Friday, August 28, 2009

Miss Maryland US Homepage

This photo and more can be viewed at the Miss Maryland US Homepage ( -- Photo by Michael Vonal.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interview with Loyola Magazine

In my second interview with Loyola magazine, I chatted with Rita (editor) about life after the big competition in Las Vegas. In what will have likely been my last pageant (unfortunately, I am aging out of most systems this year), it felt great to look back to the national competition and how it's really enriched my life. I made new friends in the other queens, particularly those within a 3 state radius; became closer to my family that jumps at most opportunities to make appearances with me; realized the patience Dan has exercised as a 'pageant boyfriend' and came to appreciation my education and the value it will bring to my life after the crown.

The strongest relationships I have formed in the past 4 months (wow, I can't believe it's already been 4 months!) have been among my sister queens. You will hear this term often so to save you the confusion, it refers to the other Maryland US titleholders-- Tiara, Miss Jr Teen, Emily, Miss Teen and Radiah, Ms. From volunteering at various organizations around the state to striking a pose at our photo shoots, they have made serving our community that much more enjoyable.

My dad, I mentioned is a huge fan of the title. I think it has something to do with the fact that he's very competitive and well, I wasn't a huge sports player growing up. Reading, making and selling crafts around the neighborhood (true story), cooking, piano and later running took up most of my days. And to have experienced this huge win with me, well... it's been something unique to brag about.

... back to Loyola. While pageantry and business school have seemingly nothing in common, each has allowed me to stand out. I am going out on a limb and saying there are few titleholders with MBAs. Similarly, I believe I am the first queen to walk the halls of the Sellinger School of Business! Further, they have both been opportunities to focus on myself and my future.

The coming year will be one of great change-- graduation, passing on my title and re entering the work force. All I can do in the meantime is enjoy it and welcome any surprises that come with-- because for years I had been waiting for someone to rescue me from a career I didn't particularly love, when all I needed to do was take charge of my own life.

Ok ok, it's likely I'm still riding the Julie & Julia wave from this morning. Maybe it's because I'm a huge foodie and my dream job would be to appear on the Food Network as a guest chef or work for a related magazine in their Marketing department but it was the ultimate tale of realizing your passion and spending a lifetime doing it... so simple! I could go on and on so I'll leave it at that. On deck-- french onion steak and sauteed green beans for dinner tonight.

For more information on the publication or to request a copy, visit the Loyola Magazine website: and watch for me as MBA/Miss Maryland US in the December 2009 issue!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


My sister queens and I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with our pageant photographer, Michael Vonal-- for new and improved headshots and an Annie Leibovitz-inspired shoot in our beautiful gowns. And while waiting for the entire team to make it to the studio, Radiah and I played with my new "Bump Its" (thanks again!)-- I think it's going to take some practice to successfully execute the pageant bump!

Watch the Miss Maryland US homepage for new photos coming soon! For more on Michael's work, please visit his website:

Enjoy our after shot below! xoxo,

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cal Ripken World Series

Not my best first pitch to date but a beautiful day in Aberdeen and a fun-filled appearance nonetheless! Thank you to the Ripken Organization for the great accomodations at the stadium-- my mom, in her first time coming to one of my appearances, Dan and I were treated to front row seats and a delicious VIP reception. And congratualtions to the final teams-- Southeast (US Champions) and Mexico (International Champions) for their hardwork and an afternoon of nail biting little league excitement.

The rain storms held out juuuust in time for the Southeast to win it all, 6-7 despite a 3-run come back from Mexico in the bottom of the 6th and 7th innings.

The past two weeks of competition and comraderie are a huge testament to the collaboration between the stadium and the community-- while it has certainly boosted the local economy, housing all the players was truly a labor of love from the host families. It is not every day you have the opportunity to share your home and embrace another child's culture.

Hello to new friends Jared Cotter, from Season 6's American Idol and the Fuze Network who sang the national anthem, and Eric "We Must Protect This House" Ogbogu, official spokesperson for Under Armour and Colin Clark, Brand Manager at Under Armour.

Photos below are of me and Eric, Jared and the winning team!

