Monday, June 29, 2009


Fourteen hours after I was crowned Miss Vermont 2008 I was at my very first appearance. Through my excitement and adrenaline a sincere realization came to light. Young girls were looking up at me saying “I want to be just like her.” It was then the enormity of my responsibilities hit me.

Favorite moments of my reign include singing at Fenway Park on Vermont Day, winning my Preliminary Talent night at Miss America, working with eco-friendly gown designer Tara Lynn on the first Green Gown to grace the Miss America competition, registering voters at college and high school campuses around the state, filming Countdown to the Crown in Los Angeles, making appearances with Miss America and cheering on Blaize in Orlando, visiting over 20 Elementary and Junior High Schools writing anti-tobacco legislation with the students, singing at the TD Banknorth Garden for the Boston Celtics, and many many more.
It is hard to believe a young woman can have all these experiences in one year. I have been truly blessed by my involvement in this organization. The places I have been and the things I have done could not have been possible without some very special people.

Voice coach extraordinaire Shyla Nelson helped me to connect vocally and spiritually to not only every performance but to everyday life. Shyla’s countless training sessions and friendship were a gift from above. From the very first session I knew I would blossom and grow vocally from her technique and her presence in my life.

The best trainer in the state is Mr. David Chess, and I am lucky enough to call him mine. As my trainer, psychologist, nutritionist, and friend David has seen me at my best and worst many times with no make-up, no energy, and sometimes…little patience. He donated hundreds of hours of one-on-one training to me in his semi-private facility in South Burlington. I am proud that Exercise America is the gym of Miss Vermont!

My fuel-efficient Suzuki SX4 saw me to every corner of this state and even appearances all over New England. The generosity and patience of the team at Quality Suzuki in Saint Johnsbury including Shelley and Mike Martin and owner Able Toll is unparalleled. I am proud to recommend their dealership to anyone looking into a new vehicle.

The Lyndon Area Chamber of Commerce was my financial saving grace this year. The Lyndon Chamber stepped up and provided me with an unsolicited$1000 in gas cards which I am so pleased to say have lasted me the rest of my reign. This generosity was one of the greatest surprises and assistance of my year.

I have always believed that God puts people in our lives purposefully. God knew I would be Miss Vermont someday and knew I would need people to support me during my year like my home away from home family, the Heroux’s. Without their flexibility, hospitality, and generosity I would not have made as many appearances as I did this year. Thank you for opening your home and hearts to me.

The Miss Vermont Board of Directors under the leadership of Amy, Sarah Jo ,and Hannah has seen tremendous growth in only five years. Thank you to the Board for being there when I needed you. Thank you to Hannah for organizing my voter registration drive and Barb for scheduling countless appearances and school visits. Thank you Sue Lackey for your assistance in wardrobe, packing, and walking leading up to Miss America.

To all my friends and family that supported me here in the state and travelled to Las Vegas to cheer me on including Amanda, Dan, Grammy Ruth, Gram Fay, Aunt Liz, SMC pals, and hometown crowd…to name a few…your enthusiasm helps me to look back on this whirlwind year and know just how loved I am. My cheering section at Miss America was loud and passionate and I loved every second of it! Thank you for being there.

Michael, relationships can sometimes fall by the wayside during a woman’s reign. No matter how busy or stressed I could be you were there to pick up the pieces and how you do that even via phone and skype is a real mystery. You were more supportive and steady than I could have asked for. Thank you for your love, commitment, and patience as I chased my dreams.
Finally, Mom and Dad. When I left your home nine years ago you quoted Leann Wolmack and told me “When you get the choice to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance. “ I know you meant that and so here I am, dancing through life everyday, following my heart and chasing my dreams. Because of you I won’t look back at my life and wonder ‘what if?’ You are my greatest blessing and reason I am who I am and do what I do. I only pray that every child should have the foundation in life you have layed for me.

With gratitude I say goodbye to an amazing chapter in my life. May the next Miss Vermont have a full and blessed reign.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Last Week as Miss VT!

WOW. WOW. WOW. It is with bittersweet emotion I inform my blog followers that there are 4 days left in my reign. It is time to move on and continue to follow the path set for me. There is so much I am grateful for. This year seems like several jam packed into one. How can one woman have all these experiences in such a short amount of time? I am blessed. I feel as though I have learned so much about myself and become more of the woman I want to be.

I can't help but think about my fellow Miss America Class of 2009. In the last few weeks and in the coming month they will all crown another with their job. To each of you I send my blessings. Thank you for gracing my experiences in Orlando, LA, and of course Las Vegas.

I have just completed recording my farewell speech. What a task condensing 14 months into 4 minutes! Those of you who have made an impact in my year know who you are and know what it means to me. Thank you to my voice coach Shyla Nelson, personal trainer David Chess, Gown Designer Tara Lynn, car dealership Quality Suzuki, my SMCers who came to Vegas!, my hometown crowd to came to Vegas and cheered me on from home, my South Carolina and Flordia family, my Michael, Amanda, Dan, Gram Ruth, Gram Fay, Aunt Liz, the Heroux's and of course Mom and Dad. I could not have done all I did this year without your support.

The Miss Vermont Pageant is at the Barre Opera House on Saturday at 7pm. The teen pageant is at 2pm. I would love to see you there as we crown Miss Vermont 2009!

With Blessings,

Sunday, June 14, 2009

American luck in Boston

Well gang. Thank you for hanging in there with me through this crazy weekend. I appreciate all the support, e-mail, texts, etc. from the bottom of my heart.

Here's how it went. I got up and made-up at 3:30am. Left from the hotel to the stadium at 4:30am. It sounds sketchy but I invited two others with American Idol wrist bands to join me in my car so they didn't have to buy a cab. It worked out great because they were two super great people from NYC, Adam and Lauren. After we arrived at the stadium they joined me in line the whole 4 hours we waited (again) in the rain outside Gillette. At one point I wasn't sure they were letting any more contestants in. At last, in yet another monsoon we walked through the gate.

I was lucky to have been in the second section called up to audition. My wait time after the initial promo shots and Ryan Seacrest's "This is American Idol" schpeel was about two hours. When it was my section's turn we were lined up four by four and stood in front of twelve different judges' tents. The judges/producers would call a group of four forward and each person would sing for about 25 seconds or until they got the hand in the air. When it was my turn I belted out 30 seconds of Martin McBride's Anyway and the producer had a big smile on her face. She said "wow...have you ever auditioned before?" I said no and that I was super happy to be there. When the other three finished their songs she told the others goodbye and asked me to step aside. She wanted me to audition for another producer. About five minutes later a rather miserable man came and barked at me to "go!" I thought be meant leave but he actually meant sing. So I sang for him. Same song. And nailed it. I thought for sure I was getting a golden ticket but no. He quickly said that I was not what they were looking for. I was disappointed because the first producer seemed very enthusiastic and I could tell she wanted to put me through. The other producer seemed rushed and unhappy. Anyway, I left the stadium. Maybe Idol is meant to be? Sure am glad I gave it a shot! Quick synopsis, I know, but I am exhausted!

Again, thank you all who have followed this journey. I have two weeks left in my reign of Miss Vermont 2008. I am looking forward to singing the Anthem at the Governor's Cup at Thunder Road in two weeks and all the festivities that accompany pageant week!

With Love & Gratitude,

Friday, June 12, 2009

Registration Day!

Friends, I write from sunny, 73 degree, Lyndonville, Vermont. In stark contrast to my morning I am relaxed, warm, and content.

At 2:45am I woke up at Jill's house in Scituate. I got all dolled up as I do and headed for Foxboro. I arrived at the mighty stadium very early. By 4:30am my umbrella and I were standing in a line of hundreds soakingly awaiting the 7am start of American Idol Season 9 Registration. Although I was a little sad to be braving the storm alone I soon realized that meeting new people is one of the best parts of the journey. Duh Ashley! In a monsoon at approximately 4:35am (I was counting minutes that's how bored I was) I met three lovely women who would stand in line for hours with me. Stephanie, Caroline and Caroline's Mom, Kathleen, were entertainment, comedy, and rain shields. YAY! Lucky for me, Stephanie has auditioned before and therefore explained the process to me. There is soooo much we don't see on TV and soooo much I did not know. For instance...
1. Today's registration is totally chill. All you do is walk up to a table one by one, show 2 forms of ID and receive a wristband and ticket. The ticket is an actual ticket to Gillette.
2. After you register you leave and return Sunday by 5am.
3. Obviously I don't know first hand what happens next but i am told that we will sit in our assigned seats and section by section will be called onto the field. In fours singers will approach one of twelve tables. Each singer will step forward and sing about 20 seconds a song of their choice a capella. The producers at the table will then instruct who is to move on and repeat a similar scenario for another set of producers. Imagine lots of people singing at the same time. You can be asked to leave at anytime and you are not guaranteed the opportunity to sing if your section is not called. IF you make it through all sets of producers and they are still interested you will be asked to come back in two weeks for an audition/interview with the executive producers. IF they like what you can bring to the show you will come back later in the summer and sing for the celebrity panel you see on TV.

I was only in line for 3 the dot. Out of my car at 4:29am and back in my car at 7:29am! Pretty good. I was one of the first few hundred people to register and the line behind me was ohhh so long. Soooo glad I got up early. I decided to drive back to Northern Vermont to have a quiet 24 hours. I will drive down tomorrow and stay in Foxboro to make sure I am at the stadium by 5am! I am really looking forward to Sunday.

Oh and one more thing...everyone keeps asking me what I am going to sing. I have prepared several short snippets of my favorite songs. Sometimes you are asked to sing more than one. I will be starting out with a 20 second clip of Martina McBride's Anyway.

Please keep me in your thoughts for Sunday. I will graciously accept any positive energy you can send my way.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

American Idol...HERE. I. COME!

Friends...another journey is about to begin. It may be short. It may be long. It WILL be interesting.
Tomorrow I leave for Boston. I will spend tomorrow night with my dear south shore gal Jill only to wake before the sun Friday morning and make my coffee-mug-filled way to Foxboro. (In honor of my boyfriend Michael I will refer to Gillette Stadium as Foxboro. He refuses to call stadiums by their new names.) American Idol's webpage claims that the coveted wristbands will be handed out starting at 7am Friday morning. I will be there early to brave the storm with the rest of the season 9 hopefuls.
I have no idea how this audition process works. There are bits and pieces of information on the webpage but nothing finite or even clear. I am vowing to update you all throughout the process. Best case scenario, I get a wristband by afternoon on Friday and can relax and rest up for an early morning for audition day Sunday. Okay Okay maybe one quick trip to the Wrentham outlets is in order ;).
Until next time,
Think "Golden Ticket"!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I am a blog slacker. In typical slacker form I will list excuses like my momma told me never to do. Top Excuses... Excuse #4. I had no idea anyone read my blog anymore until someone told me last night they were missing my posts. Excuse #3. After all the pre-Miss America hub bub, life as Miss Vermont is still swinging but not nearly as interesting. Excuse #2. I am trying to avoid answering the "What are you going to do now?" question. Excuse #1. Miss NY Leigh-Taylor Smith has hands down the BEST BLOG IN THE WORLD and I don't want to try to compete with that awesomeness. None the less, I will update those supporters still interesting in the extra months of my 14 month reign.

This time of year is about enjoying appearances and being fully present. I take pride in the fact that when I am at an appearance my mind is not racing through a list of ten things that will immediately follow the event. I am completely present which makes me feel like these extra two months of my reign are a true blessing. This Friday is the big Miss Vermont Scholarship Organization Fundraiser with Medium and Intuitive Counselor, Nan O'Brien, 8pm to 11pm at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center. I will be performing two vocal selections and the public in attendance will get to meet the young women vying for my job. Best part...I get to meet them too! I can't wait. Next week will wrap up my Right Decisions Right Now appearances. My last will be next Friday. I look forward to another day with the students.

