One of the most inspiring things regarding the Miss America Organization and the young women that are involved in the program is the determination and dedication they possess for the community.. I had the chance to compete alongside Raquel Bruening, not once, but twice on the Miss Wisconsin stage and she is one individual who embodies these two characteristics. She pursued the job of Miss Wisconsin three times capturing three different local titles, placed in the Top 5 every year, and performed an incredible clarinet piece, I played flute once, but it didn’t last long. I admire any musician with her passion and talents. Although her time within the Miss America Organization has come to an end due to “aging out,” she’s still devoting her time and efforts towards bettering herself and the community, that’s the type of women this program creates.
Name: Raquel Bruening
Hometown: New Berlin
Education: Brookfield Central High School, Class of 2010; University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Class of 2014 Bachelor of Music in Music Education; University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Class of 2017 Master of Music in Clarinet Performance
Dream job: Recording musician for film/movies, pit musician for a ballet company, and college professor
Favorite color: Turquoise1. What inspired you to get involved with the Miss America Organization? I was New Berlin’s Junior Miss 2010, which was my first experience with a pageant-like program, and my mom said I should see if there was a Miss New Berlin because she thought it would be cool if I had a crown like other girls she saw (Junior Miss has medallions)! A very non-inspired start into MAO, I guess!
2. Tell us about your first MAO pageant. I competed in Miss New Berlin 2010 during my first year of college. It was pretty tough being so inexperienced, and it was WAY more difficult than I though it would be. My mom had to bribe me with a Coach purse to do another pageant because I didn’t want to do it again. It’s devastating to “lose”. After a couple more pageants, I got the bug, and I needed to win. It took me two more years (three years total) and six pageants until I won my first local title, Miss New Berlin 2012.
3. What is/was your platform and why did you choose it? My platform is called “My Gift, Your Song” promoting music advocacy and volunteerism. Music enhances an individual’s social, emotional, and intellectual development, and it’s especially important to start at an early age. Every student should have the opportunity to be involved in music in some capacity. I chose this because, as you can see, I’ve dedicated my education and most of my life to music because I believe in the positive impact it has on individuals and a society. I’ve promoted my platform at multiple schools, retirement/nursing homes, and a prison. One of my favorite performances was with my sister (she plays piano, flute, and sings) at a nursing home when a man in a wheelchair started dancing in place with his arms out. He told us afterward that he was dancing with his wife (she passed away a long time ago). This is only the tip of the iceberg of what music can do for people.
4. What is your favorite phase of competition, why? Talent is probably my favorite. I’m much better at showing who I am through music than using words in an interview. But I’ve gotten better with words with the more interviews I’ve done.
5. Style, Service, Scholarship, or Success? Success. It embodies the other three, and we are part of MAO to become successful in everyday life.
6. What titles have you held and what were some of your biggest accomplishments or most cherished memories during each of them?
- Miss New Berlin 2012
- Miss Fox River Valley 2013
- (Miss Wisconsin Collegiate 2014—through Miss Collegiate America, not in MAO)
- Miss Southern Wisconsin 2015
- Miss Southern Coast 2016—through USA National Miss, not MAO), Nationals is in July 2016
- 3rd Runner Up to Miss WI
- Miss America Academic Scholarship Award
- 4th Runner Up
- Talent Preliminary Award Winner
- Miss America Academic Scholarship Award
- (National Community Service Award)
- 2nd Runner Up
- Swimsuit Preliminary Award Winner
My biggest accomplishment is to have placed Top 5 every year I went to state, and I won both talent and swimsuit prelims throughout my time at Miss Wisconsin. I’ll never forget when my name was called the first time I made Top 5. They already called four girls, and you always hope it’s your name, but I couldn’t believe I actually heard my name. It’s good the judges weren’t told they were supposed to write the final onstage questions because it gave me five minutes to stop crying and compose myself while Laura (Miss America 2012 from WI) waited to ask us our questions. I walked away from that pageant feeling like a winner.7. What is/was your talent and what do/did you enjoy most about performing it? My first two years at state, my talent was selections from “Concertino” by Carl Maria von Weber, and the last year was “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin. Both are standard pieces in the clarinet repertoire, and I loved performing both of them for different reasons. The Weber was beautiful and flashy in the typical classical musician kind of way, and the Gershwin was a crowd pleaser since everyone knows it. It’s jazzy and full of extended techniques like flutter tonguing, vibrato, and the infamous glissando at the beginning. It was tricky practicing them around the house because my dad is so sick of hearing those pieces, but my mom could hear me play them ten times every day and never get sick of them.
