The untold truth of Miss America 2020 winner Camille Schrier

The Miss America 2020 pageant was held on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019, featuring 51 women from all over the United States hoping to win the coveted crown. At the end of the two-hour broadcast, Miss Virginia and Miss Georgia were left standing on the stage in nervous anticipation, holding hands while waiting anxiously for the winner to be named. While both women were fan-favorites of viewers watching at home, only one could be named Miss America 2020. Ultimately, that honor went to Miss Virginia, pharmaceutical student Camille Schrier. 

A graduate of Virginia Tech currently pursuing a doctorate in pharmacy, Schrier had impressed judges Kelly Rowland, Lauren Ash, and Karamo Brown earlier in the evening with the explosive chemistry demonstration she presented during the talent portion of the competition, in which she poured potassium iodine into separate flasks containing food coloring, hydrogen peroxide, and dish soap. Praising Schrier's presentation, Ash told the contestant (via The Washington Post), "I feel like if my science teachers were half as vivacious as you, maybe I would have paid more attention."

So, how exactly did Schrier find herself on the Miss America stage? Here's the untold truth of Camille Schrier, Miss America 2020.

Camille Schrier didn't pay much attention to Miss America until the organization made some major changes

Camille Schrier wouldn't be Miss America 2020 had the pageant organization not made one incredibly impactful change just a year prior to her taking home the crown. 

As Schrier explained to VCU News, she began competing in beauty pageants when she was 14 years old, eventually taking a break from the competitions four years later when she embarked on her college education journey. However, Schrier credits her early pageant experience with helping her become a more professional, well-rounded person. "It taught me a lot about being professional ... in terms of just being able to prepare a resume, go into an interview confidently and how to prepare for something like that," she explained.

According to VCU News, Schrier didn't entertain the thought of returning to the pageant stage until 2018, when the pharmacy school student received word that the Miss America organization, which has been a little sketchy in its history, was undergoing a major revamp by eliminating the traditional swimsuit portion of the competition and replacing it with an emphasis on social impact. 

Camille Schrier was the Miss America 2020 preliminary talent winner

Casual fans of the Miss America pageant may not realize that the competition begins long before the 51 women competing for the crown hit the nationally-televised stage. 

According to USA Today, the preliminary Miss America 2020 competitions kicked off Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019, resulting in multiple contestants being awarded scholarship prizes. One of the first night's preliminary winners was Miss Georgia, Victoria Hill. The singer and first runner-up for Miss America 2020 was awarded a $2,000 scholarship for being named the overall talent winner.

In the second preliminary competition, which took place on Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, Miss Georgia took home yet another scholarship for being named the on-stage question winner. However, Camille Schrier also shined during the second night of preliminaries. The Miss Virginia 2019 title holder impressed the judges with her colorful, explosive chemistry demonstration, all while wearing a white lab coat, safety goggles, and protective gloves. As a result, Schrier was presented with a $2,000 scholarship award (via MissAmerica.org).

Miss America 2020 winner Camille Schrier wants to be like Bill Nye the Science Guy

Before she ever stepped foot onto the Miss America stage, Camille Schrier had already become well-known for her performance in the Miss Virginia 2019 competition. Specifically, Schrier's onstage talent demonstration immediately captured the internet's interest. 

From headlines like "24-Year-Old PharmD Candidate Crowned 2019 Miss Virginia After Doing Chemistry Experiment As Her Talent" to "24-Year-Old Biochemist Wins Miss Virginia, Performs Science Experiment On Stage," Schrier's unique, informative talent demonstration seemingly made more rounds in the media than any swimsuit competition of years past. Of course, this all came as a delight to Schrier, whose passion for science was front and center during the Miss America 2020 competition.

In a June 2019 interview with VCU News, Schrier revealed how she hoped to make a difference with her Miss Virginia 2019 title. "I'm trying to be like Bill Nye [the science guy]," Schrier told the publication. She continued, saying, "That's what I'm going for. I want to get kids excited [about science], but I don't want it to be boring."

Miss America 2020 winner Camille Schrier wants to shine a spotlight on STEM

According to Camille Schrier's profile on the Miss Virginia website, the Miss America 2020 title holder has quite an impressive educational background — and she intends to keep pursuing higher education. Along with holding dual Bachelor of Science degrees from Virginia Tech in Biochemistry and Systems Biology, Schrier's Miss Virginia 2019 bio says the pageant winner "is currently studying to obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree." So, it's safe to say that STEM — the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — is close to Schrier's heart. 

In a June 2019 Instagram post celebrating her Miss Virginia 2019 win, Schrier addressed her passion for STEM, as well as her plans to use her pageant winner platform to promote and support STEM studies. "I am so excited to spend the next year traveling our commonwealth advocating for STEM education & drug safety and abuse prevention," Schrier wrote.

After her Miss Virginia 2019 win, Schrier explained to the BBC, "I'm hoping to use this throughout the United States to get young people, especially young girls, interested in STEM and STEM careers, and hopefully be a role model for them."

