The Miss Wisconsin Class of 2017 was encouraged to share a previous titleholder whom they look up to. Truth be told, I can’t choose just one.
Before I even started competing within the Miss America Organization there were a couple women I looked up to, after I began my involvement directly, that pool grew immensely. While many women have trailblazed paths before me and exuded many characteristics that I have found admirable, there a handful of indidvuals whose influence has directly touched me.
First off, I remember watching Katie Williams Tomsyck on the Miss Wisconsin Rapids stage and thinking to myself, “I’m going to compete when I can.” Katie competed for the job of Miss Wisconsin many times and ultimately never achieved that goal, but she undoubtedly left a legacy within the MAO that will continue for years to come. She carried herself with poise and grace, prepared full-heartedly leading up to state each year, and always presented an upbeat attitude. She encouraged me (and my sister) to compete in Miss Wisconsin Rapids and continues to empower me in various ways. Thank you, Katie for your positive impact-whether it be directly or indirectly your dedication to this program is inspiring.My big sister Morgan Vanderhei is another previous titleholder who I admire in more ways than one. She only ever vied for Miss Wisconsin Rapids and did so a total of four times (might I add) because she wanted to represent our home town greater than anything else. She worked her butt off and persevered through all the bumps along the way. I’ve seen few titleholders devote as much time and energy into their communities as I witnessed my sister do during her year of service. She wore the crown and sash as a badge of honor, with an overpowering desire to help those around her, connect with children, raise awareness about her platform, and support CMN Hospitals. Morgan, thank you for setting an exemplary example of what it means to be a titleholder and for continuing to support me along my journey.
Raeanna Johnson was one of the first Miss Wisconsins I met after earning my very first title, Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest. She inspired me instantaneously, possessing the courage to share her family’s struggles with her brother and how that affected her. If you’ve seen her speak, you also have witnessed the captivating presence she presents whenever she has a microphone in her hand. Rae, thank you for being a positive role model, for being unapologetically yourself and for sharing your knowledge with me over the years.
My first year at Miss Wisconsin I was lucky enough to spend the week with Miss Paula Mae. We were in the same preliminary group and I happened to be right next to her in placement for opening number (so I got to vibe off of her impeccable dance skills). I vividly remember the first time I met Paula earlier that year at a local pageant. She was rows away from me greeting someone and I was immediately drawn to her vivacious personality. That kind of presence that takes over a room the moment she walks in, grasping peoples’ attention with a genuine smile and exudes utmost compassion that shines from within. It’s no surprise she went on to become Miss Wisconsin 2013 and if you know her, you’d surely agree with me. Paula, thank you for being a positive light in so many peoples’ lives and for never being afraid to be yourself, but more importantly HAVE FUN.Although I’ve spotlighted a handful of women, there’s countless others I could go on and on about. Tracy Wursterbarth, Kimberly Larsen Sawyer, Tara Pizer, Kate Gorman, Stephanie Klett, trust me folks…there’s many women who have been involved in this program who have impacted me in profound ways (but you probably don’t want to read a blog post for thirty or more minutes). The fact of the matter is, titleholders empower one another and aim to help younger women who are currently or hope to compete some day.
Ladies, thanks for leaving big heels to fill; that’s what this program is all about-sisterhood with a servant’s heart.