Sisterhood Spotlight: Kimberly Sawyer Larsen

In light of Miss Wisconsin week 2016 wrapping up, I thought it was only fitting to showcase a forever Miss Wisconsin this week and a past Miss Green Bay Area. Kim has served as an inspirational figure to me for the last few years, as I know she does for countless women within this organization. She was a college athlete, loves the Green Bay Packers (and baseball), and has one of the biggest hearts! Oh and did I mention she still looks as fabulous now (after having two kids) as she did when she was Miss Wisconsin?!

Name: Kimberly “Sawyer” Larsen

Hometown: Egg Harbor, WI (aka Door County!) I now live in Green Bay.

Education: Bachelors of Business Administration with a Finance emphasis and Spanish minor from St. Norbert College / MBA from UW-Oshkosh – Expected Graduation Spring 2018

Dream job/Current job: Current Job – Sales Operations Manager at Breakthrough®Fuel & Mom to Maggie & Annie. Dream job – working on it

Favorite color: Purple

1. What inspired you to get involved with the Miss America Organization? I honestly just thought, what a fun opportunity to keep performing on stage and maybe gain some scholarship money along the way, oh and wear a pretty dress too! I never imagined that I would walk away with so many life skills, increased confidence, the ability to nail an interview, life-long friends; the list goes on and on! 

2. Tell us about your first MAO pageant. Miss Door County 2005! I was a senior in high school and was just there to have fun and learn about the organization. I was named second runner-up and was so happy about that! Samantha Baudhuin (Miss Door Cty 2005 and Miss GB 2008) won that year and is now one of my best friends. I was so impressed by the Miss Door County organization and I had numerous people encourage me to keep at it. I took a few years off until 2008 when I came back and won Miss Door County. I was glad I took the time to go to college for two years, learn about myself, the world, and why I really wanted to compete. It made me a stronger person and stronger competitor.

3. What was your platform and why did you choose it? My platform as Miss Door County was originally centered on blood donation as I was a volunteer with the American Red Cross. During my year I was so amazed by the various non-profit and volunteer-based organizations I encountered that I wanted to spread the message of volunteerism to as many people as possible. As my parents have always been extremely involved in the Door County community, I had been greatly impacted by volunteers in my childhood through the YMCA, youth sports, community theater, etc. and wanted to drive home the message of volunteer service and how crucial it is to the community. The end goal is to help each person find the perfect organization that not only allows them to cultivate their passions and positively influence the community but one that also fits their schedule. That is how it evolved into Service for the Soul and how the message of finding life-long service opportunities within the community became the focal point.

4. What was your favorite phase of competition, why? Love love love interview (can you tell I like to talk?). I really enjoy the fact that you can display your true self and have the opportunity to share with the judges why you are the right person for the job. It has taught me countless lessons about who I am, what I believe in, and how to succeed in the business world and community. I always say, if you can handle a pageant interview, you can take on any job interview. I also love evening gown. I mean who doesn’t want to wear a beautiful gown, and it typically is near the end of competition where you just get to breathe a little bit, strut your stuff and exude confidence because dang you look good! 

5. Style, Service, Scholarship, or Success? THE question! 🙂 I have to say Service. With my platform being Service for the Soul, it is a core reason why I love and continue to be involved in the organization.

6. What was your talent and what do/did you enjoy most about performing it? As Miss GB and Miss Wis I sang a classical vocal during competition (originally Broadway as Miss Door Cty) but truly enjoy singing all genres. Singing is such a unique way to connect with an audience and share a story. I also loved the challenge of singing in another language and pushing my vocal skills to new heights with my fabulous voice coach. So challenging and rewarding! I still, in fact, sing quite a few National Anthems at local baseball games, which is still such an honor and a privilege every time I sing it.

7. Who is/was your biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program? There are SO many. I admire so many former Miss Wisconsin’s and former contestants that are now friends and all of my advisors who guided me during my journey, but if I have to pick one I definitely want to highlight Michele Hepfler. She was the one who sparked the fire for pageants in my heart and encouraged me to keep going. As a long-time family friend she had held two local MAO titles and I actually still have some of her autograph cards she wrote to me back then (fun to look back at them now!). She has been irreplaceable as an interview and talent coach, health guru and overall role model in life. She gave me the tough love when I needed it and the encouragement to believe in myself and my abilities. We are still great friends to this day and I am so lucky to have her in my life. Time spent with Michele equals lots of laughs and great memories made! 8. Favorite comfort food outside of competition mode? Cheesy Potatoes. Cheese + Potatoes = YUM.

