Miss Virginia 2019 has officially been crowned. She won her title in an unusual way: by performing a chemistry experiment onstage.
Years ago, Camille Schrier gave up her pageantry career to pursue a STEM career at Virginia Tech. She didn’t have a traditional talent, like dancing or singing, and so she decided to prioritize school instead. She graduated in 2018 with degrees in biochemistry and systems biology, and she is now pursuing a doctor of pharmacy degree.
Last year, Camille reentered the pageant scene. This time around, she brought her love for STEM with her.
For the talent portion of the Miss Virginia competition, Camille performed a chemistry experiment that resulted in an explosion of colorful foam.
She knew she was taking a risk by choosing an unusual talent, but she’s happy that she did. Her experiment helped win her the title of Miss Virginia.
She’s going to return to school to finish up her pharmacy degree … and she will compete in the Miss America pageant in September.
Camille Schrier is the 24-year-old beauty pageant queen who just won the title of Miss Virginia 2019 on June 22.
She also happens to be a biochemist.
Camille is currently pursuing her doctor of pharmacy degree at Virginia Commonwealth University.
She’s a passionate advocate for women in STEM, so when it came time to choose an activity for the talent portion of the Miss Virginia competition, she knew exactly what she wanted to do.
A lot of contestants sing, dance, twirl a baton, or play an instrument for the talent portion.
But not Camille! She did a chemistry experiment onstage instead, clad in a white lab coat and safety goggles.
Camille’s experiment is known as the “elephant toothpaste” reaction. It shows the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide using potassium iodide as a catalyst — or, in layman’s terms, a giant colorful foam explosion.
Camille practiced the experiment in her driveway before executing it in the regional Miss Dominion competition. It helped win her the title, which made her eligible for the Miss Virginia competition.
And it helped her win that title, too.
Camille says she knew that her choice of talent would be a risk.
“We are typically an organization that sees people that are fabulous dancers and really talented singers use that as their talent, and so for me to come out there and take a risk and do a science demonstration was very different,” she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“As someone who is breaking the boundaries and breaking stereotypes for what talent looks like at Miss America, I wanted to be a little out of the box, and it really worked out,” she said.
Camille says she was “overwhelmed in the best way” when she discovered that she’d won.
She fell to the floor in her evening gown and cried for at least 30 seconds out of sheer shock.
She’s been pleasantly surprised by all of the positive feedback surrounding her win and her chemistry experiment.
“I expected to hear some feedback saying that my talent wasn’t really a talent,” she told the Virginia Commonwealth University blog. “But I will tell you, I was overwhelmed with messages saying how cool my talent was, how refreshing it was and how everyone was impressed that I was able to tie education and science into something that was also entertaining.”
After winning the competition, Camille says she will return to VCU to complete her pharmacy degree.
After that? She’s hoping to become the next Bill Nye (but in heels, perhaps?).
“I’m trying to be like Bill Nye [the science guy],” she told the VCU blog. “That’s what I’m going for. I want to get kids excited, but I don’t want it to be boring.”
She’s hoping that her win at Miss Virginia will inspire young women and girls to pursue STEM.
“They can look to me and say OK, she’s a woman who is able to be successful in a organization like the Miss America organization, but she’s also a scientist,” she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“I truly am a woman of science — that’s my career. So [I want] to be able to break those barriers and to really inspire young women and men to follow this path if that’s something that they’re passionate about.”
Congratulations, Camille! We can’t wait to watch your science experiments on TV in five years.