Biochemist Wins Miss Virginia Pageant After Wowing Judges With Science Experiment As Her Talent

Newly crowned Miss America 2006, Miss Oklahoma Jennifer Berry holds her crown as she hosts a news conference at the Marriott Marquis on January 23, 2006 in New York City.
Paul Hawthorne / Getty Images

A biochemist was crowned Miss Virginia after presenting a science experiment as her talent.

Camille Schrier, 24, a Virginia Tech graduate with a double major in biochemistry and systems biology, took a brave risk when she decided to show off her laboratory skills in the the talent portion of the contest.

Schrier, who has invested four years in pageants, put pageantry aside as she attended college to pursue her degrees. When the Miss America Organization worked to rebrand itself in 2015 — a move that did away with the swimsuit competition and focused on candidates’ social impact initiatives rather than their looks — Schrier decided it was time to enter the pageant scene again.

Her bravery paid off Saturday, when was crowned Miss Virginia 2019 at Liberty University.

The biochemist’s talent involved demonstrating the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. Wearing a white lab coat, safety goggles, protective gloves and high heels, Schrier mixed chemicals together in three beakers and the result was an eruption of green, red and orange substances that resembled foam. The fun and visually appealing experiment won the preliminary talent award that came along with a $1,000 scholarship.

Schrier was well aware that her unconventional talent was a risky move, but she said she wanted to help break down stereotypes about the pageant community.

“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.”

Schrier was shocked when she heard her name being called as the winner of the pageant. She fell to the floor in her evening gown and was overwhelmed in a good way, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported. As Miss Virginia, she will have the opportunity to compete in the Miss America pageant later this year.

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Schrier said she hoped her win would let women with nontraditional talents know that they had a place in Miss America, adding that she was truly a woman of science.

She said she wanted 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.”