Here she is, your First Runner-Up to Miss Wisconsin 2015, Rosalie Smith, the one and only, Jessica Johnson. It’s crazy to realize it’s only been a couple of years since I’ve known this stunning, driven, smart, and passionate woman because it feels much longer. She has a commanding presence that never fails to make me, or anyone for that matter, laugh. Not to mention, she possesses a deep passion and personal connection to her platform and working to make the community a better place. It has been such a pleasure getting to know Jessica and although she has aged out of the MAO, there is not a doubt in my mind that her future is very bright.
Birthday: July 28, 1991
Dream job: To be the first woman Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- What inspired you to get involved with the Miss America Organization? Scholarship. I was about to graduate and my family and I had to find a way to afford college. One day I heard an announcement about an MAO local during class, went to the meeting, and the rest is history!
- Tell us about your first MAO pageant. I was 17 and senior in high school. My first pageant was held in my hometown and at my high school. I competed in the Miss Beloit 2009 pageant thinking I could gain scholarships and if anything, I really neat experience. Then I won! I had zero idea what I had just gotten myself into, but I’m so glad that I took the chance to try something outside of my comfort zone because it paid off big time!
- What is/was your platform and why did you choose it? My platform was called “Silence Hides Violence”-Confronting Domestic Violence with Conversation. I chose it because I have encountered domestic violence in my lifetime and I remember feeling nothing but isolation and I never wanted anyone to have to go through that alone. Ignorance and misconceptions are two of the biggest hurdles when trying to gain support for domestic violence. I confront those obstacles by normalizing the conversation by creating safe environments where people can get help and access to info. It will always be a passion in my life that I advocate for, even outside of pageantry.
- What is your favorite phase of competition, why? Over the years, I’ve really grown to love the private interview! It is the absolute most nerve wrecking thing in the world, but I love that I can be intellectually challenged and show the judges who I am and what kind of titleholder I would really be! I always tell people, if you can make it through a pageant interview, every other real life job interview will be a piece of cake!
- What titles have you held and what were some of your biggest accomplishments or most cherished memories during each of them?
- Miss Beloit 2009- It was my first title, so every single thing about that year will always hold a special place in my heart. It also sparked my love of talking to random people! I love sharing the MAO message and telling people how we are there to serve the community.
- Miss Liberty City 2012- I was roommates with Mallory Hagan that year at Miss New York, and that was the year she won Miss America! Being around her showed me that MAO isn’t about you, but what you can do for others. This was also the year I got to participate in my first open forum domestic violence discussion panel and it sparked my determination to push myself with my platform.
- Miss Wisconsin Central 2014- the first year I made top 10; Dreamcatchers Disability Baseball game
- Miss Harbor Cities 2015- At Miss Wisconsin that year I received: Overall Interview Award, (part of) Spirit of Miss America award, Academic Excellence award and got 1st runner up! My most cherished memory was actually a few hours before the final night production. I was a wreck because I knew it was my last competition. In those moments my friends and pageant sisters really rallied around me and showed me what it meant to be a good friend and an amazing person
- What is/was your talent and what do/did you enjoy most about performing it? Last year I played -“Rondo Alla Turca” from Sonata No.11 in A Major by Mozart. I’ve actually never liked talent because it always terrified me. Music was a hobby I did for myself, so sharing it was a struggle, but I did enjoy the ridiculously rewarding feeling right after you’ve performed and you know in your heart of hearts that you absolutely nailed it.
- Who is your biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program? I could never decide! Paula Mae Kuiper is a big one for me because she shook off the stuffy stereotypes of what people expect from “pageant girls” and always remained herself. Also Jenny Thomas, Danielle DuFour, Abbey Quistorf (my 2015 directors) along with Caitlin Machol. All of them helped me prep for Miss Wis and made sure I did what made me the best me. Along with every other contestant I’ve ever met. Seriously. They are infinitely inspirational.
- Who is your favorite Miss America? Why? Mallory Hagan. She never tried to be anything other than herself and made MAO even more relatable.
- 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? “Is this a joke?” “Crap! I didn’t know they’d actually pick me?!” “I hope this crown doesn’t fall off.” “I’m crying. I said I wouldn’t cry!” “Did that really just happen?” Gratitude. Shock. Pure and utter joy.
- 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? I’m going to call out my own mother on this one. When I became interested in pageants, my mom was completely against it because she still held all the negative stereotypes surrounding pageantry. She’s totally a convert now and supports myself and MAO completely because she saw what I gained from it: awareness of current events, friendship, confidence, a healthy mind and body, a passion for a needy cause, scholarship money, and a purpose. The list of benefits is endless. But I always ask people, “in a society where young women are held to ridiculous standards of beauty, and not valued for their brains, why wouldn’t an organization that empowers women and gives back so much to its participants and communities NOT be relevant?” *mic drop*
- What is the most memorable moment you’ve experienced as a contestant/titleholder? Again this is a question I could never answer! Getting 1st runner up and then going to the National Sweetheart Pageant was pretty awesome! It was a little bittersweet, but it was my Miss America experience and I’ll never forget it! But what never gets old is every time a little girl tells me they want to be Miss America and I can look into their eyes and tell them that they can be and do anything they want. In that moment you see them truly believe that they can.
- How has your involvement influenced your life? I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today without pageantry. I know that is super corny, but it’s true! It not only gave me the confidence to pursue my wildest dreams, but gave me the tools to achieve them. It also taught me that thinking beyond yourself and helping others is the most rewarding thing anyone can ever do.
- What advice would you give to fellow sisters, contestants, and young girls looking to one day compete for a title? Remember that it is a journey and only by being truly yourself can you gain the most from it. At the end of the day, competing is only a chapter in your life story. It is the lessons you learn, the friends you make, the experiences you’ve had, the people you impact, and the passions you obtain that stay with you forever. Having a title or not doesn’t define who you are, who you can become, or the differences that you can make. But no matter what you do, remember to have fun!!!
- As a woman who has aged out of competing, reflecting back, how would you sum up your experience using only one word? Priceless.