On Saturday night, the annual Miss America Pageant will be airing on TLC: The Learning Channel. Ami Feller won't be watching it, even though she was heavily involved in it for two years.
Feller, who lives in Voorhees, N.J., served as tour manager for the Miss America winners in 2006 and 2007. Obviously, her title meant she traveled extensively and was involved in the most personal details of the grande ladies.
At the time, Miss America was still headquartered in Atlantic City, even though the pageant itself had been moved. Then corporate changes occurred and Feller said she was relieved of her position.
"The organization is nonprofit," she explained. "Originally I had a contract through 2011. The contract was severed." She said this occurred because of changes by one of the pageants largest financial backers.
"No, I won't be watching the pageant. I have other commitments," she said.
Asked if she would tape it, she responded that there will be many reruns of it.
Feller has authored a novel entitled Boardwalk in Disrepair: The Splintering of Miss Patriotic. Although the book is fiction, "the majority is inspired by real scenarios. But because it's a novel, I can take some liberties," said Feller.
"Most people are unfamiliar with the pageant industry beyond the annual telecast. Young titleholders are thrust into a world they don't expect; tour managers are faced with their own personal and professional challenges and in this case, local volunteer followings are abandoned. This unique perspective of pageants could only be told by someone who lived through it, which is why I decided to share my story through 'Anni'," explained Feller.
Interviewing her on the telephone, it's obvious Feller feels some bitterness.
"As you know, that's an 85-year-old tradition centered around Atlantic City. It no longer is in Atlantic City. It's no longer held around Labor Day."
It also is no longer carried on one of the four major networks.
Serving as a tour manager was unlike a typical 9-5 job, she explained.
"You're at the discretion of whatever the job dictates," said Feller. "Every day, you're traveling to different cities."
Boardwalk in Disrepair takes the reader to 14 different locations. She explains how a celebrity lifestyle comes with sacrifices.
She mentions the egos, the personalities, and the conflicts that arise.
As tour manager, she said, "I was the buffer between the headquarters and the client. I was the chaperone. I was a shoulder to cry on. I played the big sister and mother figure."
She admits, "There were some struggles."
As an example, she said the tour involves many commitments in which large finances are involved, so it is important the titleist keeps her appointments. She recalls one of her girls "got very sick, was getting lethargic, and had a fever. There's no time to get sick unless it's a real emergency."
She said she contacted the girl's family, who had the family physician call a prescription to the city where they were booked. She coordinated with a driver to go to a pharmacy and pick up antibiotics.
"You're not trained to do that" as a tour manager, she said, but you do what you have to help the title holder keep her appointments.
Egos often get in the way of Miss America, even after she wins the crown, said Feller. As a result, she said sometimes the tour manager was second-guessed by the contestants, by her parents, or by the organization itself.
Although families of Miss America generally are helpful and understand the rules, sometimes they get in the way, she said. She told about one titleist "who was a 'Daddy's girl.'" Feller said the father would show up on the site at any time and visit his daughter.
"There was a delicate balance between professionalism and tackiness," she said.
Both title holders she worked with had boyfriends. She said the first one became engaged to a man who judged the state pageant.
"They kept that very quiet," she said. The girl eventually married the former judge.
In her book, Feller talks about a titleist who has a boyfriend who is insecure and worried someone is going to scoop her up.
Feller has a lot of great memories being involved in the Miss America Pageant. She recalls an incident at the White House involving Miss America, small children, and President George Bush.
"President Bush was completely out of character," she laughed. "He was repeating a story that a child told, and it was like he was (doing) a Vaudeville schtick."
One of the most impressive cities she visited was Nashville, she said.
The debut novel by Feller is inspired by her life on tour for the Miss America organization. The story culminates into an unusual perspective of the pageant world.
She said it delivers the message, though, that regardless of you goals, "be true to yourself."
She advised that young people with dreams, including that to be Miss America, should "continue to reach for the stars. Work hard, but let your beauty come from the inside."