Reality stars Hebert, Underwood help crown new Miss Maine USA

Posted Nov. 20, 2011, at 10:06 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 21, 2011, at 11:01 a.m.

WESTBROOK, Maine — One of Maine’s reality TV star daughters said she is likely done with the limelight, while another has plans to return to television.

Madawaska native Ashley Hebert, who starred on the seventh season of ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” and Ashley Underwood, who finished in the top four in CBS’ “Survivor: Redemption Island,” co-hosted the Miss Maine and Miss Teen Maine USA pageant Sunday night at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center.

There, they were on hand to see Miss Bar Harbor, Rani Williamson, claim the coveted 2012 crown and sash from reigning Miss Maine USA Ashley Lynn Marble. As such, Williamson is lined up to make her own network television debut next June, when she’ll represent the Pine Tree State at the Miss USA pageant broadcast live on NBC.

Taking the 2012 teen title Sunday night was Greely Regional High School junior Molly Fitzpatrick, 16, who was crowned by reigning Miss Teen Maine USA Alexis McIlwain.

The gala event Sunday came on the heels, no pun intended, of a preliminary show Saturday night, at which the fields were whittled to 10 semifinalists for Miss Maine USA and 15 for Miss Teen USA.

Hebert and Underwood emceed the program Sunday, calling out the contestants, introducing the judges and pageant staff, and describing the show sponsors.

After the approximately two-hour pageant — which included swimsuit, evening gown and short interview competitions — the two high-profile Ashleys took a few moments to respectively talk to the Bangor Daily News about reality TV stardom and what’s on the horizon.

Hebert, who is less than three weeks from finishing University of Pennsylvania dental school classes, said she thinks she is done with the spotlight. Just like “The Bachelorette,” in which she had to pare down a pack of 25 suitors to pick a fiance, she said dental school is “strenuous and leaves me with a lot of sleepless nights.”

Joining her in Westbrook on Sunday was J.P. Rosenbaum, the New York construction manager she handed the winner’s rose to in the “Bachelorette” finale. Rosenbaum graciously posed for photos with several fans as the audience was settling for the pageant Sunday, and afterward echoed Hebert’s sentiment that the couple hasn’t had time to get around to wedding planning yet.

But soon enough. Hebert said she’s anxious to “just be normal.”

“I’m ready for everything to be over,” said Hebert, who commutes four days a week from the couple’s New York City home to Philadelphia for classes. “I’m ready to have time to enjoy our engagement.”

Underwood, on the other hand, is pursuing a career in sports broadcasting, combining her love of sports — she was a basketball star at both Cony High School and the University of Maine in Orono — with the stage presence she showed as Miss Maine USA 2009.

The “Survivor” star is planning to hike Mount Kilimanjaro in January to raise money for the charity Flying Kites, and said she would gladly return for another installment of the CBS hit reality show if given the opportunity.

“‘Survivor’ is really hard to describe in one word — it was terrible, and it was amazing,” Underwood said. “It really opened a lot of doors for me, and I had a great experience. But I think anybody who has been on that show and didn’t win has a lingering, unfulfilled goal out there.”

As someone who has worn the sash, Underwood said strutting the stage in a bikini, among the other challenges facing pageant contestants, primes a girl for almost anything in life. She said the Miss Maine USA experience prepared her well for life on “Redemption Island.”

“I think it takes so much confidence to get up here and compete,” she said.

Hebert and Underwood weren’t the only ones in the building with reality show credentials. Francesca Hogi, one of the event’s six judges, was also a contestant on “Survivor: Redemption Island,” and fellow judge John Reny was a featured hairstylist on the MTV teen reality show “Made.”

“We do try to pull those people in,” Miss Maine USA Executive Director Mackenzie Davis, a former winner herself, said of the pageant’s celebrity turnout. “It helps show these girls what’s out there for them.”

Fitzpatrick, who came into the competition titled Miss Body By John, said she would be willing to try her hand at “Survivor,” but said her immediate goals are to use her new crown to help bring awareness to good causes.

“I’m really eager to get out there and make a difference,” said Fitzpatrick, who aspires to become a nurse like her mother. “I’m really looking forward to working with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Special Olympics.”

Williamson, who was once picked as a “hometown hottie” by Maxim magazine, is heading off to New York City to join a marketing firm in January, she said. The University of Southern Maine graduate said that after competing in last year’s Miss Maine USA pageant, she came into this year’s event “just wanting to have fun with it.”

She has a direct line to a nationwide TV audience, as she will take on the rest of the states’ beauty queens on NBC next June.

“It’s daunting, but in a good way,” Williamson said after the Sunday night event. “It still seems like a dream, so maybe when I wake up in the morning, I’ll have a better idea what the next year will hold for me.”

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