Where do I begin? Chelsey and I embarked on our Miss Wisconsin Program experience together three short years ago with both of our very first Miss America Organization titles; she was Miss Oshkosh at the time and I was Miss La Crosse. Throughout that time frame, we have had the opportunity to get to know each other, motivate one another, and make memories that will last a lifetime.
This year, we had the chance to room together at state and shared many moments of reflection, deep conversations, and worked up a decent sweat with late night workouts to hip-hop YouTube videos. Chels, I think I speak for everyone when I say, thank you for constantly exuding the utmost energy for life and passion for this organization, while never failing to stay true to who you are. Know that you have left a legacy that will not be forgotten. XO
Birthday: December 1, 1991
Education: UW-Milwaukee Graduate School – Masters in Social Work
Dream job: Private mental health therapy practice
1. What inspired you to get involved with the Miss America Organization? I was applying for multiple academic scholarships and not having any luck receiving any of them. One night during my Sophmore year of undergrad, by chance, I was on Facebook and an old friend of mine messaged me. Her name is Kaela Zielinski, and she mentioned that I should get involved in the MAO.
2. Tell us about your first MAO pageant. As I mentioned, Kaela brought the idea of competing into my head. I think this was in January or February. I was eager to compete so I looked up what pageants were left and what I qualified for. Miss Southern Wisconsin! I loved it so much that I made sure I was more prepared for the following year. I was at UW-Oshkosh completing my Bachelors Degree, so I made sure that I would be able to compete for the title of Miss Oshkosh next!
3. What is/was your platform and why did you choose it? My platform is called Take Action: Autism Therapy. I choose this platform issue because at the time that I started competing I was working children who had autism. I saw the growth and change in them from participating in therapy and the impact it played on not only their lives, but their families life. There was this one time I was working with a little boy, lets call him “Billy” for confidentiality reasons, and we were at a playground. He was just playing doing his own thing, and I noticed the other children were not really interacting with him. He ran over to me and said, “Miss Chelsey the other kids wont play with me.” That was a crucial moment for me and the direction I wanted to take with my platform. I felt a duty to share the message of what autism is, particularly with young children so that they would understand their peers with autism better. My hope was to create communities that were more inclusive, understanding, and aware of autism and how to interact with these individuals. I never wanted another child to feel the way that “Billy” must of felt in that moment on the playground.
4. What is your favorite phase of competition, why? This one is always tough because I love every phase. The first thing that comes to my head is always “Swimsuit.” Which is funny because it is usually everyone’s least favorite and certainly the most “controversial.” But, I have always loved swimsuit. It helped me love my body and feel confident in the skin I’m in. It is also very fun strutting your stuff and showing the judges and audience a different side to your personality! When I’m on stage I am not thinking about my body at all, I am enjoying the moment.
6. What titles have you held and what were some of your biggest accomplishments or most cherished memories during each of them? (this can be answered in bullet format)
I need to put a disclaimer that I literally sat here for 5 minutes because I cannot narrow down my favorites! Every appearance or event I was apart of I cherish so deeply. I started looking at my Facebook albums to help me narrow some specific times down, and a big smile was brought to my face and I got a little teary eyed because this has really been the most amazing ride!
- Miss Oshkosh 2013 – Talking with the girls at the Boys and Girls club; Halloween at the Zoo; and Ipads for Autism. This event I partnered with the Kiwanis club to raise enough money to provide Ipads to families with a child who have autism.
- Miss West Allis 2014 – Autism Speaks Walk/Run – where I was able to help in the kids corner doing face painting, photos, and a bounce house; Hosting Mr. UW-Oshkosh where the proceeds went to Autism Speaks; Dancing with the Girl Scouts; being in the Wisconsin State Fair parade; and the iCan Bike Camp!
- Miss Eastern Valley 2015 – Walk Now 4 Autism Speaks run/walk; Pancake Day; Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Miracle Day; and Speaking to 200 students in one day about my platform!
7. What is/was your talent and what do/did you enjoy most about performing it? A jazz dance to Bette Midler’s Miss Otis Regrets. I love this dance because it is so fun, fast-paced, and upbeat! I loved performing it because I always had so much energy doing it and I could feel that the audience felt that same excitement!
8. Who is your biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program? All of the young women I have competed with and have known through this program. All of the women inspire me and make me proud to be apart of this wonderful organization.
9. Favorite comfort food outside of competition mode? PIZZA! Although, if I’m being honest, I eat it during “completion mode” too!
10. Who is your favorite Miss America? Why? Mallory Hagan. I think she is unapologetically herself and I love that.
11. How would you describe the feelings you had when you won your first local? What goes through your mind when you are standing on stage and you hear your name called? When I won Miss Oshkosh I didn’t believe it happened. I entered the pageant like I said to win scholarship money for school (each contestant received $400 just for participating)! Of course I wanted to do well, but winning the whole shebang was never in the picture. I vividly remember standing on stage and they called the fourth runner-up and so on. By the time they said the first runner-up I figured I didn’t place. I think my thoughts in my head were “Well, I thought I would maybe get a runner-up spot, but oh well.” And then I remember looking around at all the girls that were left thinking “Oh, its probably so-and-so.” Then they called my name… and the rest is history!
12. If someone says, “You’re a beauty queen, what’s the relevancy of a pageant in today’s society,” what would you say to them? When I hear someone say “beauty queen” I literally cringe. I think it gets to me because it is so much more than that (if nothing to do with ‘beauty’ at all). I certainly don’t see myself, or the other women as “beauty queens” so I don’t like that term. I think that any of the titleholders in the MAO can attest that this organization is relevant in society… yes, even in 2016. This organization literally changed the person that I am for the better. I became ‘Me.’ I became a woman with a purpose, a passion, and a drive to pursue anything and everything I put my mind to. It taught me that you always win even when you loose, and that being authentically you is always enough. It taught me that I am more than what one might judge on the outside (the beauty queen reference). Reading countless articles and watching CNN everyday all day to prepare for interview and onstage question, shaped me into a woman who now actually likes to do those things, and has an opinion and a care about what is going on in this world. It sounds cheesy but it really does help you feel like you have a greater purpose, and that you really can impact your community, state, and country, and if having strong, intelligent, caring women in this world isn’t relevant than I don’t know what is!
13. What is the most memorable moment you’ve experienced as a contestant/titleholder? I could never narrow it down, not even for a million dollars! I have been shaped by every single one of my experiences over the past three years. As I look back on pictures, happiness and beautiful memories flood my brain from each experience.
14. How has your involvement influenced your life? My involvement has influenced my life in every way possible. It has influenced my being able to continue my education debt free, which I unimaginable being in grad school. It has opened up so many doors and connections. I have gained a boatload of sisters that I know will be apart of my life for a lifetime. I have come in contact with and gotten to know the most selfless, kind-hearted people. And I have personally become a better person for it. My involvement has taught me to never be afraid of what life throws at you because you are capable of so much more than you think!
15. What advice would you give to fellow sisters, contestants, and young girls looking to one day compete for a title? BE YOURSELF! Want to know what will set you apart and make you stand out – being you! Always go out there and be true to who you are, when you do that, you can never go wrong! But also, HAVE FUN! My time as a titleholder in the MAO are the years that I know I will look back on as one of the best times in my life. Cherish every moment, triumph, failure, and most of all be thankful for the friendships you will create!
16. As a woman who has aged out of competing, reflecting back, how would you sum up your experience using only one word? Impactful.