New Faces NJ: Chenoa Greene

For Atco woman, winning beauty contests is a blessing—and a responsibility.

As Chenoa Greene describes it, winning a beauty pageant is not just about outward appearances. “To win a pageant you have to prepare months in advance,” says Greene. “It is so much more than getting on stage, smiling, and competing.”

The 24-year-old Atco native, the reigning Miss New Jersey USA 2010, was a tom-boy growing up. A middle child with two brothers, Greene played football, basketball, and video games. “My brothers were my best friends and I was not your typical girl.”

By junior high, Greene blossomed as a young woman, competing in talent and fashion shows and running for homecoming queen. She attended the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and at 19, competed in her first pageant, winning Miss NJ American Co-Ed 2005. The following year, she faced 400 applicants and won Miss Black NJ USA 2006. That set the stage for the Miss NJ USA 2010 competition.

Greene earned her BA in science and broadcast journalism, but also developed an interest in acting and stage production. “I really love TV hosting and I’m really good at it,” says Greene, who ran two talk shows during her college years. Now, she is an entertainment writer and TV host for—in addition to her multi-faceted career as part-time actress and model, and a full-time pageant competitor.

“Everything that I do goes hand in hand with my career. Studying acting helps me have a big personality for being a TV host, and modeling helps with the pageants,” she says. “I couldn’t have one without the other.”

The Miss New Jersey USA 2010 pageant in October started with 103 contestants, eventually narrowing down to five finalists. “All the young ladies I competed with are phenomenal women,” says Greene.

A typical pageant has four stages. First it’s the personal interview, where each contestant is asked random questions by a panel of judges. “You cannot be nervous, you can’t talk too fast, and you have to make sure you have practiced, a lot,” says Greene. Then it’s the swimsuit portion, requiring excellent physical fitness, stage presence, and confidence. Greene, a first-degree black belt in martial arts who does a lot of fitness training, says, “I am not that type of girl that is just toned. I eat right and have to work out.” Next comes the evening-gown segment. Finally, there’s the stage interview for the top-five contenders.

For her stage interview, Greene was asked: “If you were to take me to New Jersey, where would you take me and why?” Her answer: Wildwood. “I spoke from the heart and Wildwood was the first thing that came to my mind. That is how I won the pageant.”

Greene considers her title a blessing and a responsibility. “Every second of every day I try to make the most out of it and I am glad to have this position because I do not take it lightly.”

She points out that there are many misconceptions when it comes to the pageant world. “Pageants have a bad reputation, but to me they are a great thing. They do not degrade women, but help with self-esteem and confidence,” she says. She drops names such as Halle Berry, Oprah Winfrey, and Diane Sawyer, all of whom started in pageants. “Many of us are educated women, with big dreams and goals. I am not conceited, not airy, but a down-to-earth person who is using pageants as a platform,” says Greene.

Greene is preparing for Miss USA 2010 in Las Vegas, which will air at 7 pm May 16 on NBC. “I want to bring it home to New Jersey and represent my state to the fullest.”

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