AUGUSTA — Fresh from her victory as Miss Maine USA, Ali Clair is gearing up for the Miss USA pageant, which will be held in Las Vegas in June.

Clair, 23, who grew up on the Waterville and Winslow side of China Lake, is a 2007 Erskine Academy graduate who went on to major in journalism at the University of Maine. She graduated in 2011 with a minor in dance, a passion that has helped her in the pageant competitions.

“I danced all the way through college,” she said. “I loved being on stage.”

Her love of the stage is what prompted her to enter her first Miss Maine USA beauty pageant last year, where she finished third runner-up. Since then, she’s worked with a coach and personal trainer to help her fine-tune skills needed to win pageants, including her walk, interviewing and staying fit. She does a lot of hot yoga and works out every day, she said.

That hard work paid off last month when she was crowned Miss Maine USA following a competition at the Samoset Resort and Spa in Rockport.

“I love to lead a healthy and active life,” she said. “I think the Miss USA system looks for a healthy and fitness conscious girl.”

The Miss USA competition, not to be confused with the Miss America contest, was founded in 1952 by Catalina Swimsuits. Contestants must be between the ages of 18 and 27 and cannot be married, according to the pageant’s website. Winners of the Miss USA pageant go on to compete for the title of Miss Universe.

Clair lives in Portland and works as a marketing director for a commercial real estate firm. An avid bargain hunter, she is proud that she was able to find a competition-grade gown for $399, while most competitors typically spend $600 to $700.

“If you find a dress you’re comfortable in, that’s going to make you the most beautiful girl on stage,” she said.

Regardless of how she fares at the national competition in June, Clair said she plans to be an active Miss Maine who travels the state to attend public events.

“I want people to know who’s representing them in Miss USA,” she said. “I want to be an active and known title holder.”

Even before she travels to Las Vegas, Clair will go to Palm Springs in March to meet some of the other competitors and prepare for the pageant.

She is the daughter of Jim and Jenny Clair, of China, and sister to Annie Clair, 16.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “This is an experience of a lifetime. I really want to do well.”

Susan Cover — 621-5643
scover@mainetoday.com