From French Hood to Tiara: Not Just A Beauty Queen

Renaissance Festivals have been a springboard to many artistic careers, from magicians Penn and Teller to Hollywood director Andy Fickman, but something many don’t realize is how many people have found their experience working at a festival to be an aid to advancement, both personal and professional, in seemingly unrelated fields. One surprising example is the current Miss Colorado, Maura Spence Carroll, who is shattering conventional ideas of femininity, serving both as a full-time military intelligence analyst and as a contestant in the 2021 Miss America pageant. LadyFaire sat down for an interview with this amazing young woman.

LF: How did you become interested in performing at the Texas Renaissance Festival?
 

MSC: I grew up attending faire, so when my Aunt Christi mentioned that she was on cast I jumped at the chance to attend a rehearsal to see what it would be like. I had recently started homeschooling and as an extrovert, I was desperate for a chance to get out of the house and meet new people. By the end of my second rehearsal watching and meeting people, I was offered a role as a cast member on the Scottish court. I absolutely LOVED faire, and from that year on I was completely hooked!

LF: What were your roles at TRF?

MSC: In my first year, I was a Scottish scullery maid. I was 14 and very new to performing, so the learning curve was definitely steep! I was then an English Joust Maiden my second and third seasons (2015 and 2016). I had the time of my life cheering on the jousters by yelling any variation of quasi-British chants I learned from former joust maidens and friends with a knack for writing parodies. In my 4th season, 2017, I had left the cast and then unexpectedly joined again. I was offered a position as a living statue. . .and later found out that I don’t do the whole “sitting perfectly still and not speaking” thing well. (When asked if I would do it again, I explained that *I* would consider it – but that I doubt any director would WANT me to do it).

 LF: How do you feel your time as a performer there helped in your quest for the crown?

MSC: The most important aspect of being a titleholder is meeting people in the community. You’re not just someone that gets to wear a fun sparkly hat – you’re a role model and ambassador for the Miss America Organization. That means when people aren’t approaching ME, I’m approaching them to introduce myself, tell them about the organization, and encourage them to take an interest in what MAO is about. Being a cast member is the same way – only, instead of convincing people to love Miss America, we’re pulling them in to immerse them in a world separate from their own outside the gates. It’s not enough to just stay in your lane and convince people who happen to speak to you to believe in New Market Faire; you have to learn how to present the story in the way you hold yourself, your movements, your interactions with the guests. It also involves a fair bit of extroversion (whether real or practiced) and learning to “yes, and!” the heck out of situations. It also helped me learn the value of the modern-day corset – Spanx.

LF: How has the Renfest community supported you?

MSC: Ever since my crowning, I can’t go more than a few days without someone from the faire community messaging me to tell me how proud they are of me. I grew up on cast. Most of the people I met my first year when I was 14 are still my friends to this day – including my best friend, Maddie – and they watched grow from the Scottish lass screaming “NESSIE!” at morning proclamation to a woman who has made a complete 180 in her life. They supported me when I was struggling following the death of my sister Kitty in 2015 and the passing of my grandfather in 2016, they loved me when I was deeply depressed, they encouraged me when I said at my last farewell toast that I was thinking of joining the Army. . .now they also get to share in my joy at having accomplished a life long dream. I’ve changed in many ways, and they’ve loved and supported me through those changes.

LF: How do you balance life in the United States Army with your Miss Colorado duties?

MSC: Working as an active-duty soldier (where my schedule can have me working up to 70 hours a week in garrison) while also fulfilling my role as Miss Colorado requires patience, an organized calendar, and enough coffee to keep an elephant buzzing. There are weeks at work when I am occupied from 9am to 6pm with little time to rest, and other weeks when my responsibilities are limited to answering an email or two a day. 
The balancing act has taught me the value of automated reminders and understanding my limits so as to not overextend myself. I like being busy and having a packed schedule, but I’m still learning how to prioritize all of my responsibilities while maintaining my mental and physical health.

Maura’s journey reflects the best of the festival world – supportive people who lift each other up and support them through the good and the bad. We wish her the best of luck as she competes for the Miss America crown in December.

Christine Boyett Barr is an award winning journalist and English instructor, teaching middle school and college English.In addition to her pedagogical pursuits, she hosts movie events for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and portrays Catherine of Aragon at the Texas Renaissance Festival. She is the mother of four, and is owned by two cats. 

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The mission of LadyFaire is to encourage people, particularly women and femmes, to recognize the beauty and magic in their world while developing their inner strength and connections with others so that they can live abundant, creative, empowered lives. Words build bridges to relationships, art strengthens the soul, and authentic friendships change the world.

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