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What’s in It for Miss Iowa? PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Tuesday, 04 June 2002 18:00
A lot has changed about the annual Miss America Pageant, starting at the bottom rung of a tiered process that used to elevate women for their beauty and performing talents, but now rewards them more for their community service, grasp of current issues, and career goals. That is not to say that the young women who compete are not beautiful to behold, but instead of featuring the traditional 36-24-36 standard, the emphasis is on poise and presence, hopefully with a flare for style.

In order to compete for the Miss America title, contestants must first win local and state titles. Counties sponsor young women who run for the Miss Iowa title, which entitles that winner to go on to the national Miss America competition. The Miss Iowa competition has been held in Davenport since its inception. This year, 16 women will vie for Miss Iowa at the Adler Theatre on June 6, 7, and 8, and their reasons for doing so have some common themes, but also reflect individually diverse goals.

The most common theme for participating in what most classify as a beauty contest is the scholarship opportunities that abound for contestants. There are no losers in this regard. The pageant process has many award opportunities, ranging from talent competitions to highest grade point average to most community service. Depending on the level of community support and sponsorships, a contestant can be awarded numerous scholarship funds. The primary stipulation to the awards is that it all be spent specifically on education. The winners cannot use their award monies for anything but education. It is in this way that many of the young women are able to help fund their educations, while participating in a program that gives them much more than just monetary rewards.

The current Miss Iowa, Erin Smith, is a living example of the pageant’s worth as a builder of confidence, grace, poise, and lofty goals. Erin’s platform is literacy. She won an admirable number of awards as a pageant participant, including $5,000 for having the highest grade point average in the entire Miss America competition. Erin will finish her degree in political science, then intends to go on to law school, and hopes to one day be governor of Iowa. There is nothing small is this young woman’s vision. Also in the wings supporting the pageant is the former 1982 Miss Iowa, Linda Simon Kinseth, who emphasized the tremendous opportunity the pageant gives to young women to build and develop life skills for future careers, as well as the myriad scholarships available to all who participate, not just the winners of titles.

In a time when there is a distinct need for a demographic attitude adjustment by the majority of twenty-somethings, who have a severe case of the entitlements, it is refreshing and hopeful to see young women destined for greatness as much because of their willingness to learn as for their desire to be shown the protocol of tradition, respect, and civic-mindedness. It isn’t just about being lovely or charming anymore (although it sure doesn’t hurt), but about understanding the bigger issues of life, and more importantly, caring about them. The pageant is broken down in four general scoring parts: 40% of the score is based on the interviews; 30% on talent; 15% on fitness; and 15% on presence and poise (this is the evening gown event).

About the Miss Iowa Contestants

The 16 contestants for Miss Iowa were asked what their talent was, what they declared as their platform, what their individual goal was relative to their platform and the pageant, and why the pageant process was the means they chose to advance their platform. (Each contestant’s platform represents the one issue she will advocate over all others.)

Miss Scott County – Michelle Swieter (originally from Waverly, IA) – Vocal selection from Barbara Striesand – “Encouraging behaviorally disordered students to achieve success, and the promotion of intelligence amongst behaviorally disordered students. I am currently focused on Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), which has overtaken ADHD in numbers of students diagnosed.” – Through the pageant, Michelle hopes to learn life skills, such as interviewing, meeting people and networking, the overall exposure to other young women who have similar goals and aspirations, as well as good preparation for future.

Miss Great Lakes – Jessica Hurley – Classical Piano – “Power of Music; promotion of the benefits of music educationally, emotionally, and health-wise, creating more exposure to the power of music in people’s lives.” – Jessica believes the pageant gives her the opportunity to meet others, and the experience and means to carry her message to a broader audience.

Miss Golden Circle – Stephanie Moore – Vocal Pop – “Mentoring and Developing the Capabilities of Today’s Youth through Interaction.” The pageant gives Stephanie the opportunity to continue to work on her talent, which she loves, while also working with children, another passion. The process better prepares her for the real world through interviews and meeting other girls capable of so many things, which in turn adds to her own confidence and makes her feel special to be a part of the process.

Miss Ottumwa KTVO – Heidi Humphries – Classical Piano – “Once a volunteer, Always a volunteer; geared toward more youth involvement.” Heidi is in the process of establishing Ottumwa as a “community of promise” in conjunction with Colin Powell’s national youth program “America’s Promise,” which emphasizes more outreach to youth and getting younger people involved in volunteerism. The pageant will help Heidi with interviewing and self-marketing so that she can establish more Iowa communities as “cities of promise.”

Miss Clinton County – Bernida Egging – Vocal Selection – “Importance of volunteerism in today’s students.” Bernida has begun the STARR Volunteer Program, Students Taking Active Roles Responsibly, through a unique partnership of local high school students and hospitals. Training is included to ensure the program’s success. Bernida believes that the pageant offers scholarships and is a highly respectable organization that affords the opportunity to be a hostess of a county to promote her platform.