Friday, August 21, 2009

The MLB Network

Please keep your televisions set to the MLB Network and your favorite local news stations tomorrow at 3pm as they stream live coverage of the Cal Ripken Little League World Series. I am so excited to not only hang out with the Ripkens and throw out the first pitch, but also meet the sport's future superstars!

For details about this weekend's events, visit the official Ripken Baseball website:

Miss Jr. Teen Maryland United States Tiara Smith had the pleasure of throwing out the first pitch at one of the opening games last weekend-- to read about her day, follow her blog!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Art in the City 2009

Mark your calendars for the following event, proudly hosted by a friend and sponsor Jeff Martin, Thursday September 10. The third annual event will be a gathering of over 2,000 special guests, vendors and supporters of the arts. In addition to being a great networking event, a portion of the proceeds will benefit Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

For more information, please visit the Art in the City website:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The no it's not the url to my new website, but my favorite Radiah-ism, aka my sister queen and Ms. Maryland US 2009. In our first appearance together since Nationals in Las Vegas...

Monday, August 10, 2009

USO Operation Care Package

The Maryland delegation and I were invited by the USO to assist in Operation Care Package at BWI. USO-Metro is a private non profit organization that contrary to popular believe receives no funding from the federal, state or local governments. As a service to those who serve our nation, they provide such services as operating airport lounges (the largest in the area is at BWI), emergency housing, family support centers, food assistance, hospital servics and other programs in the area's military communities.

The care packages are stuffed with essentials such as toilet paper and qtips, snacks as well as entertainment (i.e. magazines) at the only warehouse of its kind in Ft. Belvoir, VA. If you are in that area I highly recommend volunteering at the warehouse. The response from the troops, men and women of every age, from various parts of the nation and all possessing a deep passion for service, was extraordinary.

To be honest, I was scared to strike up conversation. My first instinct when chatting with someone at the airport is "Where are you headed?" But I already knew, most were going to Afghanistan. But they were the ones that looked so warm and welcomed the dialogue.

Can't wait to volunteer with them again. Photos below are of my sister queens at the USO lounge and checking in with Captain Steve Bursick from Davis Monthan AFB in AZ and friends. What more can I say but "Thank you."

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Maryland Fashion Week

In addition to networking with top local designers, mingling with the models and taking advantage of the pre-show hordourves, I spent some quality time with my beautiful Jr Teen Tiara (and mom, hey Angie!) as we took part in some of this week's Maryland Fashion Week showcases!

The most hilarious part of tonight, our second event of the week, was between designers when the host announced that there were two celebrities from the audience. I pick my head up from reading the program booklet and looked at Tiara with excitement about who was watching the show! WE WERE! Haha. Insert lights and cameras on us here. Another couple of designers later we were lured onto the stage to show 'em why we won the crowns, aka rip the runway.

Photos below are of us walking the red carpet, backstage with featured designer, Afua Sam for Studio D Maxsi and musical guest Carmen.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Girl Scouts of Central Maryland P.A.V.E. Camp, continued

For me, today was about personal growth. A few highlights and things I learned from the campers, counselors and myself...
  • As a follow up to my presentations yesterday, I was approached by a few girls who attended the nutrition workshops who said, "you've inspired me to eat healthier." It felt great to know that my message was not only valid but was delivered in a manner that reached them. That alone could have been the end of my day but there was much more to go!
  • I realized that I cannot out-hoola-hoop a pre teen or teen, and I'm ok with that!
  • On a similar note, no one believes I am in fact 26 years old. Remember to keep identification handy for proof purposes.

  • So many of the older campers said they looked forward to turning 14 when they could become counselors and give back to the program they benefited from. Volunteering truly is one of those gifts that continues to inspire!

  • I was asked by several of the campers whether or not I would attend next year's camp. When I responded by saying I would come just as "Miss Nicole" and not "Miss Maryland," they were just as thrilled. Although the title is what essentially got me in the door with the Girl Scouts this first time around, a genuine enthusiasm and desire to open yourself up to new challenges is a much bigger prerequisite to being a part of their world.