Now down to business. Where to go from here? At least once a day someone will ask where my life is going next. I think they are expecting some grand answer of fame and fortune. Hmmm...actually...maybe that is just the voice inside my head. Usually when faced with this question I will make a joke. For instance last week I answered by saying with a straight face that I plan on living off my trust fund just traveling the world and seeing every beach possible. (KIDDING...there is nothing close to a trust fund in my life...but the love and support of my Mom, Dad, and boyfriend is close enough) I answer the question with humor to avoid the inevitable "I don't know". It's not that I don't know, more that I don't know for sure. What I do know is that I was born to do something big. Is that arrogant to say? Not sure but the truth is that there is a little voice inside my head telling me to go big or stay home! SOOOOOO...I will be auditioning for American Idol in Boston this summer. Woohooooooo! Really that is the only update. My number one job application is with American Idol. Crazy life.

As always thank you to everyone for your interest and support. Resumes available :).

Your Miss VT

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Right Decisions Right Now is calm after the storm! There has been a nice lull since Miss America. I am not sure if I am doing less appearances or just seem less busy because I am not preparing with mock interviews, voice lessons, and training? This year is a bit of a roller coaster. I woke up this morning with a pit in my stomach that in a few months I will no longer be Miss Vermont. In some ways that seems liberating and in other ways it seems horrifying.

This week is packed with Right Decisions Right Now appearances. These school appearances have proved to be the most rewarding appearances this year. I have been constantly amazed at the critical thinking skills of these young Vermont students. They seem ahead of where my peers and I were in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. I had a great school appearance in Southern Vermont on Friday. The students seemed genuinely interested and engaged and that makes my job a lot easier! When we were discussing anti-tobacco legislation in small groups one student had an opinion different from the rest of the group and instead of being peer pressured into changing his mind, he stood his ground and calmly explained why he felt the way he did. It was the perfect opportunity to talk to the group about respecting other's opinions and standing up for what you believe in. That day made me excited for the schools coming up this week.

Think Spring!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Miss America and Beyond...

I must be honest. I have been dreading writing this post. I want to update readers on the amazing time that was Miss America 2009 and what I have been up to after but there is simply too much to tell. I am not sure where I should begin...

Send-off seems like a good start. One and a half weeks prior to leaving for Las Vegas my mother had put together a fabulous afternoon with friends, family, supporters, and board members at my alma mater, Saint Michael's College. I want to thank all the people who came out for it. It was a thrill to see each facet of my life represented from family, church, childhood, high school, college, and beyond. Our Miss Vermont emcee, Dana Rosengard, serenaded me with a personalized version of the song I won state with, The Prayer. It (of course) brought tears to my eyes!

Fast forward, a week and I was home packing for Miss America. I felt ready. I was not nervous and I think that was because I already knew and loved the other ladies so much. It felt like I was going away to see my friends. Arriving in Las Vegas was exciting. However, the days were long and tiring. Some highlights were...learning our opening number which I loved, watching Barack Obama's inaguration on the jumbotron outside of Planet Hollywood with the rest of the MU group, having my best childhood friend surprise me by coming to competition, and the big thrill...winning talent!...

I did not go to Miss America thinking I would win talent. In fact, I was a bit bummed about the talent portion of competition because I wanted to sing what I sang at Miss Vermont which was The Prayer in English and Italian. However, 5 weeks prior to Miss America the office informed me that they could not get clearance for the song. My (amazing) voice coach and I had a heart to heart and decided to go with the song that I sang at Fenway Park in July because it got such a great response. That song was God Bless America. Since I didn't have very much time and I liked singing the song without music, we decided it was best to sing the song a cappella. I felt great the day of talent. It is my favorite phase of competition. It was surreal and powerful to step on that stage to a totally silent theater. The decision to sing without music was risky but in the moment made the performance from my side of the stage...powerful. I soaked in every moment, every note, and every breathe. If I could do it everyday of my life, I would. When it came time for awards, I knew I was in a very very talented group of women. I was pleased with my performance but knew it could be anyone's award and scholarship. They announced the swimsuit winner as my dear friend, Miss NY, and then moved onto talent. And the winner of tonight's talent competition and the recipient of a $2000 scholarship is...Miss....VERMONT!" Leigh-Taylor jumped in the air and I ran to the center of the stage to give her a huge hug! Not only did I win talent but I was sharing the spotlight with one of my favorite people in the world! Miss Vermont has never won a preliminary night...ever! It was an honor to break that record. Seeing my friends and family at visitation was the greatest thrill. I was overjoyed that so many of my friends took time from their jobs to support me. It wouldn't have been the same without them!

