in the city for more than a year, she met one of the pre-requisites for the citywide contest — contestants must either have permanent residency in the city, be a full-time student or a full-time employee.
Smith does have a connection with Brooklyn, as a parishioner at the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church at Fulton Mall.
For all the backlash against her, Smith has been handling the situation professionally, according to Paul Brown, co-executive director of the Miss New York pageant.
“People recognize her, people notice her,” said Brown.
Smith competed on a platform of supporting mandatory volunteerism among high school students, and is looking forward to putting her $7,000 scholarship from the contest towards graduate studies at Parsons, the New School for Design. If she wins the national Miss America pageant in January in Las Vegas, Smith will set a new record, since no Miss Brooklyn has ever captured the Miss America title. The last queen of Kings County, Marisol Montalvo, also became Miss New York in 1991 and was the first runner-up in the Miss America pageant in 1992.
Despite this year’s contest’s success, Thomas says the borough pageant next year will be “100 percent Brooklyn.”
— Kathy Wang
ON THURSDAY, AUGUST 28, BAM ROSE CINEMAS will screen “The Other Side of the Water,” a documentary about the 20-year journey of music, spirituality and activism in the Haitian-American community — told through the eyes of a roots-based walking band in Brooklyn. Screenings will be at 4:30, 6:50, and 9:15. A Q & A with filmmakers Jeremy Robins (director, co-producer) and Magali Damas (co-producer) will follow the first two shows, with an after-party after the 9:15 show at Frank’s Lounge. Tickets $10 on sale after August 15 at www.bam.org.
IN OTHER NEWS:
PARK SLOPE’S NORMAN ODER, the man on a mission behind AtlanticYardsReport.blogspot.com, says word has arrived from controversial developer Bruce Ratner (delivered to his shareholders) that the best case scenario timeline for the Atlantic Yards arena projects it opening mid-2011.
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BROOKLYN RABBI MEYER LUBIN, who was wrongly charged more than $5,000 in medical bills, won’t have to pay a cent due to rescue by Rep. Anthony Weiner. Medicare should have covered 85-year-old Rabbi Lubin, who’s currently residing in an assisted living home, but an error on his Medicare card made Lubin responsible for the costs of an April 2007 visit to Sloan-Kettering. Rep. Weiner petitioned on behalf of Lubin, calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to correct the problem, which was accomplished in late June. Lubin thanked Weiner: “After my many calls and letters to Medicare — all unsuccessful — you have done a great accomplishment. Thank you!”
AIR FORCE AIRMAN JOSHUA D. ALVARADO, a 2005 graduate of Cobble Hill High School, has graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas … Air Force Airman JOHN J. NIOLA, a 2007 graduate of Franklyn Roosevelt High School, has graduated from basic military training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas … Army Pvt. OLIVER W. MONCK, a 2007 graduate of Fort Hamilton High School, has graduated from the Infantryman One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Columbus, Ga. … Army Pvt. TERRELL B. HOLLEY, a 2004 graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School, has graduated from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C.