ELLSWORTH — A Trenton native was named Miss Maine USA 2018, beating out 22 other contestants at the Holiday Inn Portland by the Bay Saturday.
Marina “Rosie” Gray will represent Maine at the Miss USA competition in 2018.
“I’m really in shock,” said Gray in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I knew I could win, but it’s an amazing feeling.”
Miss Maine is the first pageant that Gray has ever entered. She had about three months to prepare.
Miss USA 2016, Deshauna Barber, inspired Gray to compete. Barber is thought to be the first Miss USA to be a member of the armed forces.
“After seeing a Facebook post about her success, I decided it was OK for me to take charge of my physical beauty and it was OK for me to feel beautiful in my own skin and be a member of the service as well,” Gray said.
Gray is an Army National Guard sergeant in the 133rd Engineer Battalion in Brunswick. She is a petroleum supply specialist. Gray is also non-commissioned officer of the year at her unit.
“I have been a member of the United States Army since I was 17 years old,” said Gray, who is 22.
“I never really focused on external beauty or my appearance,” she said. “I always felt my beauty could be distracting in a service environment.”
“I can be a member of the United States Army and I can put on my pageant heels and clothes and be a beauty queen at the same time,” Gray said. “It’s actually quite powerful to take charge of your beauty.”
Speaking of heels, Gray said learning to walk in heels was the hardest part of the pageant preparation. She is used to wearing Army boots or flat shoes.
“I definitely am very proud to be a titleholder,” Gray said. “It’s given me opportunity because I come from a low-income family. This opportunity is much bigger for me than me walking on stage and presenting myself.”
Gray finished high school a year early. She spent two years at Ellsworth High School then spent a year at Brewer High School, where she graduated in 2012.
“I always felt there was something more for me out there,” Gray said about her decision to complete high school early.
When she’s not fulfilling her Army National Guard duties, Gray works as a waitress at the Portland restaurant Scales. She also does cinematography work.
Gray, who grew up in Trenton, graduated last December from the University of Maine with a degree in interpersonal communications.
The Portland resident said her pageant platform is going to be encouraging young people to focus on their internal confidence as the driving force for success.
Heather Dorr is one of Gray’s former teachers.
“She was called ‘Rosie’ when I met her as a fourth-grader and that nickname suited her perfectly,” Dorr said. “Her zest and genuine appreciation for life was apparent even back then. She stood out as a leader, in her class, on her cheering team, in any group in which she was involved.
“Rosie has consistently proven that anything is possible if you set your sights on it and work hard for it,” said Dorr. “She learned early on that we are not destined for great things, we make great things happen. She believes in the power of self.
“Her new role as Miss Maine gives her the platform to share her story with young women, to empower them to take charge of their lives and make great things happen for themselves,” said Dorr.