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Fast Talk: Miss America Katie Harman

Armed with her crown, a wardrobe of donated designer suits, and a warm smile, Katie Harman, the reigning Miss America, logs more miles than the most frequent fliers. Since being crowned in September 2001, the 21-year-old Harman has been crisscrossing the States almost constantly, attending dedications, participating in parades, and making speeches on everything from breast cancer to the tragic events of this past September. Taking a breather between appearances, Harman recently shared with travelandleisure.com some of the insights she has gained into the world of travel.

1. Where are you now?
Where am I now?Oh, goodness, I am in Orange, New Jersey, to speak on my platform issue, breast cancer, at the Hospital Center at Orange. I will be visiting with their oncology patients in the hospital and meet with the physicians.

2. How often do you travel?
I travel about 20,000 miles a month. I hit a new city approximately every other day. More recently, because of airplane setbacks and security measures, it may be a new city every third day.

3. What do you wear while on the road?
I usually have a comfortable outfit on. Bonnie [Harman’s travel companion] and I joke that there are travel outfits that I wear every time I travel. I found a pair of slacks I absolutely love, called the Lindsey pants, from Banana Republic. So those, and a cardigan sweater with a turtleneck underneath because I am always cold on the plane.

4. How do you deal with new inconveniences in travel?
In the past, Miss Americas might have made two appearances in one day, so they would hop on a plane in the middle of the day and make an appearance in another city. That’s not possible now because we have to be at the airport maybe two or three hours in advance to make sure that we are prepared if we are randomly selected. And I am always randomly selected. They pull me aside and go through my bags, both when checking in and at the gate. And I carry the crown on the plane with me, so that’s when they discover who I am.

5. How many people do you travel with?
Just Bonnie Sirgany and Joann Silver. They are my traveling companions, but only one of them at a time; they switch off each month. They take care of all the details. I joke that they are my surrogate mother, sister, bodyguard, and karate kid, all rolled up into one. I am Bonnie’s 13th Miss America, so she knows the ropes, and it’s wonderful because she knows all the places to visit but she’s also eager to learn new spots.

6. Do you have any free time to sightsee?
I have not had much recreation time thus far. I probably have two or three days off a month. If we are in a certain city where there is something that I really, really want see, then we do. When we were in Washington, D.C. I was finally able to visit the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History and the National Gallery. It was wonderful to just be a tourist. It is kind of hard to go incognito, though.

7. How do you keep healthy on the road?
I drink a lot of water. I am an active person and I love running and weight training, but I don’t always have the time to work out. Every chance I get, when the hotel has facilities, I will usually get up in the morning and work out. I try to get a good amount of sleep, which is difficult.

8. Do you collect any souvenirs?
As funny as it is, I collect the room keys from the hotels. Each Miss America normally does. One even punched a hole in the tops and ran a string through them to hang on her Christmas tree the next year. I also usually keep a sheet of paper from the hotel’s notepad. We take a lot of pictures and I love putting scrapbooks together because I really want to keep the memories vivid in my mind. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I consider it a real blessing, so every day I try to savor it.

9. What do you normally pack?
I travel with two very large Tumi suitcases, a Tumi carry-on, and a big purse. In one suitcase I have all of my clothes; in the other I carry toiletries, paper items, shoes, and just random stuff. Miss America travels with many, many suits—at least 10 suits at one time. I also have an evening dress, a cocktail dress, a wool coat, and a leather blazer. I always carry my own pillow and blanket in my carry-on just in case the airplane doesn’t have them, and my book, portable CD player, thank-you notes, and journal.

10. Where would you like to go when your reign is over?
I would love to go back to Italy and Switzerland. There is a possibility of overseas travel with the military this year to visit the troops. We are still arranging it and it’s not solidified yet, but I know in my heart that’s where I am really, really needed. The troops need Miss America to be there as a support for them. I was at the Miss America competition on September 11 and experienced this right along with everyone else, and knew that my role as Miss America would be as a comfort and an encouragement to the American people, and that ties right in with the military action.

—Interviewed by Hillary Geronemus

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