8. Who is your biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program? Without a doubt, it’s Mary Gronik. She has a true heart of gold and sincerely believes in this organization. I am blessed that she came into my life. I could write a whole paper on how much of a rock star she is, but I’ll keep it short and sweet.9. Favorite comfort food outside of competition mode? Dark chocolate. Duh. (here and there during competition mode, too…)
10. Who is your favorite Miss America? Why? Debbye Turner, Miss America 1990. Check out her talent (a marimba solo), and you’ll understand why she’s my favorite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQKTw9IIzRU. She competed at Miss Arkansas, didn’t win, then moved to Missouri for school, won, and represented Missouri at Miss America. She went on to become a veterinarian and talk show host.
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? It was surreal when I finally won because it took me three times at Miss New Berlin until I walked away with the crown. I got used to not hearing my name, so when it was called I was kind of in shock. Then I saw mom, and THEN the waterworks started. I remember hugging her and we both cried…a lot.
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? It’s funny you ask this question because I’m doing a presentation/forum at a library for teen girls in a few weeks called “Beauty is Just the Half of It”. I’ll be speaking about the lessons I’ve learned due to pageantry—confidence, the importance of community service, and perseverance. There are so many life skills we learn from pageantry that people don’t realize, and it’s our job to educate them. They only see the stage portion which is only one day out of 365 days that we have the title. It’s relevant because being a well-rounded woman never goes out of style.13. What is the most memorable moment you’ve experienced as a contestant/titleholder? As a contestant, along with being called in Top 5 the first time, it was winning swimsuit. That’s something I never thought I excelled in; my thing is talent! Being short and muscular didn’t seem like what judges scored high a lot of the time. Also, I will never forget my send-off party to Miss Wisconsin when I was Miss New Berlin, and Alex Kealey called me a “bombshell” when I walked out in my Merchant’s Dinner dress to show everyone. I never really thought of myself as very pretty in high school; but, through my five years competing in MAO, I’ve generated some self-confidence, and it started when she called gave me that compliment.
14. How has your involvement influenced your life? Well, my first goal was to learn how to do my own hair and makeup. Thanks, Alex Kealey and Meghan Coffey! Nicky and Becky taught me how to walk with confidence, not just on stage. It’s noticeable in everyday life. I was terrified to talk to strangers before pageantry, and doing appearances forced me to do that, as well as taking the Dale Carnegie class as a scholarship from being Miss New Berlin and Miss Southern Wisconsin (shoutout to Bob Bobowski who sponsors that). I love that I can go up and talk to anyone now without feeling anxiety. Scholarships from the local and state level helped pay for my undergraduate degree which was wonderful.
15. What advice would you give to fellow sisters, contestants, and young girls looking to one day compete for a title? There’s too much! But a few things are:
- Give it your all or don’t do it at all. It’s too much work and dedication to half-do it.
- Don’t lose yourself in the process of competing. Remember your morals and what you stand for.
- ***The most important***: Learn to accept that you knew you gave it your all, and you can’t change the outcome. As everyone always says, “different judges, different day, different outcome”. Half of what I learned from pageantry is how to not win and move on. Pageants have taught me to pick myself back up after I fall. People don’t talk about that enough, but it’s so important.
16. As a woman who has aged out of competing, reflecting back, how would you sum up your experience using only one word? Difficult. You work so hard for one goal. I truly wanted to be Miss Wisconsin and felt I was ready. Even though it wasn’t in the cards for me, I wouldn’t give up my experience for the world.