Typically, the winner of the Miss America pageant has the opportunity to meet the president during her reigning year. We asked some of this year's competitors what they would discuss with President Obama if they win the crown later this month. (JulieAnn McKellogg/The Washington Post)

Before facing the crucible of the swimsuit and talent competitions at the annual Miss America pageant next week, this year’s crop of aspirants to the crown took a detour, spending some time in Washington, where they aimed to prove that there’s more under those tiaras than just fabulous tresses and a cloud of hairspray.

The group’s wonky itinerary read more like that of think-tankers than pageant winners. There were policy briefings on Capitol Hill, leadership training sponsored by the women-in-leadership nonprofit Running Start, and even a White House meeting for the 10 finalists for the competition’s STEM scholarship.

Current Miss America Nina Davuluri, a University of Michigan graduate whose platform has included championing diversity, says she’s spent much of her reign fighting against the image of the air-headed beauty queen. After all, she notes, the women in the running to be Miss America are honing skills that could come in handy in the political sphere.

“The job is to advocate for your personal platform, which is what all kinds of leaders do,” she said during a break from the action, while the gaggle of women nibbled on sandwiches (but left the brownie tray mostly unscathed). “And the ten-minute private interview with the judges, where they can ask you anything? That prepares you pretty well for a press conference.”

The only question for a Miss America with political ambitions might be whether it’s a demotion to go from royalty to elected office.

While Miss America typically gets a meeting with the president, we asked a few of the state title-holders what they’d say if given an audience with the commander-in-chief. See the video here. 

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