MUSKEGON, MI – It was Melissa Beyrand’s first run with the Miss America organization, and she walked away a winner.
Beyrand, 22, of Milford, was crowned Miss Michigan 2022 during the scholarship competition on Saturday, June 18 at Orchard View High School in Muskegon.
Related: Miss Michigan 2022 is Oakland County’s Melissa Beyrand
“I actually just competed in my first local as Miss Oakland County in August. This is all a new experience,” Beyrand said during an interview with MLive immediately after winning the title. “I still can’t even believe it. I think I’m in shock.”
Despite being new to the competition circuit, Beyrand has been performing her entire life and playing violin since she was 3 years old.
“It means absolutely everything to me. It’s an opportunity to promote my social impact initiative in a way I’ve never had the platform to do before,” she said.
As Miss Michigan, Beyrand will use the platform to advocate for her social impact initiative, “Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts & Mathematics (STEAM).”
As a 2022 University of Michigan graduate with a degree in biomedical engineering, Beyrand believes in integrating the arts into the traditional science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum to increase student engagement and motivation, especially among young women.
“I want to work as Miss Michigan to get the arts in our schools. It’s hugely beneficial to further our STEM education work,” she said.
Outgoing 2021 Miss Michigan Vivian Zhong crowned her successor. She effectively used her platform to advocate for childhood cancer around her social impact initiative, “Golden Warriors: Fight Like a Kid.”
Related: With her reign winding down, Miss Michigan 2021 pursues career in pediatric oncology
Zhong served as Miss Michigan while completing her first year of medical school in pursuit of becoming a pediatric oncologist.
“I’ve been able to go into the hospitals and visit as Mulan as well as Miss Michigan and just bring some joy and magic into these children’s lives,” she said about her reign.
Beyrand earned the title, a $10,000 academic scholarship and the opportunity to compete in the Miss America 2023 program.
“It’s unbelievable,” she said. “It’s not like anything I could have imagined.”
Beyrand displayed elegance and determination during the two-night Miss Michigan scholarship competition. Twenty women sought the title by performing talent, answering on-stage questions, sharing a social impact initiative and modeling evening wear.
For her talent, Beyrand waltzed on stage in a glittering red jumpsuit playing the “Final Countdown” by Europe on her violin — bending over backwards when the song peaked.
Beyrand and Miss River Raisin Festival Laurel Hammis both received a preliminary award for best talent performance on Thursday, opening night.
Related: Miss Michigan 2022 first awards go to Miss Oakland County, Miss River Raisin Festival
On Saturday, the top 10 finalists answered questions about politics, current world affairs or social issues. A judge asked Beyrand whether all U.S. citizens should be required to show identification to vote.
“While I think it’s absolutely important to maintain the integrity of elections in the United States, I do not feel that all U.S. citizens should have to show proper identification to vote,” she said.
“There are many citizens who have barriers to access getting proper identification, and I do not think that should prevent them from participating in our electoral process.”
Related: See Miss Michigan 2022 talent competition, top photos from opening night
Beyrand, who plans to pursue a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan in the fall, also had the opportunity to talk about her experience as a woman in the sciences, when contestants could highlight their social impact initiatives.
She opened with a chant: “Power, parentheses, multiply, divide, add, subtract from left to right.”
“When I first learned the order of operations in my fourth-grade math class, I never would have imagined seeing it on the Miss Michigan stage,” Beyrand said. “But it’s a perfect example of how the integration of the arts into traditional STEM-based learning allows educators to promote creativity, curiosity and critical thinking skills.”
“Especially for young girls, STEAM helps them feel that they have a place in fields that have traditionally been dominated by men,” she continued.
During the evening wear part of the competition, Beyrand continued to impress judges with her poise by gracing the stage in a floor-length gown swirling with silver sequins.
Miss Michigan 2008 Ashlee Baracy-Kunkel served as the mistress of ceremonies during the competition. Baracy-Kunkel was Miss Michigan 2008 and a top 10 contender for Miss America 2009.
This year’s judges were Holly Barraclough, Jason Paul Bertoia, Sarah Ledtke McCann, Tom Joppie and Jason Timothy Robinson.
Other winners included first runner-up Miss Great Lakes Bay Sydney Papenhagen, second runner-up Miss River Raisin Festival Laurel Hammis, third runner-up Miss South Central Brooklynn Lambert and fourth runner-up Miss Monroe County Kendall Comer.
Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen 2022 was crowned Friday evening. Miss Spirit of the State Grace Larsen earned the title with a musical theater dance routine, a fitness presentation, evening gowns and an on-stage question.
More on MLive:
Guide to Miss Michigan 2022, featuring the 20 candidates
Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen 2022 crowned
Miss Michigan scholarship competition changes venue for 2022