Camille Schrier doesn't see Miss America as a beauty pageant

Despite making recent changes in an effort to emphasize contestants' intelligence and social impact, rather than simply showcasing their physical appearances, Miss America is widely regarded as a beauty pageant. However, according to Miss America 2020 winner Camille Schrier, reducing the competition to nothing more than a beauty pageant does a great disservice to the positive impact Miss America makes in the lives of its contestants, as well as completely overlooks the improvements the organization has taken deliberate steps to make. 

"I won almost $22,000 of scholarship money to put toward my graduate education," Schrier revealed to the BBC upon being crowned Miss Virginia 2019. The Virginia Tech graduate continued defending the Miss America organization, saying, "It's so much more than the quote-unquote 'beauty pageant' that it used to be. We've gone away from judging women on their physical characteristics ... that's no longer anywhere in the judging criteria." Added Schrier, "We've removed swimsuit and we're focused on women's careers."

Miss America 2020 winner Camille Schrier has already impressed a few celebs

While the Miss America 2020 pageant might have been the general population's first introduction to Camille Schrier, the Virginia gal had already made a lasting impression on those who witnessed her chemistry demonstration while competing for Miss Virginia 2019. In fact, Schrier's performance in the Miss Virginia 2019 pageant was so impressive and unprecedented that she soon found herself on the radar of superstar songstress and daytime talk show host Kelly Clarkson, a star who's had her own stunning transformation over the years. 

Schrier appeared in a September 2019 episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show. There, she met a young girl who shared her passion for science and led a scientific demonstration alongside Clarkson, Kelsea Ballerini, Jessica Alba, and her pint-sized mentee. With the help of her four less-experienced assistants, Schrier exploded a nitrogen cloud, leaving the celebrities and Clarkson's in-studio audience awestruck.

Gayle King, CBS This Morning anchor and Oprah Winfrey's famous BFF, was also impressed by the pharmacy student's passion for shining a spotlight on science. Following a clip of Schrier's chemistry demonstration at the Miss Virginia 2019 pageant, King remarked, "No baton twirling for her." Added the reporter, "Stereotype broken."

Camille Schrier's mom inspired the Miss America 2020 winner's unique talent

According to a July 2019 interview with Fairfax County Times, a comment made by Camille Schrier's mother inspired the pageant contestant to showcase her science skills when she was competing for the title of Miss Virginia 2019. 

"I had always thought that I could not compete in the Miss Virginia organization because I didn't have a talent," Schrier revealed. She continued, saying, "So my mom looked at me and said, 'You have a lot of talents. You're a very talented person. You just don't happen to have a talent that can be performed onstage.'"

Of course, that didn't sit well with the then-future Miss America 2020 winner. "I'm kind of one of those people that if you tell me I can't do something, I'm going to find a way to do it," the Virginian told Fairfax County Times, explaining her mother's comment is what pushed her to bring her chemistry lab to the pageant stage. Added Schrier, "If I had gone up there and prepared a dance or a song, which I could have done, it just wouldn't have been authentically me, and it wouldn't have been a representation of the woman that I am."

Camille Schrier's platform hits close to home for the Miss America 2020 winner

According to Camille Schrier, a pharmaceutical student, her drug safety platform was inspired by a real-life tragedy, which she shared during a passionate speech on the Miss America stage (via Heavy).

"Every day, more than 130 Americans die of an opioid overdose," Schrier revealed. The Virginian continued, revealing, "My friend's husband became addicted to prescription opioids after a motorcycle crash, leading to a downward spiral of domestic violence, financial ruin, and his death 12 weeks ago." 

Speaking to press after winning the Miss America 2020 title, Schrier expounded on her social impact initiative, Mind Your Meds: Drug Safety and Abuse Prevention from Pediatrics to Geriatrics, telling reporters she's passionate about ensuring access to the emergency overdose reversal medication, naloxone, for every person — not just those labeled as drug addicts. "I think as someone who has a background in pharmacy and in medicine, I'm able to make a difference and make people aware of this, and hopefully change the stigma about opioid addiction in this country away from being something that's kind of taboo to talk about..." Schrier told Fairfax County Times in a July 2019 interview. 

Miss America 2020 winner Camille Schrier is an animal lover

While Miss America's new and improved 2.0 format gave its 51 contestants more time behind the microphone — subsequently allowing viewers to feel as if they knew the pageant queens on a more personal level — the show's two-hour runtime unfortunately didn't leave the contestants much time to talk about their day-to-day lives and interests away from the pageant world. However, while speaking to members of the press after being crowned the Miss America 2020 winner, Camille Schrier revealed that she's a total cat lover. 

"I have two cats at home that are my little fur babies," Schrier told reporters. She continued, "I'm a crazy cat lady, I'll tell you that."

While "crazy" may seem like a bit of a stretch, Schrier's Instagram is full of photos featuring her two incredibly photogenic tabby cats. However, the Miss America 2020 winner's Instagram account also contains dozens of photos featuring an array of other cute animals, including horses, goats, ducks, dogs, and even turtles (which she calls her "favorite animals"). She might be a self-professed cat lady, but this pageant queen seems to have a soft spot for pretty much every animal known to man.