Miss Johnson County – Nicole White (formerly from Eldridge) – Classical Vocal/Opera – “Special Olympics; changing perceptions and impacting lives.” Nicole has volunteered for the Special Olympics most of her life and feels devoted and comfortable with the issue. She fears there are negative perceptions in society relative to mentally handicapped people and would like to do her part in dispelling them. Her goal is to achieve more acceptance of those mentally handicapped, while simultaneously making the mentally handicapped feel more accepted by society.

Miss Mississippi Valley Fair – Colleen Dunnegan – Dance Twirl Baton – “Organ Tissue Donor Awareness.” Colleen notes there are 80,000 patients waiting for some kind of transplant, and she has met many people who have benefited from donors, so she is committed to educating, clearing up misconceptions about organ and tissue donating, and inspiring others to become donors. She speaks to driver’s education classes, rotary clubs, etc., and coordinated a bone-marrow donor drive. Colleen believes the pageant is a way to help her develop her life skills and better promote her platform throughout the state.

Miss Louisa County – Laura Miller - Classical Vocal/Opera – “ABCs of Breast Health; Annual mammogram, Breast self-exam, and Clinical exams.” Laura encourages the focus on early detection of breast cancer. She has worked with the American Cancer Society and Race for the Cure, developing the ABCs as an educational program. She is also a registered facilitator of breast examination. Laura’s goal is to become Miss Iowa because it will give her the power of the crown, giving her a stronger voice to advance her platform statewide.

Miss Twin Rivers – Carolyn Nicolas – Classical Flute – “Bridging the Gap; improving lives of Senior Citizens.” Carolyn’s goal is to bridge the generation gap by involving more youth with our elderly. The pageant is a means to gain a stronger voice to better promote her platform to improve the lives of senior citizens, as well as those of our youth, by bringing them together in empowering and meaningful ways.

Miss Greater Des Moines – Bethany Moklestad – Classical Piano – “Our Priceless Treasure; Individuals with Special Needs.” Bethany’s concern is that our citizens with disabilities and special needs often go without recognition. Her goal is to bring more awareness to this under-recognized group. She believes that the pageant allows her to develop and establish herself through more experience.

Miss Capital City – Chrissy Shelledy – Classical Vocal – “Community Building Character.” Chrissy believes that while character is begun at home, it is the responsibility of the entire community to set the example for our youth. Chrissy has started programs to achieve this mission and sees the pageant as a means to take her platform to the state level. The pageant gives her skills in public speaking, poise, and confidence necessary to persuade others to embrace her platform.

Miss Northwest Iowa – Jill Ulrich – Gymnastics – “Childhood Obesity.” Jill is concerned with the fact that childhood obesity has doubled in the last ten years. Her mission is to educate Iowans about the growing problem in Iowa and the nation. The pageant allows her to have a more credible voice, to be more assertive and to speak more freely about the problem of childhood obesity. Because of its enormous respectability as an organization, participating in the pageant provides accessibility to broader audiences.

Miss Burlington – Rachel McVey – Percussions – “Homelessness.” Rachel emphasizes that there are 19,000 homeless people in Iowa. She wants to bring more awareness to and raise funds for this important issue, and rid the public of stereotypes that prevail. Rachel notes that 40 percent of homeless people are families with children. She believes the pageant is a way to give younger people power behind their words.

Miss Central Iowa – Chelsea Ridge – Vocal/Broadway selection – “TNT; Teenagers and Tomorrow; Dynamite for the Future.” Chelsea’s commitment is to raising the self-esteem of today’s young people by challenging them to get REAL—Responsibility, Education, Assertiveness, and Loyalty (to self). She is a participant in Dream It Believe It, which supports self-esteem in young women (she would like to broaden it to also include young men) with an ideology of dream, persevere, and believe in self. Chelsea’s goal is to become Miss America so that she can take programming that encourages self-esteem for our youth nationwide. She considers the pageant titles as the most prestigious public relations jobs for women in America.

The Miss Iowa Pageant will be held at the Adler Theatre, on June 6, 7, and 8, and the public is welcome to attend. The contestants have worked all week visiting sponsors, doing community service, but above all rehearsing! They are anxious and hopeful as one might expect, not so much to be considered the most beautiful girl in Iowa (which is quite impossible because all the young women are as lovely as they are inspiring), but to advance their causes and vie for the larger prize of Miss America. Whoever wins this year’s Miss Iowa title will have an entire year to promote her platform throughout the state, to a broad audience of interested spectators, who have yet to turn down the coveted opportunity to meet Miss Iowa.
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