It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Moira O’Bryan.
Two weeks ago, she graduated from North Bend High School and decided to attend Stanford University. Only a week later, she was crowned Miss Oregon’s Outstanding Teen, becoming only the second Coos County representative to win the state crown.
And next month, she will be flying to Orlando, Florida, to compete in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant.
Oh, and she holds a job and volunteers in her free time.
And O’Bryan did it all during a time where COVID-19 made it difficult to know what to expect the next day, much less the next week.
After finishing as runner-up in the Miss Coos County Outstanding Teen pageant in 2019, O’Bryan won the local crown in 2020. She was expecting a full year representing Coos County, but things changed quickly when COVID hit.
“Everything was canceled,” she said. “We had some events lined up. We always have events like the county fair and big festivals like the Cranberry Festival.”
Even the state competition was canceled with the Miss America organization deciding the let the 2020 winners keep their crown another year, so they could compete on the bigger stage.
Last week, that opportunity finally came for O’Bryan and 10 other teens as they made the trip to Seaside to participate in the four-day competition.
“It was truly wonderful,” O’Bryan said. “I loved the experience. It was truly beautiful. So many volunteers were the reason the program sent so smoothly.”
Inspired by Rylee Young, who was crowned Miss Coos County Outstanding Teen in 2016, O’Bryan decided to join the pageant world in 2019.
“I’ve always loved performing,” she said. “I’ve been doing that basically since I could walk. It started off as, oh that looks super fun. I wonder what it’s like.”
And what it turned out to be was something O’Bryan was quite good at and something she has enjoyed for the last several years. A key aspect of the Miss America organization is every participant must choose a social improvement category they will work on. For O’Bryan that was “shining a light on suicide prevention strategies.”
“The work is so wonderful, and I feel like I’ve made a difference in the community,” she said. “After seeing so much hurt around me, I felt like I needed to do something.”
Having the competition delayed a year was difficult and, possibly, a blessing.
“I’m not sure I would have won a year ago,” O’Bryan said. “I grew a lot in the last year.”
At Seaside, the scholarship pageant is spread out over four days.
On Wednesday, O’Bryan did a Zoom interview with the judges. She said the judges look over a resume and social improvement statement from each contestant and ask questions based on that.
“They want to get to know you as a person and see how you’re going to represent the state,” O’Bryan said.
On Thursday, contestants show off their talent in front of the judges and a live crowd. O’Bryan sang for her 90-second talent.
On Friday, the young women came back and did the fitness and lifestyle portion of the competition, followed by and evening gown show and a random question and answer session.
“I think the interview and the talent are the most important,” O’Bryan said. “They are also the heaviest weighted.”
On Saturday, the group of 11 teens was pared down to six, the top five chosen by the judges and a people’s choice winner. They then go through the same competition, minus the interview.
Heading into the final showdown, O’Bryan knew she was in good shape, with it looking like a battle for the title with Mya Joyce, the Miss Tri-Valley Outstanding Teen. During the preliminaries, O’Bryan won the talent competition while Joyce won the fitness. On Saturday, the two switched roles with O’Bryan winning fitness and Joyce talent.
So, it was now surprise when they were two of the three finalists.
“I was super nervous,” O’Bryan said. “I was the last one to be called as well so that was nerve-racking.”
Finally, the moment came. The second-runner up was named, leaving only O’Bryan and Joyce remaining. Then O’Bryan’s name was called, making her Oregon’s Outstanding Teen. When it happened, O’Bryan said everything became a blur.
“I don’t even know, I think I blacked out,” she said. “I was so, so grateful. I looked over and saw my family, and they were holding signs with my face on it.”
With the title in hand, O’Bryan said she immediately began to focus on the Miss America. Saturday was spent filling out paperwork for the competition, and she is already preparing for the fitness and evening gown portions.
“I’m really happy I get to represent our state,” she said. “I get to go to nationals in four weeks, which is a short turnaround. This summer is going to be full of preparation for nationals.”
O’Bryan said she learned Friday night about the tragedy that struck North Bend that day. She said she used that when answering her question during the Saturday pageant.
“I talked about how currently my community is scared, and we are dealing with tragedy,” she said.
O’Bryan said she hopes her victory will bring a little comfort to North Bend.
“If I can bring any sort of comfort to my community, I hope to do it,” she said.
For now, O’Bryan is working to represent Oregon in the Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant, and she will then focus on getting ready for college at Stanford.
“I really just want to represent our state to the best of my ability,” she said. “I just want to put my best foot forward.”
While she will be representing the state for the next year, O’Bryan said she will always find her way home to North Bend and Coos County.
“I’m sure you’ll see me around here all the time,” she said. “I’ll definitely be doing events in the local community as well as the state.”