Saturday's Miss America Live was a bit anticlimactic. I was hoping after winning talent I would be called into the top 11. Yet, that was not the way the cookie crumbled. It was still fun to see my friends up there with the dream of being crowned Miss America still alive! And after the competition was over I found out I won non-finalist talent for another $1000 scholarship. It was a great ten days.

So what now? Coming home from being at Miss America is an adjustment. But is feels great to be back in the Green Mountian State. I still have Right Decision Right Now apperances to do and lots of travel planned for the Spring. I met with my amazing voice coach, Miss Shyla Nelson, today and we are working on the first steps toward a demo. Exciting stuff.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the family, friends, and supporters who watched the reality show and live pageant to support me. I could feel your energy and appreciate it!

Blessings to You and Yours,

p.s. I almost forgot yesterday I was honored at the State House by the Secretary of State, with the Enduring Democracy Award for my work on my platfrom. They even invited me to sing at the ceremony. Former Governor and former Democratic Committee Chairman Howard Dean spoke and the afternoon was filled with acknowledging those who contributed on a state level to democracy in America.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ashley Wheeler to wear an eco-friendly, locally made gown FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 30, 2008Contact: Hannah Nelson Manley - (802) 296-1649 LYNDONVILLE, VT - Miss Vermont 2008, Ashley Wheeler, is putting the final touches on her preparation for the Miss America pageant in January. She has fine tuned her vocal piece with the help of a local coach; she has been grilled by panels of "mock" interview judges, and has met regularly with a personal trainer. This week she is picking up her custom-made evening gown from the designer… and the cool thing is that this gown was not made in New York or California, but rather in Sutton, Vermont. And it's green - not forest green or sage green, but green, the concept – it’s an eco-friendly dress made of hemp and silk, lined with hemp and organic cotton, and adorned with repurposed gold lace, beads and sequins. "I was raised as part of a family-run business and I understand how important it is to support locally-owned and operated businesses. So when it came time for me to purchase an evening gown for the Miss America pageant, I decided to keep my business in Vermont and call upon a designer from the Northeast Kingdom. I had heard about Tara Lynn and it was very appealing to go "green" for Miss America. I will be making a significant statement and suspect I will be the only contestant who has chosen to go this route. I think this is the perfect way for me to share my stance on preserving our environment and set myself apart from the other contestants."Tara Lynn Scheidet, owner of Tara Lynn, is a talented and innovative designer, and is said to be the poster child for sustainable business in Northern Vermont. Her unique collections are inspired by and dedicated to environmental causes. Tara Lynn’s studio runs off solar electricity. The shelves are stocked with vintage and recycled materials collected over years of yard sale shopping. The ceiling is adored with inspirational pictures hung over a floor of antique sewing machines. Since the company started in 2005 it has become a team of talented women. They all stand behind the same mission to increase awareness of biodiversity, promote sustainability and be proud of what they do and the clothing they make.The designer of Miss Vermont’s evening gown shares, "Beauty is not artificial. Natural clothing is sexier than lifeless textiles made from hazardous materials. When women wear my clothes I want them to feel exuberant and special rather than objects of desire: strong, smart and powerful. Stylish sexy women set the example for the next generation." As a representative of America’s #1 scholarship provider for young women and an organization whose mission is to promote personal and professional development, civic consciousness, service, higher education, and integrity, Ashley Wheeler believes she has found the “perfect fit.”