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.”
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.
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.
“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 Denver-area mall that houses the Saks Fifth Avenue where she works is closing in March, another victim of the sagging economy.
Blair Griffith, 23, was evicted from her home last November, only a month after being crowned Miss Colorado USA. But despite having “all my belongings thrown into a trash bag,” she hopes to become Miss USA in June: “I want to be an inspiration.”
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.”