This week’s Sisterhood Spotlight holds a special place in my heart and journey within the Miss America Organization because she’s the first Miss Wisconsin I had the opportunity to watch get crowned. When I was Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest, Paula Mae was Miss Madison-Capital City. We were in the same group for preliminary competition, thus, we were in the same dressing room and recording groups. If you don’t know Paula, she’s extremely passionate about everyone she meets and all things she pursues. She’s driven, energetic, and down-to-earth. With that being said, I was bursting at the seams standing on stage as I watched her become Miss Wisconsin 2013. She was and still is an exemplary role model and truly embodies what this organization stands for, I’m lucky to call her a friend of mine.
Name: Paula Mae Kuiper
Hometown: Racine, WI
Education: Junior at Carthage College
Dream job/Current job: Physician Assistant
Favorite color: Light pink
1. What inspired you to get involved with the Miss America Organization? My photographer for my high school senior pictures recommended that I should try for Miss Racine. I thought he was absolutely crazy but was willing to look into what the Miss America Organization stood for. I had no idea that competing for the title of Miss Racine would ever lead me to the Miss America Stage.
2. Tell us about your first MAO pageant. I was incredibly naive and really did not know much about how the pageant system worked. I remembered my first interview my hands were sweating so bad that I had to keep drying them off on my dress in front of the judges.3. What was your platform and why did you choose it? My platform is “Breaking the Age Barrier” and my nana is really the inspiration behind that. I am bringing awareness to a generation of elders who should not be forgotten or ignored, as they are our nation’s greatest assets. The program focused on the importance of connecting generations within communities. My involvement and encounters have given me the opportunity to remind children to cherish every moment they experience with elders because of the wealth of knowledge they receive. We have not only an opportunity but, most importantly, we have an obligation to give back to senior citizens. You are never too old or too young to have a dream. That’s why we are Breaking the Age Barrier.
4. What was your favorite phase of competition, why? I think a lot of people expect me to say interview, because I love to talk. However, my favorite phase of competition probably was evening gown. For me it was the one part of the competition where you didn’t have to say anything but everything could be said.
5. Style, Service, Scholarship, or Success? I definitely would say service. I cannot even begin to express how this program has changed me emotionally. There have been countless moments where I was placed in a situation that caused me to take a giant step backwards and look differently at life. The scholarship, the resume booster, the dresses, the shoes, are all things I am grateful for but the thing I will cherish the most is the new outlook on life I was given through the service.
6. What titles have you held and what were some of your biggest accomplishments or most cherished memories during each of them?
- Miss Racine 2012
- When we were on our way to prep day and Mrs. Morrall almost ran over the lady in the Culvers parking lot because she was moving too slow.
- Dancing on the Miss Wisconsin Stage, if that’s even what you want to call it.
- Being called into the Top Ten at Miss Wisconsin
- Having Jennifer Schmidt with me every where I went
- Being able to serve the best city in Wisconsin
- Talking to Kate Gorman the day before she was crowned Miss Wisconsin telling her “you know what Kate, forget about the ex-boyfriend and go win Miss Wisconsin”
- When Maggie Hill came back to the room looking like a lion.
- Miss Madison Capital City 2013
- Being able to kiss Joe on the check seconds after I won Miss Wisconsin.
- The parade in Madison
- Going to the local nursing homes in Madison
- Shopping with my pageant papas
- Miss Wisconsin 2013
- Partnering with Make A Wish Foundation
- Being able to meet Reagan Imhoff
- Sleeping over at Miranda and Anthony Schmidt’s home and getting kisses from Halo.
- Working with Muscular Dystrophy Association, Citgo “Fueling Good Campaign”, Special Olympics, and Children’s Miracle Network
- Going to Miss America and meeting Shelby Ringdahl(Miss Missouri)
- Performing a piano duet with my dad at Miss Wisconsin
- Hanging out With Tom Preston and Jeanie Hatfield
7. What was your talent and what do/did you enjoy most about performing it? My talent was piano and it was really neat because it was a gift that I received from my dad because he has been my piano teacher from about the age of 5. The best part about my talent was being able to spend time with my dad rearranging the piece that we found in our attic together.8. Who is/was your biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program? Kristina Smaby: She was the first Miss Wisconsin that I was able to talk to because we shared the same platform and I seriously thought I was going to wet my pants when she called my cell phone. Probably one of the nicest people I have met.
Christina Thompson: I can’t even tell you how many times I have watched her YouTube video of playing the violin because she is just so incredible. Not only is she an incredibly musician but Christina and her mother were also a very big help with my interview at Miss America.
9. Favorite comfort food outside of competition mode? Pizza, any kind of pizza.
10. Who is your favorite Miss America? Why? I have always really liked Katie Stam, she is very strong in her faith and is a Midwest girl.
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? Shocked, I am still shocked.
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? I think the biggest issue facing woman competing in pageants is the fact that people, outside of pageants, are not informed. I have to admit I had a very skewed idea of what the Miss America Organization stood for until I decided to do my own research. So, when this statement of not being relevant is said to me, in a way, I kind of understand. That is why I think it is so important for the women competing in pageants to recognize that it’s not people trying to be rude it’s unfortunately the stereotype that has been built up for years that gives us this bad reputation. It is our job, inside and outside of the pageant, to show them how relevant we really are. It is time to allow the stereotype of “irrelevant pageant girl” to be changed because it’s simply not true. We are women that are trying to make the people around us recognize important issues, shed a positive light into our communities, and empower young children to be the best that they can be.
13. What is the most memorable moment you’ve experienced as a contestant/titleholder? Any moment I got to spend with Reagan Imhoff.14. How has your involvement influenced your life? Because of the experiences I have been through I am beyond inspired to become educated on anything and everything that will allow me to work in the medical field. Prior to becoming Miss Wisconsin I always knew that medicine was a field that I was interested in but having the opportunity to work with non-profit organizations like Muscular Dystrophy Association and Children’s Miracle Network has allowed me to become more motivated than every to continue my studies.
15. What advice would you give to fellow sisters, contestants, and young girls looking to one day compete for a title? I think the biggest thing that I would like people to know is that never in a million years did I ever think I would become Miss Wisconsin. If you are passionate and most importantly happy I really believe that you can do anything.
16. As a woman who is done competing, reflecting back, how would you sum up your experience using only one word? Real.
17. What was your journey like to becoming Miss Wisconsin? I think one of the biggest things that really helped me was finding people that were going to be completely honest with me. My family, especially my sisters, would never hesitate to tell me if something needed to be changed. Interview is obviously a really big part, if not the biggest, when applying for the job of Miss Wisconsin. It is crucial that you are doing extensive work on interview prep and although this may sound harsh but have somebody else make you feel dumb before the judges do. I made that mistake my first year at state and was determined to not let it happen again.
18. What were your thoughts when you won the job of Miss Wisconsin? My thought was, “WE did it.”
19. Explain your experience at Miss America. My time at Miss America was really a blur. I remember stepping on the stage for the first time and just thinking to myself, “I just can’t believe it.” I think one of the biggest things that helped me with my time at Miss America was continuously reminding myself that God has a plan and just take it day by day.20. Does your journey within the Miss America Organization define who you are today, why or why not? I wouldn’t say that it completely defines me because I am a really strong believer that women who compete are greater than any title that could ever be given to them. However, I would say that it has helped me open up my eyes to the real world. The job of Miss Wisconsin is an emotional roller coaster and completely puts you to test every day and forces you to present yourself in the best way possible no matter what you may personally be going through. I had to quickly grow up because life instantly became real. I will be forever grateful for the reality check this organization has given to me.