BEAUTY AND THE BEAKER
Chemical engineers are supposed to be spending all day with test tubes, right? So how did Jamie Ginn become a beauty queen? Here’s a true story
Jamie Ginn’s colleagues were perplexed. Engineering, after all, relies on scientific data and computer models. Problems have solutions, and logic ultimately prevails. But what they were looking at now was a bafflement. They showed Ginn the score sheet they had downloaded, and triumphantly pointed out the statistical flaw.
Look, there’s no six sigma in this judging process!
Ginn saw they were right. There was no hard data, no obvious equation, to clarify the conclusion reached. But that didn’t make losing Miss America any easier.
The real riddle, though, was why a 25year-old chemical engineer would put a cuttingedge career in biofuels on hold in hopes of claiming a silver-plated tiara adorned with 720 Austrian crystals.
Why? Ginn remembers her dumbfounded colleagues at DuPont asking when she announced her intentions last summer.
NEVER MISS AMERICA
It’s a question she still ponders, between chicken festivals and ribbon-cuttings, school visits and legislative photo ops, as she wraps up her reign as Miss Delaware and adjusts to the reality of being Never Miss America.
But even in a scientific community where Nobel Prizes are more likely to be the preferred fantasy, being declared the fairest of them all nonetheless holds an irresistible allure.
Now that the corporate world knows her sparkly little secret, Ginn has detected a definite “acceleration’’ in her career, even though she has only returned to work part time until the new Miss Delaware is crowned in June. Now the experimental-greenhouse manager not only knows her name but wants an autographed headshot.
There are times when she tells herself she’s better off, that she doesn’t need the validation of her beauty to exploit the possibilities of her intelligence. But, she admits: “I wanted it. I really, really wanted it.’’
M*** aybe it was proximity. Ginn grew up on the Jersey Shore and could see the lights of Atlantic City twinkling across the water.
Each year, the Ginns drove over to watch the parade after a new Miss America was crowned. Ginn never considered herself a “crown chaser,’’ although she dabbled in pageants and admits she has “always loved being on a stage’’. For Jamie, the desire to become Miss America was more a gradual reckoning than sudden epiphany.
At 18, she had her first shot. Finishing in the top 10 in the Miss New Jersey pageant, she tried again three years later and made second runner-up. Her mother, LeeAnn, shuttled between the pageant and the hospital, where Jamie’s sister, Summer, 9, was recovering from surgery to remove 18 inches of her intestine. LeeAnn remembers watching that pageant and realising that Jamie would lose.
“I was devastated,’’ LeeAnn recalls. She prayed: Please help me understand what we did wrong.
Afterward, she told Jamie that she felt as if God had spoken to her and urged, “You have to make Crohn’s your platform.’’
Summer had received a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, an incurable inflammatory bowel disorder, at 6. She had gone off to second grade pumped full of steroids that ballooned her tiny body and tinged her skin blue. A feeding tube was taped to her face.
PAYING FOR EDUCATION
By then, pageant scholarships were paying Jamie’s way through nearby Rowan University. DuPont recruited her before graduation, after she delivered a paper on diesel emissions to a professional conference in California. She credits pageants for turning her into an extrovert and developing her public speaking skills.
Before entering the work force, though, Ginn decided to take another stab at Miss New Jersey. She won the talent and swimsuit competitions, but finished as first runner-up.
“I thought it was because my platform was ‘offensive,’ and that hurt me at my core,’’ she says. She was done with pageants.
A*** t a company that is home to more than 2,000 scientists, Ginn holds a spot on one of DuPont’s key research projects: turning corn into fuel. But she was restless. She day-