Faintness, joy, and relief rushed through my veins the moment I heard “Tianna Vanderhei” at the Miss Wisconsin Sweeps pageant in April.
I knew after Miss Wisconsin 2016 that “Sweeps” (pending at that time it was held a second year) would be the only local pageant I was eligible to compete in due to the fact that Miss Harbor Cities, my previous title was so late in the pageant season leading up to state. While some titleholders in the past have given up their titles early to compete for another local for varying circumstances, I’ve always felt in my personal viewpoint that it is in that woman’s contract and duties to serve that community for the full year and see the job through. In turn, after taking a mental break and concentrating on work for a few months after Miss Wisconsin last June, I began preparations. I exercised more than I had in the past, pushed myself to eat healthier than ever before, focused on having fun with my friends and spending quality time with my family, and checked items off my personal list I had wanted to accomplish for quite some time (like getting my hunting license).
For months, people kept asking me what I was running for and when I replied they would say, “Well you’ll get a title. Don’t worry about it.” Which typically followed with me saying, “Thank you, but you never know. I have full faith that everything happens for a reason and if it is meant to be it will happen. But I still need to put in the time and work as I am doing.” Yes, I’ve had success on a local level within the Miss America Organization, but never for once do I take that for granted. Nothing in life that’s worth having comes easy and I was taught that from a very, very young age.Before I knew it, it was pageant day. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous because I most certainly was, but I always say that nerves are good. They mean that you care enough about something to put yourself out there and risk falling. They mean that you genuinely possess a deep passion for whatever you’re pursuing and that’s worth the short-term nerves.
My private interview with the judges felt good, but not great. I remember thinking that I conveyed everything I wanted to discuss: my struggles, my accomplishments, my passion for this state, and why I should go on to compete for Miss Wisconsin; however, I didn’t feel as though it was as good as state last year. Nonetheless, I was content with it and mentally moved on to focus on the production.
As soon as the curtain open and the show began, time flew by as it always does. I Beyoncéd (I’m making that a verb) my way through Lifestyle and Fitness in swimsuit then made my way back stage to get ready for talent, stretch, and practice my routine in the hallway. My roommate, Liv and I had spent months working on my new talent routine. A dance to Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All.” I chose this piece because it talks about finding yourself and investing in our youth which is precisely what I strive to do with my platform, “Let’s Talk: Skill Sets 4 Success.” Most importantly, it overviews a journey of facing hardships, overcoming obstacles, and ultimately embracing who you are and that is the journey I’ve taken within the Miss America Organizaiton over the course of the past six and a half years.
My dance felt amazing, well aside from prepping for my fouetté turns in a divot on stage. I moved onto on-stage question, answering a question regarding spending in relation to politics, walked across the stage in my evening gown soaking up the moment, and before I knew it crowning had arrived.
First up…”Miss Wood Violet 2017 is Madeline Kumm!” (*breathe Tia…breathe*)
Next, “Miss Great Lakes 2017 is…Gina Miliacca!” (*There’s plenty of women on this stage who deserve a chance to go on to Miss Wisconsin, it’s okay if it’s not in His plan for you. Relax, it’s okay.*)
“And the final member of the Miss Wisconsin Class of 2017…Miss Badgerland 2017 is…Tianna Vanderhei!” (*TEARS*)
The rush of emotions that overcome you when your name is called is enough to make you space out in that moment (and trust me that doesn’t go away no matter how many times you compete). My head fell into my hands and tears instantly began to fall, trying to catch my breath in what felt like minutes I stepped out of line, walking to the center of stage to meet Courtney. I threw my arms around her, shaking uncontrollably. I did it! All my hard work paid off and God had blessed me with a fifth and final time to share my story, impact people’s lives for the better, and vie for the job of Miss Wisconsin once more.I’ve said it before and I’ll state it again, this isn’t just something I do. I believe God fuels your soul with purpose. He provides you with guidance, in turn leading you down the correct path you’re meant to follow in life. For me, that’s connecting with people, volunteering my time, and serving with a gracious heart and I’m ecstatic to do so as your Miss Badgerland 2017.My accomplishments would not be possible without the endless love and support of my family and friends. Mom, dad, Morgan, Ridge, Reece, Grandma Bonnie, Grandma Carole and Grandpa Jahn, Liv, Denise, Courtney, Haley, Jessica, Lynam, Katie…the list goes on and on. My prior and current directors, pageant personnel, coworkers, and even community connections-thank YOU all for the laughs, for believing in me, for encouraging me, and lifting me up in moments when I have doubted myself or my capabilities. The fate of my future lies in my hands and I cannot wait to take the Miss Wisconsin stage in just under a month to see what God has in store for me.
With a grateful heart,
Miss Badgerland 2017