1. Headline
  1. Headline

Video: Homeless beauty queen has no place to hang crown

  1. Closed captioning of: Homeless beauty queen has no place to hang crown

    >>> 8:10. she's poised, beautiful and it seems she would have everything but there is one thing she doesn't have -- a home. we'll talk to her in a moment. but first, her story.

    >> reporter: when blair griffith walks into a room, people notice. she's beautiful, smart.

    >> graduated with honors.

    >> blair griffith .

    >>> and, yes, a beauty queen . in october she was crowned 2011 miss colorado usa , realizing a lifelong dream. but just a month later she and her mother were evicted from this townhome and homeless.

    >> it was a hard reality to face. like i don't really have anywhere to go.

    >> reporter: the last decade has been rough for griffith . when she was 14 her father gary who inspired her interest in beauty pageants died of prostate cancer . her mother had a heart attack and couldn't work. medical and school bills mounted and they lost their home.

    >> it just became unavoidable.

    >> reporter: throughout it all, mother and daughter have leaned on one another.

    >> i'm just amazed that whatever we have gone up against she stands there, handles it and she moves on.

    >> reporter: despite the hard times , griffith is pushing on as miss colorado bringing a larger problem into the spotlight.

    >> homelessness doesn't discriminate whether it's miss colorado or miss jones who lives next door. i think it just lets us know we are all in that situation.

    >> i feel there are so many people right now in this country that have the same story.

    >> reporter: she hopes to use her experience and crown to help others.

    >> i'm homeless. i don't have a home to go to.

    >> reporter: even for grif fth, these are hard times . she works at a department store that's about to close. 150 people will lose their jobs including her.

    >> there are times i break down. i try to stay as strong as i can. it does get to moments where you just want to say, isn't it enough already?

    >> reporter: she says it's at these moment that is the support of friends stands out. some have shared their home. others writsen her notes of inadministrati inspirati inspiration.

    >> when it seems everything is falling down around us, something strong and certain within us is preparing to spread its wings and soar.

    >> reporter: griffith hopes to soar when she competes for the miss use crown this june.

    >> you have to stay focused on the goals and dreams and i think if you stay focused on them you will find a way to make them happen.

    >> blair griffith is with us exclusively. good morning to you.

    >> good morning.

    >> i think most people don't think of a beauty pageant winner as the face of homelessness, but that's important. it's part of the story.

    >> it is. anyone can really fall victim to this, unfortunately, with the situation that's going on in today's economy. it's not a surprise that someone like me, a beauty queen , or anyone in this world can fall victim.

    >> this started to happen -- i guess your mom had a heart attack three years ago.

    >> exactly.

    >> that's when things started to spiral out of control.

    >> mm-hmm. correct. it really started when my dad passed away . that's when things took a downward turn. the stress of that, my mom becoming a single parent and having to raise two children on her own got to her. she had her heart attack . ever since then it's been trying to pay for her medical bills. she lost her insurance. so she had to pay out of pocket for medication.

    >> didn't qualify for disability.

    >> and so with having to pay for all those expenses it became hard to keep up with the home as well.

    >> you went ahead with plans to try out for miss colorado , usa. your dad encouraged you. when you won the title tell me what it felt like to have your name called out?

    >> it was a dream come true . four years i tried to win the title of miss colorado usa . it's been a huge goal for me. that was one of the moments and i said, thank you, something great has definitely happened.

    >> a month later you are evicted from your home.

    >> exactly. it was terrible. when you go through the eviction process they come in, throw your belongings into trash bags and you have no idea where anything is and you're just trying to get your life together in two hours' time. it's difficult.

    >> it has to be frightening. we were saying in the break we are all one lost job away from this happening to us.

    >> exactly. it can happen to anyone. it was unexpected for me. i wasn't aware that we were being evicted from our home until we got the knock on the door from the sheriff saying, we're coming in and moving you out. it was just very hard seeing everything, all of my dresses that i wanted to compete in at miss usa thrown into a trash bag , nowhere to be found.

    >> where does it stand now for you and your mom? how are you doing?

    >> we're doing good. by the grace of great friends who have let us come in and stay in their homes we have a place to stay right now. of course we are just trying to work to get our lives back together to be able to afford our own home. i'm just focusing on trying to compete for miss usa as well.

