Beauty And The Beaker

"I always forget how much I hate it until I'm there," Jamie Ginn says of beauty contests. Yet they offered a chance to advocate for causes, such as finding a cure for Crohn's disease. (Photos By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
By Tamara Jones
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 25, 2007

Jamie Ginn's colleagues were perplexed. Engineering, after all, relies on scientific data and computer models. Problems have solutions, and logic ultimately prevails. But what they were looking at now was a bafflement. They showed Ginn the score sheet they had downloaded, and triumphantly pointed out the statistical flaw.

Look, there's no six sigma in this judging process!

Ginn glanced at the form and saw they were right. There was no hard data, no obvious equation, to clarify the conclusion reached.

But that didn't make losing Miss America any easier.

* * *

The real riddle, though, was why a 25-year-old chemical engineer would put a cutting-edge career in biofuels on hold in hopes of claiming a silver-plated tiara adorned with 720 Austrian crystals.

Why, Ginn remembers her dumbfounded colleagues at DuPont asking when she announced her intentions last summer.

It's a question she still ponders, between chicken festivals and ribbon-cuttings, school visits and legislative photo ops, as she wraps up her reign as Miss Delaware and adjusts to the reality of being Never Miss America.

But even in a scientific community where Nobel Prizes are more likely to be the preferred fantasy, being declared the fairest of them all nonetheless holds an irresistible allure. Last week, Ginn was invited to attend the chemical-solution unit's safety meeting. And could she please wear her sash and crown? She happily obliged.

Now that the corporate world knows her sparkly little secret, Ginn has detected a definite "acceleration" in her career, even though she has only returned to work part time until the new Miss Delaware is crowned in June. Now the experimental-greenhouse manager not only knows her name but wants an autographed headshot, as well.

There are times when she tells herself she's better off, that she doesn't need the validation of her beauty to exploit the possibilities of her intelligence. But, she admits: "I wanted it. I really, really wanted it."

Atlantic City Lights

Maybe it was a matter of proximity. Ginn grew up on the Jersey Shore and could see the lights of Atlantic City twinkling across the water. The town created Miss America in the Roaring Twenties as a gimmick to prolong the summer tourist season.

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