Broadcasting, Pageantry…Tomato, Tomahto….

How my involvement in The Miss America Organization led me to a career in broadcasting and how my experience in The Miss America Organization prepared me for a career in broadcasting. 

“Everything happens for a reason,” and “What’s meant to be will always find a way,” are two of my absolute favorite quotes. They’re also two phrases that I seem to utter A LOT. But, when it comes to The Miss America Organization and the career path it led me down, those phrases could not be more true.

Let’s put this out there first and foremost-most college students will inevitably change their intended major and minor at some point in their college career. If you don’t, BRAVO you’re one of the few to know exactly what you want to do going into school. A lot of times high school students are pressured into thinking they need to know what they are going to school and what they want out of their future (WHAT?! I know, my thoughts exactly). The truth is, it’s perfectly okay if you don’t know what major or minor you wish to pursue.

I intially went to school intending to major in Athletic Training with a Pre-Professional Track in most likely Physical Therapy.  I knew I wanted to do something with sports and I also knew that particular job market was good (as well as the pay). But the more I got enthralled into classes, the worse I started to do in school, and the more I felt as though this wasn’t what I wanted to do…that’s where the Miss America Organization comes into play.

Fall of my sophomore year of college at UW-La Crosse I began my work in the highly competitive and well-known Athletic Training Program; also, just a few weeks into the semester I was crowned Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest 2012. As a result of those two events colliding, here’s just one way the MAO has changed my life: within the first couple months of taking on my academic course load and my very first title I held within the Miss America Organization I realized the career path I intended for myself wasn’t a good fit.  The more appearances I attended, the more people I talked to, and the more I enthralled myself in myself into the pageant world the more I swayed towards switching my major. Inevitably, I contemplated becoming a communication studies major with a minor in broadcasting. I had admired women like Erin Andrews and Samantha Ponder but always laughed, thinking I could never get to that point…thanks to the Miss America Organization my questionable mindset changed.

On-air with Bob Schmidt at the La Crosse Radio Group

It all came down to one night when I called my dad crying and said I wanted to switch to communication studies and I did just that. I can also tell you that as soon as I made that switch a tremendous weight was lifted off of my shoulders and I felt as though I was precisely where I was supposed to be (Note-to everyone trying to figure out what their future holds, relax and trust in God. What is meant to be will happen in due time). It was in my sophomore year of college that I really started to figure out who I was, what I wanted out of life, and believed whole heartedly I could accomplish anything if I wanted it bad enough.

Working as the weekend DJ on Z93 after a morning appearance

I ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational and Professional Communication Studies with a Minor in Sports Broadcasting. My first title as Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest and connections in the community led me to an internship with Coulee Region Sports Network shortly following Miss Wisconsin 2013. In addition, relationships with other local pageant programs and past titleholders exposed me to past and present people in the broadcasting industry. One just so happened to be a future boss of mine when I worked at Z93, The #1 Hit Music Station at Midwest Family Broadcasting for eight months during my senior year of college.  

I’ve always been outgoing and not the least bit afraid to get up in front of a crowd and speak but being a titleholder helped to push my limits. It showed me that I needed to pursue a career path that surrounded me with people and allowed me the capability to positively impact others’ lives. It also showed me that my love for people in the community coincides with broadcasting in the sense that I spend every day at “work” out in the community, talking with people and sharing their stories.  

Reflecting back on the past three and a half years fills my heart with the utmost joy and in way, also makes me laugh. I was so worried about solidifying a major and minor going into school which was ridiculous because it’s nearly impossible to know precisely what you want at that age. Little did I know, my involvement in the Miss America Organization would not only lead me to a career that I love, but it also connected me with countless people who influenced my professional and pageant careers. Both journeys have also taught me overlapping, invaluable lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. From strengthening my confidence to vast improvements in my speech (consequently helping my Miss America Organization interviews) to helping me see contraversial topics from different perspectives, I know whole heartedly a career in broadcasting was the right road for me to take and I am forever thankful the Miss America Organization helped me realize that. 

So there it the saying (or my saying goes) “Broadcasting, Pageantry…Tomato, Tomahto….” These two jobs present countless similarities and require overlapping skill-sets. I am lucky enough to be working towards two larger goals within the Miss America Organization and broadcasting that parallel one another so much.

Lessons learned from being a broadcast major (now multimedia journalist) and a titleholder within the Miss America Organization:

  • Life is about taking a step out of your comfort zone on a daily basis. Whether I am at an appearance or out on a story I constantly have to immerse myself in a new environment, walk up to people I do not know, and strike up a conversation (and I absolutely love it!)
  • First impressions are huge! A strong handshake, eye contact, and a smile go a very long way.
  • It’s all about who you know. From judges, to pageant volunteers, to past and present titleholders, to people I’ve met out on stories as a multimedia journalist-so many people have helped connect me to someone who has aided in advancing my professional career, providing me with pageant feedback, and connected me to an outlet for my platform. Market yourself in a positive manner and work to maintain connections, you never know when they’ll come in handy!
  • Being “on,” isn’t something that can or should be switched on and and off, it’s a way of life and should be who you are. Socializing, making connections, and presenting myself in a proper manner whether I am at work or at an appearance really never ends. In both realms, I am representing a company and organization that expect me to be outgoing, personable, accountable, and most importantly myself.
  • Confidence is key. You’re not always going to have it all together, no one does (you’re only human). Stand tall, smile, and believe in yourself-you can conquer any obstacle and opportunity that comes your way if you possess the ability to  have faith in who you are as a person. With that being said…
  • Flexibility is an extremely admirable trait. Things are bound to go wrong. I’ve stumbled on words while reporting live on-air, I’ve arrived to the wrong location of stories and appearances, and I’ve had jewelry break right before I was supposed to go on stage for competition at Miss Wisconsin…you name it…it’s happened and it always will. Learn how to shake things off, take a deep breath, and roll with the punches because life is bound to throw you unforeseen hurdles and you must find some way around them.
  • There is ALWAYS room for improvement and personal growth. You may think you sound great on-air, that your technical skills are awesome, maybe your swimsuit walk is flawless, and your talent piece is spot on…WRONG. Accept constructive criticism from those around you and love yourself enough to realize there is always room for growth.

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