9. 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? Pure gratitude, elation, knowing that all your hard work paid off and now you get to embark on this new and exciting journey!

10. 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 usually say well then I have some things to teach you don’t I?! Some of my best friends have come out of this organization because it is so refreshing, empowering and inspiring to be surrounded by other women who have big goals for their lives and have accomplished so much in their education and communities. They all continue to do so and are still inspiring me to this day. The fact that this organization opens up even more possibilities for our future women leaders is exactly why it is relevant. Also can you say SCHOLARSHIP dollars?

11. What is the most memorable moment you’ve experienced as a contestant/titleholder? Too many to count, but of course it has to be my sister, Katie, and I standing as the final two on the Miss Wisconsin stage. Such a surreal memory and so proud of my sister! I still wish there was a camera on our family and friends in the audience; they must have been entertaining to watch at that moment!

 12. How has your involvement influenced your life? In countless ways. Now working in sales I am able to speak confidently in front of a variety of audiences, adjust my message at a moment’s notice and feel comfortable in my own skin. I am in the process of completing my MBA with my MAO scholarship dollars so that has been an extreme blessing, and I finally feel like I have a handle on my hair and makeup (some days more than others, ha!). It has also inspired me to increase my level of commitment to serving my community by volunteering with local non-profits such as the Women’s Fund of Green Bay and the Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay (and of course MAO).

 13. What advice would you give to fellow sisters, contestants, and young girls looking to one day compete for a title? Make sure that you are the one who really wants this for YOU. It takes a great deal of hard work, stamina, motivation and resilience, so you have to have the fire for it deep inside of you and you can’t want it for anyone else. Also, in terms of advice after you have won a title – I received some of the best advice a few days after I was crowned from Meghan Coffey (Miss Wisconsin 2006). We had lunch together and she told me that there are mornings as Miss Wisconsin where it may be the fifth time in a row that you’ve woken up at 4:30AM to drive across the state for an appearance but to one person or one child, it may be the first and only time they ever meet a Miss Wisconsin. The way that you interact with everyone you meet means a great deal more than you can ever imagine and may really make a difference in someone’s life. So even on those days when you are tired, remember why you are doing this and soak in every moment, big or small. Side note: Meghan, I’m sure I’m not quoting exactly what you said but this is how I remember it! 🙂 Thanks sister!

14. As a woman who has aged out of competing, reflecting back, how would you sum up your experience using only one word? Grateful. Grateful for the opportunity, for those who gave so much of their time and talents to help me in any way during my journey, for the friends I gained along the way, and the perspective that it has given me to live a full and purposeful life.

15. What was your journey like to becoming Miss Wisconsin?

• Competed for Miss Door County in 2005 – 2nd Runner-Up

• Competed and Won Miss Door County 2008, did not place at Miss Wisconsin 2008

• Competed and Won Miss Green Bay Area 2010

• Won Miss Wisconsin 2010

16. What were your thoughts when you won the job of Miss Wisconsin? It was so surreal at first. I had worked so hard to prepare and this dream had really come true! I remember going to the gala afterwards, doing my interview the next morning in a blur and then it really sank in when they handed me the keys to the “Miss Wis mobile”. I had a flashback to competing for Miss Door County 2008 and watching Christina Thompson (Miss Wisconsin 2007) drive into the parking lot in that red car, walk in with all of her beautiful gowns and I was just in awe of her. She was so gorgeous, so put together, so kind and really took the time to chat with all of us. I couldn’t believe that now it was me who was holding that position and would now have the opportunity to positively affect those I would meet throughout my year. I remembered that feeling during my year of service and never forgot how even the smallest of moments can have a huge impact on those you encounter along the way.

17. Explain your experience at Miss America. What a whirlwind! That term gets thrown around a lot but Miss America was definitely that. It was exhilarating, exhausting, and a ton of fun all at once. I left it all out there on the stage and can say I walked away with a friend in every state, all women whom I admire greatly and am inspired by daily. What an honor to represent the great state of Wisconsin at the national level.

18. Does your journey within the Miss America Organization define who you are today, why or why not? It does and it doesn’t. It will always be a huge part of my life because it has done so much for me and has had a large role in molding me into the woman I am today. It has also afforded me the opportunity to achieve my MBA which I will finish in 2018 so I am extremely grateful for that as well. But I do believe I am not only defined by that achievement but about what I will do now that I have been given this platform. I will also always have the strong foundation of my family and faith that has and will continue to ground me and define me in so many ways.

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