Sandra Restrepo on Being First Female Director of Miss America in Over 15 Years

The 2020 Miss America Competition - Season 2020

History will not only be made on stage when the 2020 Miss America Competition unfolds on Thursday, December 19, live on NBC. Behind the scenes, Sandra Restrepo takes the reins as the first female director of the event in more than 15 years.

After directing the first live televised musical performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, numerous award shows, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and 2 Dope Queens, she believes each opportunity got her to this moment.

“I really look forward to working with these amazing women,” Restrepo says. “They are so smart and talented and have so many different interests and really represent what women can do. I feel proud in telling their stories because I’ve always been very conscious of helping other women get a chance to really shine. I want there to be a time where it’s not so unusual you’d have a women director. It’s really great that our industry is starting to make room for women in key positions. We just need the chance to be in the room. When I do my job, I think of myself as a director first, who happens to be female.”

Girl power is strong on the Miss America production team with Restrepo joined by COZI TV, LX and LX TV Senior Vice President Meredith McGinn, who is serving as co-executive producer, and Saturday Night Live choreographer Danielle Flora. Organizers of Miss America 2.0 tease a new format, building upon more tweaks and changes like last year’s decision of axing the swimsuit competition.

Restrepo is taking an active approach to helping the participants feel relaxed knowing the pressure they must feel. The key for her is to make them comfortable in order to tell their respective stories in the best way possible.

“I think you’ll get to know these women a little more than you have in the past,” she previews. “We want you to feel like you know where they’ve come from and what they want to do and plans for how they’re going to continue making a difference in the world. I think that’s really important. I’m impressed with so many of them have diverse interests and majors. There are so many in science and tech. It’s really quite wonderful and reflective where we are right now.”

It’s also about deciding who out of the 51 takes the crown, currently worn by Nia Franklin. Restrepo wants to instill the idea to viewers, especially young girls, that dreams can be realized. The possibilities are endless with what you want to do in your life — certainly, the trailblazing director is proof of that.

“I think back to when my older sister was in the Miss Muscatine pageant. She was the first runner-up and got a $600 scholarship for it,” Restrepo said. “And this was 1982, so she was thrilled because it was $600… She was thrilled to be able to do it and get some scholarship money.

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The 'Dancing with the Stars' judge joins television personality Ross Mathews to bring viewers inside as 51 compete for the coveted crown.

“I think that is my biggest memory of Miss America is always having it be about the scholarship and helping women further their education and being able to do what they want to do. It’s very empowering. I always thought that’s the thing that sets Miss America apart is the ability to provide scholarships to help women. I love that.”

Miss America 2020, Thursday, December 19, 8/7c, NBC