    >> that's june?

    >> june 19 in louisiana.

    >> -- in las vegas .

    >> your message?

    >> i want to be an inspiration and show you that no matter what hardship you're facing if you stay focused on your goals and dreams you can achieve them. you don't need a lot of money. when i competed at the state pageant i reused things i had from previous years and you can find sponsorship and support to get to where you want to be.

    >> i hope donald trump is watching this morning. blair , thank you very much. the best to your mom and brother as well.

    >> thank you.

By
TODAY contributor

It was last November, just a month after her greatest triumph — winning the Miss Colorado USA pageant — when the knock came on the door of the townhouse 23-year-old Blair Griffith shared with her ailing mother.

She watched, stunned, as sheriff’s officers, armed with an eviction notice, tossed all of their worldly possessions into trash bags. And just like that, the young woman whose beauty and poise had put her on the path to the Miss USA crown was homeless.

Even so, Griffith is not bitter. Instead, she told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Friday, she hopes her experience can inspire others. After all, she pointed out, many Americans are in the same dire straits.

“Anyone can fall victim to this with the situation that’s going on in today’s economy,” Griffith said. Still, she admitted, “It was terrible. When you go through the eviction process, they basically come in and throw all your belongings into trash bags and you have no idea where anything is, and you’re just trying to get your life together in two hours’ time. It’s very difficult.”

  1. Related stories
    1. She lost 110 lbs. — and won beauty queen crown

      Before being crowned Miss South Carolina July 2, Bree Boyce, 22, shed nearly half her body weight over three years. “It’s ...

    2. Crowning Miss America 2011
    3. Miss USA: I don't like wearing heels!
    4. Beauty queen scandals
    5. Miss Klingon? 12 bizarre beauty pageants

Multiple misfortunes
The road that led to that awful moment began years earlier, when Griffith was in eighth grade and her father, who had encouraged the young tomboy to enter the pageant world, took ill. When he died of prostate cancer, “that’s when things really started to take a downward turn,” Griffith told Vieira.

Soon, the stress of being a single mom to two children took its toll on Griffith’s mother, Bonita; she suffered a heart attack that required surgery, and was unable to work. Bonita Griffith lost her insurance when her insurer declared that the heart attack was the result of a pre-existing condition. That meant that she had to pay her medical expenses, including $800 a month for medications, out of her own pocket.

Video: Homeless beauty queen has no place to hang crown (on this page)

Blair, meanwhile, knew things were bad, but had no idea how bad. She continued her four-year quest to capture the Miss Colorado USA crown, and on October 31, she won it.

“It was a dream come true,” she said. “Four years I had tried to win the title of Miss Colorado USA; it’s just been a big, huge goal for me, and it was definitely one of those moments in life when I said, ‘Thank you.’ Something great had definitely happened.”

But then, a month later, came the eviction. “It was really unexpected for me. I wasn’t aware that we were being evicted from our home until we got the knock on the door from the sheriff saying, ‘We’re coming in and moving you out,’ ” Griffith said.

Related: Miss Colorado USA looks for a place to hang her crown

“It was just very hard seeing everything, all of my belongings, my dresses that I wanted to compete in at Miss USA, thrown into a trash bag and nowhere to be found,” she added.

Message of hope
And recently Griffith, who juggles a full-time job with the personal appearance demands of her position as Miss Colorado USA, got more bad news: The Saks Fifth Avenue store where she works is closing in March, another victim of the sagging economy.

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. Mom's home! Toddler ignores military protocol, runs into soldier's arms

      Military protocol was no match for a 3-year-old boy's love for his mom during an emotional reunion on Tuesday. As Kathryn ...

    2. Ailing infant’s parents share donated funds to help others
    3. What to buy at the dollar store — and what to skip
    4. At Home with TODAY: Natalie Morales welcomes you inside her New Jersey kitchen
    5. Boxes, balancing and more: 9 things I wish I knew before getting a cat
Still, Griffith says she counts herself and her mother as luckier than many: “We’re doing good by the grace of great friends who let us come in and stay in their homes,” she said. “We have a place to stay right now. Of course, we’re just trying to work to get our lives back together again to be able to afford our own home.”

And Griffith has also kept her eyes on another prize: She continues to prepare for the Miss USA pageant in June in Las Vegas, which she hopes will give her a platform for her message of hope.

