West Bloomfield Woman, Former Miss America, Remembers Pageant Days
Pamela Eldred says she traveled 200,000 miles during the year she held the title.
West Bloomfield resident Pamela Eldred has fond memories of her days as Miss America.
Eldred, who won the title in 1970, was in the audience at the Costick Center in Farmington Hills July 14 as Shelby Gardiner of St. Clair Shores was crowned Miss Oakland County. She said the pageant program also offered scholarships when she competed. At the time, she attended Mercy College (now University of Detroit Mercy).
"I think more and more, women are getting involved (with pageants) because of the scholarships," she said. "Especially in these economic times, it's so important that young women can compete for them."
Eldred said she traveled more than 200,000 miles during her reign. She compared her year as Miss America to "getting a Ph.D. in public relations. It was also very humbling that all these people were putting themselves out for me."
While contestants back then didn't have a platform, Eldred moved onto one with her answer to a simple question about what advice she would give her younger sister. She ended up delivering a very serious answer.
"My younger sister, Melanie, was mentally retarded," Eldred said. "People didn't always talk about that."
As a result of her pageant appearance, she worked with the National Association of Retarded Citizens. When Melanie died in 2008, Eldred set up a scholarship in her honor, for students interested in working with people who have special needs.
"When you have a special needs sibling, it keeps everything in perspective," Eldred said.
According to her biography on the Miss America website, following her college graduation, Eldred traveled the country as a dancer, spokesperson, model and lecturer. She later launched a career as an image consultant, working with professional women and offering classes to help younger women build self-esteem and self-image.