One day you’re a friendly face in your hometown of Fayettville, Arkansas. The next, a crowd rushes to your side for pictures and autographs, people wondering how the crown stays so nice on your head.
Savannah Janine Shields, known better as Savvy, describes herself as the average, hometown girl until the whirlwind week of photos, tapings and meet and greets during Miss America week in Atlantic City, where she was eventually crowned Miss America on Sept. 11 at Boardwalk Hall.
“I remember the first time I was able to go home, I went to the nail salon and people were coming up to me asking for pictures,” Shields said. “I still feel like myself, so it’s surprising to have people recognize me.”
The 21-year-old is settling into her role as Miss America, about a third of the way into her reign, and has already appeared as a presenter alongside the country music stars of Florida Georgia Line for the American Music Awards and participated in the festivities on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve show. Don’t forget an errant selfie with Kobe Bryant.
But what has been the most surprising to Shields, who was boosted to celebrity status overnight at Boardwalk Hall, is the widespread love of her title and personal connections fans across the country have to the competition.
No amount of competition training by the Miss America Organization could have prepared her for a recent honor: meeting baby Savvy, who was named after her.
“It blows my mind,” Shields said. “Definitely something I didn’t think would happen in my year. It was so special and such a miracle to be in that state that day and be able to visit the family at the hospital to meet their newborn baby girl.”
Molly and Jay Scheidt welcomed their first baby in December in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As a lifelong Miss America fan, Molly had tuned in to watch Shields win the crown in September and chose the name, Savvy Scheidt — giving both Savvys the same initials.
Shields visited the South Dakota hospital and met the family, getting a chance to hold Savvy Scheidt.
From South Dakota to New York, one of the biggest demands of the crown is travel.
Appearances range from addressing schools to visiting children in a hospital to addressing American troops. Shields said in the blur and exhaustion of constant travel it’s hard to remember all of the cities and states she has visited over the course of a month, but that it’s safe to say she’s on a plane every other day.
The good thing about all of that travel for Shields is that it’s a time to get centered.
“I don’t wear makeup and usually don’t get recognized, so I take that time to unwind in my head,” she said. “I recently bought some noise- canceling headphones so I can really tune out and use that time to mentally recharge.”
A carry-on bag always carefully holds the crown, while two other large suitcases hold a rainbow of gowns, heels and accessories, along with workout clothing.
One thing she has to have?
“My pillow. I have to have my pillow,” she said.
One downside to the crown is the sacrifice of time with family and friends.
“I’m incredibly close with my family, love my hometown, and all the people there,” Shields said. “I definitely miss making my own food. I know that may sound weird to some, but I love making smoothies and chopping veggies for dinner.”
Shields said she knows the benefits of her role far outweigh the sacrifices.
Being Miss America means television appearances, and when it comes to the most fun event, appearing on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in Times Square is the winner so far.