  • There is great confidence and courage to be gained from overcoming fears-- I climbed to the top of a rockwall today. I know Jacob recorded it on his i-phone...I am anxiously Google-ing myself and waiting for a youtube video to come up in the search results!

Photos below are of me with the Howard County Fire Department, at the top of the rock wall and two of my fave counselors (aka Bright Nite).

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Girl Scouts of Central Maryland P.A.V.E. Camp

I have a renewed respect for teachers, administrators, or anyone else involved in youth education. Shaping the minds of today's youth is not only one of the most significant roles in society, it's one of the most challenging. After a day at the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland's P.A.V.E. Camp at Camp Ilchester in Ellicott City, I am absolutely exhausted! And never mind the fact I spent the day in wedge-heeled sandals (poor planning on my part), I was entrusted with over 100 children throughout the day, all under the age of 11 for 2 Health/Nutrition workshops!

In typical business-school fashion, I broke the children's groups into three teams. Among their objectives were to come up with a creative, health and nutrition inspired team name. I loved "Ants on a Log," and "The Carrot Clan!" From there, they shared their favorite activites, sports and hobbies which transitioned into a discussion about fueling their bodies for everything they were involved in. Insert a brief discussion about the Food Pyramid here and then let the games begin!

I'm a huge Rachel Ray fan and one of her recurring hosts is the editor of Men's Health who also happens to be the author of a series of books entitled, "Eat this, Not that." So my activity was loosely inspired by his revealing tips and surprising choices when dining out.

Lessons learned included: be aware of portion sizes (Breakfast at Panera for instance: a chocolate chip 'muffie' won out over a reduced fat blueberry muffin because of size and sugar content), and when given the choice, go grilled over fried (Battle mini sliders v. crispy chicken salad at a fast food giant was a hard sell as they were convinced salads are always the healthier option), etc, etc. Not only were they able to think through these hard decisions, they took little issue with sharing their ideas with the rest of the group. You couldn't draaaaag me in front of the class at "show and tell" when I was growing up-- my parents will attest to this. In fact, I believe I went home crying mid day circa 1989.

In any event, I was happy to join several other groups of volunteers including the Young Rembrandts, Howard County Police Department as well as a fun bunch from an old client of mine, T. Rowe Price. Seeing them on site reminded me on the annual service days we had at KPMG except everyone went to the same event and it typically involved rebuilding homes in downtown Baltimore. Not that I didn't enjoy wearing a face mask or tool belt all day, but well... I'm self admittedly the worse DIY-er this side of the city!

And one of the highlights of my day came at the end of camp when I took part in a Q&A with tens of teens.

Teen: Do you ride around the state in a limo?
Miss Maryland US: If you're referring to the black vehicle outside, it's a
Civic! But seriously, no limo. Although! My dad has volunteered to drive me to a
few events!

Teen: How important is school in being Miss Maryland?
Miss Maryland US: School is very important, in fact I always remind myself
I am a student first, Miss Maryland second. I think getting
an advanced degree set me apart from the other contestants!

Teen: Are you a supermodel?
Miss Maryland US: No, but my friend Courtney is!

Looking forward to Day Two, tomorrow-- stay tuned! Photos below are of me and the officers from the HCPD, Nicole from the Young Rembrandts, the T. Rowe'ers, and the executive team at GSCM!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hi Mom and Dad!

Just wanted to say HI to my parents, and faithful readers of my blog!

Photo below is of the whole Ortiz gang :)

Monday, August 3, 2009

I Got Heart, continued

Thank you to Tip, the I Got Heart staff and the kind folks at Olazzo's for a taste of Italy at today's fundraiser. I think that any time kids and teens are involved, people like to rally around the cause. We all remember what a tumultuous period that was and that today's challenges are unlike those we faced. Please stay tuned to the organization's upcoming fundraisers and community service events for teens!

SIDENOTE: In classic Nicole fashion, I walked out of the house with my banner/crown, camera and keys... 40 minutes later, I realize I am sans wallet in the middle of Silver Spring, and I was definitely in need of gas for the ride to Baltimore!

Photos below are of Tip and I and everyone at Olazzo's: