Jalee Fuselier plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work and has an older sister with cerebral palsy, so her first official act yesterday visiting hospitalized children as the newly crowned Miss Hawaii was especially important to Fuselier.
"It’s days like this," Fuselier said, following the Miss Hawaii tradition of delivering lei and roses to patients at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children. "This is why I ran. This is the kind of service I love."
Fuselier, a 22-year-old, new Hawaii Pacific University graduate with a degree in international relations, grew up watching the Miss Hawaii and Miss America pageants. Having the Miss Hawaii crown placed on her head Saturday night was "surreal," she said, en route to representing the islands in the Miss America pageant on Jan. 15.
"When my parents were dating, they would watch the Miss America pageant all the time," Fuselier said. "I dreamed of being Miss Hawaii. So being up there onstage was surreal."
Fuselier’s name comes from the French term for an artillery regiment with a touch of French-Louisiana seasoning. But she gives people a Hawaiian-style pneumonic device to pronounce it correctly: "fuscia-lei."
The youngest daughter of parents James and Janet, Fuselier said her older sister, Janee, swears that she dreamed she would have a baby sister one day named Jalee, pronounced "Jay-Lee."
"She prayed and prayed for a sister forever and wanted to name me Jalee," Fuselier said.
Fuselier was home-schooled in Haleiwa. For the Miss Hawaii’s Outstanding Teen Scholarship Pageant that launched her pageant career, Fuselier wore a prom dress that she made for the annual Oahu home school prom.
That first pageant took her to the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Scholarship Pageant in Florida and resulted in a scholarship to HPU. After her reign as Miss Hawaii, Fuselier plans to return to HPU to pursue a master’s degree, specializing in family counseling.
Fuselier has no boyfriend, but does possess a resume crammed full of volunteer community service: work with Hawaii’s homeless; outreach to elementary, middle and high school children through Music With a Message; tours through Europe and Africa via Teen Missions, a nondenominational Christian group; and performances with Up with People.
As her role as a goodwill ambassador officially began yesterday, Fuselier was particularly touched by the boys and girls she met at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, many of whom will avoid the kinds of complications her sister endured as a child.
"To see those kids and know they won’t have to deal with the same kinds of problems," Fuselier said, "it brings tears of happiness to my eyes."