Miss Texas is a Frog ... and is using her voice to tell the truth about
far Northeast Tarrant County, just minutes from DFW International Airport,
a modest two-bedroom apartment, furnished down to the towels, becomes
the permanent home-for-a-year for one special young woman each July.
her Miss Texas.
senior Tara Watson moved in her personal items last summer -- and has spent
little time there since.
reign ends this summer, Watson will have made more than 400 appearances,
traveling on average 25 days a month; once, she drove her cherry red Blazer
(part of her winnings) 750 miles for one appearance.
wearing the Lone Star tiara was a goal of Watson's since she was 6 years
old, she has known for nearly that long that it's far from glamour and
glitz; it's about having a voice.
songbird voice -- which helped her win the pageant -- is spreading the word
that AIDS isn't a gay disease. It's a human disease that is preventable.
Staying Alive, has been heard by more than 300,000 students in more than
200 Texas schools this year. Sadly, four of the schools she visited didn't
want her to talk about AIDS Watson said, "because they said they didn't
have that in their community.
very frustrating. But I have learned how to get that door open anyway,
to convince them that this is a topic their children need to know about.
I'm up there, I say what needs to be said. What are they going to do then?
Pull Miss Texas off the stage?"
Miss Texas is feisty, but she has reason to be when it comes to this killer.
While she was still in high school, a close friend confided that he had
AIDS. She helped him tell his family. As he drew near to death, he turned
again to his special friend who possessed a deep faith.
weeks before he died, he asked me if he could let go," Watson said,
emotion still filling her eyes years later. "I had told him not to
give up, that we would fight this together, and he wanted my permission
message is one of prevention. While she keeps the message age-appropriate,
she is blunt in her language.
time to de-gay the AIDS issue," she said. "And the best part
about being Miss Texas is that people listen. I can still help fight AIDS
as Tara Watson, but I have so much more impact as Miss Texas."
was in Washington, D.C., for George W. Bush's inauguration, she caught
the "fever" of the city and realized that she wants to continue
her work there after finishing her degree in the fall. She has applied
for a position with the U.S. Surgeon General where she would serve as
an AIDS program spokesperson.
imagined herself in Washington. But as a child, she did envision walking
that long stage, roses draped in her arms. She'd been there when her dance
teacher, who was like a big sister to her, wore the crown.
and "hammy" Watson knew then that she wanted to follow in those
dance steps. On her fourth try -- after a broken foot earlier in the year
caused her dancing to falter -- she sang rather than quick-stepped her
way to the winner's platform, then went on to place in the top 10 in the
Miss America contest.
Texas apartment will soon be divested of the things that have made it
Watson's home. Her extensive collection of crosses and angels will leave
the walls and countertops barren.
of photos of friends and family will be put in boxes along with the many
gifts from admirers that clutter the small apartment. But what she gave
and what she learned during her year as Miss Texas will never be taken
be able to give even one child hope," she said, "is the most
wonderful thing. Some mornings I get up so tired, sometimes even sick,
and I think, I can't do it. But then I get there, and I receive so much
more than I can possibly give, and that truly blesses me.
not better than anyone . . . but as Miss Texas I have this huge voice.
And if I can use that voice to impact somebody, I'm going to do that."