Camille Schrier feels like her Miss America journey was planned for her

Some things just feel as if they were destined to be. Whether it's a friendship, a romantic relationship, or a new job opportunity, life has a way of leading you directly to the very thing you need — even if you never knew you needed it. 

For Camille Schrier, re-entering the pageant world and winning the Miss Virginia 2019 title felt like fate. The Miss America 2020 winner revealed to Fairfax County Times, "It's been kind of uncanny how well everything has worked out for me." The pageant queen continued, "Everything has kind of gone right."

Schrier, who is a Christian, explained to Fairfax County Times that her mother believes God laid out the pharmaceutical student's path to pageantry success. "My mom kept saying that she felt that God was leading us down a path, that this was planned for me," Schrier revealed. She noted, "I'm grateful. I mean, it almost seemed like every single piece of the puzzle fell into place the way it should."

Miss America 2020 winner Camille Schrier likes "bugs, animals, and dirt more than dresses"

Considering the explosive, headline-making chemistry demonstration Camille Schrier presented during the talent portion of the Miss America 2020 pageant, it's safe to say this Virginia gal isn't a typical pageant contestant. And, according to the pageant queen herself, she's well-aware that she doesn't quite fit the profile of a traditional Miss America winner. 

In a December 2019 Instagram post, Schrier acknowledged the quirks that set her apart from other Miss America contestants, admitting that she'd never dreamed she'd someday find herself competing in the renowned pageant. "Tomorrow, this little girl checks in to competes for the job of Miss America," Schrier captioned a photoset featuring herself as a young girl. She continued, writing, "If you had told her this when these photos were taken ... she would have NEVER believed you. She was a little weird & quirky, and liked bugs, animals and dirt more than dresses ... and she still does." 

Added the Miss America 2020 winner, "She didn't always fit in."

Miss America 2020 winner Camille Schrier took notes from a previous Miss America contestant

Camille Schrier might have been the only contestant in the Miss America 2020 pageant to present a science experiment as her talent, but the Miss Virginia 2019 title holder was not the first Miss America contestant to cause an eruption onstage. 

In 2015, Miss Vermont — better known as Alayna Westcom — brought her science lab skills to the Miss America stage with the same experiment Schrier would perform four years later, known as "Elephant's Toothpaste." Unfortunately, Westcom was only able to perform her fun experiment in the preliminary rounds. However, by positioning herself as a pageant pioneer and advocate for STEM, Westcom inspired Schrier to charge ahead with her own scientific demonstration.

In a December 2019 Instagram post featuring herself and Westcom, Schrier wrote, "I finally got to meet the first woman to ever bring science to the Miss America stage." The Miss America 2020 winner continued, writing, "She and I connected before my local competition back in April when I decided I wanted to perform a chemistry demonstration as my talent. She was kind, encouraging, and generous with her support. Alayna, thank you for blazing this trail for women in STEM."

Miss America 2020 winner Camille Schrier isn't a Virginia native

Despite winning the title of Miss Virginia 2019, Camille Schrier isn't actually a native Virginian.

In an interview during the second night of the Miss America 2020 preliminary competition, Schrier admitted, "I am Miss Virginia, but I moved there in 2015 to go to college." The pageant queen revealed, "I grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, right outside of Philadelphia. My parents are both Philadelphia natives." 

According to Schrier, Miss Pennsylvania 2019 is a "former friend and competitor" from her teen years. However, as Schrier revealed, there's no bad blood between the two pageant queens. "It's really exciting to have the state of Pennsylvania, my people at home, cheering for her but also cheering for me," Schrier said. Nipping any assumptions of a feud in the bud, the Miss America 2020 winner explained, "People have this perception sometimes that it's very rigid in the way that we compete here. [However], it's so much fun, and there's so much state overlap, and we're all just hoping to have a good time and be supportive of each other."

Camille Schrier wants to dismantle stereotypes as the Miss America 2020 winner

Even before Camille Schrier was crowned the Miss America 2020 winner, the doctoral student was optimistic about using her Miss Virginia platform to shake up the controversial pageant organization. 

In a July 2019 interview with Fairfax County Times, Schrier defended the Miss America organization, insisting it was no longer simply a beauty pageant in which contestants are judged largely on their outward appearance. "It is not a beauty pageant anymore ... It's a competition for young women who are looking for scholarship money," Schrier told the publication.

Still, Schrier knows the reputation Miss America has garnered for itself throughout the years. However, the Virginian is hopeful that her passion for science and pursuit of higher education will positively influence the organization. "I'm really excited to be an ambassador for women and [redefine] what it means to be a Miss America candidate," Schrier revealed in a video package. She continued, "If I am able to earn the job as Miss America, I will be able to make an impact on that many more young women, and continue to break stereotypes on what it means to be a Miss America in 2020."