It’s been quite some time since I’ve published a new Sisterhood Spotlight, to all of you who have questionnaires in your inbox-please fill those out for me ASAP! In honor of a new Miss Seven Rivers being crowned later today and my three year anniversary from my crowning, I found it only fitting to feature one individual who made that year and every pageant experience since then so special, my (real) sister. Morgan and I joke about being very different in many aspects, but always possessing the same passion, drive, and dedication when it comes to the Miss America Organization-one of the main elements in life that has pulled us closer together than ever. Morgan only ever wanted to represent our hometown of Wisconsin Rapids and she worked towards that goal tirelessly, finally achieving it on her fourth attempt in October of 2013. Watching her be crowned Miss Wisconsin Rapids Area 2014 consumed me with joy, relief, excitement, and eagerness with the hopes that we would get the opportunity to compete at Miss Wisconsin alongside one another. That dream came true this time three years ago when I was honored to take on the job of Miss Seven Rivers. I vividly remember breaking down during my closing statement in interview as I spoke about what this chance would mean to me and her to both hold titles at the same time. When my name was called, the first person I saw on her feet, jumping up and down in the audience cheering me on was Morgan. From day one she’s always cheered me on (even when I’ve annoyed her obnoxiously), she supported me while we prepared for state, and continues to root for”Team Tia” in the present day, after her time as a titleholder has surpassed. Thank you for serving our hometown with the highest caliber of compassion and desire to make a difference both then and now, you are a continual example of what this program is all about-I love you!
Name: Morgan Vanderhei
Hometown: Wisconsin Rapids
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with minors in Communication and Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Dream job/Current job: Currently I am the Marketing Associate for the Wisconsin Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. I enjoy having the opportunity to be a tourist in my own town and I am constantly amazed by the things I discover about my hometown that I get to share with others. I aspire to become a Marketing Director for a non-profit organization, such as the Children’s Miracle Network.
Favorite color: Red1. What inspired you to get involved with the Miss America Organization? In my hometown competing in the Miss Wisconsin Rapids Area Pageant as senior in high school could almost be considered a rite of passage for some. I had attended the pageant many times, knew young women who had/were competing and was excited to finally have the opportunity to compete as well.
2. Tell us about your first MAO pageant. My involvement in the Miss America Organization began back in 2007 when I competed for Miss Wisconsin Rapids Area for the first time as a senior in high school. I was only 17 years old and didn’t really understand what the organization was all about, but I had a great experience and ended up winning the Non-Finalist Talent Award.
3. What is/was your platform and why did you choose it? My personal platform was, “Unplug Yourself: Reconnect with Life.” I chose it because with the constant growth of technology, I believe there is not enough awareness of what can be lost from being constantly plugged in. I encourage people to take the time to unplug and focus on the importance of face to face communication, building relationships and physical activity.
4. What is your favorite phase of competition, why? My favorite phase of competition was interview because it is the only chance you have to truly connect with the judges. Also, I believe that if you can make through a pageant interview that all other interviews will be a piece of cake.
5. Style, Service, Scholarship, or Success? Service is the point with which I feel most connected. Philanthropy has always had a place in my heart, but I have discovered that the personal impact is exponential. I believe that service is not measured in days and dollars, but in hugs, tears and lasting relationships.
6. What titles have you held and what were some of your biggest accomplishments or most cherished memories during each of them?
Miss Wisconsin Rapids Area 2014
Making over 70 appearances throughout my year of service. It was truly an honor to represent my hometown and give back to the community that has provided me with so much love and support.
From taking my first polar bear jump to hosting a comedy night for a cause, I was able to raise $3,638 for the Children’s Miracle Network during my year of service. The generosity of so many allowed me to earn the Miracle Maker Award at Miss Wisconsin.
Having the unique opportunity to be actual “sister queens,” and compete alongside my sister at Miss Wisconsin.
7. What is/was your talent and what do/did you enjoy most about performing it? My talent was a tap dance to “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” from the Great Gatsby. I took dance lessons for many years, and jazz and tap were my favorites because of the upbeat nature of the music. What I loved most about performing my talent was having the opportunity to share the joy that dance brings me.
8. Who is your biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin Organization? Katie (Williams) Tomsyck and my sister Tianna Vanderhei are my biggest role models within in the Miss Wisconsin Organization. Katie is a dear friend and I’ve always admired her dedication to the Miss America Organization and to helping young women grow both personally and professionally. I am so grateful for her always being willing to share her wealth of pageant knowledge with me, as well as encouraging me to not give up on my dreams and compete for the title of Miss Wisconsin Rapids Area once more. Tianna and I consider ourselves to be rather different, but we have always shared our passion for the Miss America Organization. Despite her being my little sister, I look up to her in many ways. I am truly envious of her adventurous spirit and how she fearlessly chases her dreams. I was incredibly proud when she won her first local title, Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest and watching her compete at Miss Wisconsin for the first time inspired me to not give up. I’ll never forget how it felt when she won Miss Seven Rivers, giving us the opportunity to be actual sister queens. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without her love and support, I am blessed to have such a remarkable young woman as my sister.
9. Favorite comfort food outside of competition mode? To be honest I find many foods comforting, but I can never seem to pass up a good old Wisconsin fish fry.
10. Who is your favorite Miss America? Why? My favorite Miss America is Mallory Hytes Hagan, Miss America 2013. To me she embodied what it means to be successful within the Miss America Organization and all facets of life by just being herself.
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? After countless hours of preparations and continuous trials at vying for the title, my dream came true when I was crowned Miss Wisconsin Rapids Area 2014. Having faith in God means also having faith in his timing; I remember waking up the day after pageant seeing the sash and crown on my dresser still in disbelief that it was my time. It was my fourth attempt at the title and my last year of eligibility within the Miss America Organization, so I felt truly blessed to have the opportunity.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 would share with them what I learned after competing for the first time, that the crown is a symbol of a woman of great substance. As the world’s largest provider of scholarship for young women, it empowers young women to achieve their academic goals and live their dreams.
13. What is the most memorable moment you’ve experienced as a contestant/titleholder? From the moment I was crowned I knew that the Children’s Miracle Network would be a driving force behind my year of service. It is the national platform for the Miss America Organization and I was lucky enough to have Hannah Vakoc as my miracle princess. She is one of the most charismatic young ladies I have ever met. Even after everything that she and her family have been through, Hannah always has a smile that simply sparkles. Hearing her story and getting to know her family only grew my passion for the Children’s Miracle Network. I enjoyed every appearance opportunity that I got to share with Hannah throughout my year of service and I cherish our friendship, I will always consider her to be my miracle princess!
14. How has your involvement influenced your life? Throughout my years of competing and my year as Miss Wisconsin Rapids Area I grew immensely, both professionally and personally. I will be forever grateful to the Miss America Organization for helping to shape me into the woman I am today. I believe that it brought out my best characteristics, such as my determination, caring attitude and my desire to make a difference. I am so thankful that God blessed me with the opportunity to serve as Miss Wisconsin Rapids Area 2014 and honored to be a part of such an incredible sisterhood.
15. What advice would you give to fellow sisters, contestants, and young girls looking to one day compete for a title? Never let anyone dull your sparkle!
16. As a woman who has aged out of competing, reflecting back, how would you sum up your experience using only one word? Remarkable.