“My message when I get there is just that I want to be an inspiration to everyone and show you that no matter the hardships you’re facing, if you stay focused on your dreams and your goals, you can achieve them.”

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: 2010 Miss USA

loading photos...
  1. Miss USA 2010

    Fifty-one contestants from every state and the District of Columbia took to the stage Sunday at Las Vegas' Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino to compete for the title of Miss USA and the opportunity for a place in the Miss Universe pageant.

    Miss Michigan USA Rima Fakih, 24, took home the crown after the swimsuit, evening gown and interview competitions. When asked how she felt about winning, she said, "Ask me after I've had a pizza." (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Immediate reaction

    Fakih, from Dearborn, Mich., covers her mouth in shock after winning the Miss USA pageant. Earlier, she nearly fell during the evening gown portion of the competition while finishing her walk in a long, strapless gown because of the length of its train. She made it without a spill. (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Showing off her swimwear

    Fakih, of Lebanese descent, is believed to be the first Arab American, immigrant and Muslim to become Miss USA. She told pageant organizers her family celebrates both Muslim and Christian faiths. She moved to the United States as a baby and was raised in New York. Here she is competing in the bathing suit portion of the competition. (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Dreaded interview question

    During the interview portion, Fakih was asked whether she thought birth control should be paid for by health insurance. "I believe that birth control is just like every other medication even though it's a controlled substance," Fakih said. (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Hugs from the hopefuls

    Fakih is surrounded by contestants after she was crowned Miss USA 2010. The 51 hopefuls became an online sensation during the week after they posed for racy photographs that some thought were too revealing. (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Awaiting the results

    Fakih and Miss Oklahoma USA Morgan Elizabeth Woolard, left, stand together seconds before Fakih was named Miss USA. Woolard, the first runner-up, will take over official duties if Fakih is unable to or is relieved of her official duties. (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Her final walk

    Kristen Dalton, the winner in 2009, takes her final walk as Miss USA prior to crowning her successor. Earlier in the program, Dalton said traveling to Haiti to help the earthquake relief efforts was the most memorable part of her year-long reign. (Darren Decker / Miss Universe Organization) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. The evening's emcees

    TODAY's Natalie Morales and celebrity chef Curtis Stone co-hosted the event. Before flying out to Las Vegas, Morales told TODAY it was an "honor" to be asked to be on the stage. "It's always such a glamorous event and I look forward to meeting the gorgeous contestants," she said. (Darren Decker / Miss Universe Organization) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Letting loose in Las Vegas

    The 51 contestants were joined by musical guests Trace Adkins and Boys Like Girls during the show. Here they dance to music by Ke$ha at the opening of the pageant. (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Heads above most of the hopefuls

    Host Curtis Stone teases Miss Maine Katherine Ashley Whittier, about her height during the Miss USA 2010 pageant. (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. The beauty from El Paso

    Miss Texas Kelsey Moore, from El Paso, was one of the youngest contestants in this year's ceremony at 19 years old. (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A Rose from New Mexico

    Miss New Mexico Rosanna Aguilar competes in the Miss USA 2010 pageant. A panel of eight judges, including NBA star Carmelo Anthony and Treasure Island casino-hotel owner Phil Ruffin, were judging the girls throughout the night. (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Crowding the stage

    Most of the field of contestants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia were eliminated just after the pageant began. Ten more were eliminated after the swimsuit and the evening gown rounds. The winner was selected after the interview portion of the competition. (Isaac Brekken / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

More on TODAY.com

  1. Hudson's Heart/Facebook

    Ailing infant’s parents share donated funds to help others

    9/17/2014 3:55:30 PM +00:00 2014-09-17T15:55:30
  1. Obama: US will not fight another ground war in Iraq

    The U.S. will not send armed forces to fight a ground war in Iraq, President Barack Obama told service members at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, a day after his top military adviser said he could envision recommending the president deploy ground troops.

    9/17/2014 3:51:00 PM +00:00 2014-09-17T15:51:00
  1. What to buy at the dollar store — and what to skip

    We all love the treasure-hunting thrill of finding bargains at the dollar store. But did you know you can save even more with coupons or by shopping online?

    9/17/2014 3:34:44 PM +00:00 2014-09-17T15:34:44