#likeaMAOwoman, Goal Digger

People who are not familiar with the Miss America Organization may be quick to categorize the women they see on stage or television.  I can tell you from my nearly seven years of experience that each and everyone of us is unique in our own way.

We come from different backgrounds, have been through various experiences, and possess different objectives as well.  We constantly set new goals to achieve: in the community, in competition realm, and in our personal lives.  This fall I made a point to sign up for hunters safety and obtain my hunting license, something I’ve wanted to do for years. I started the online coursework a few years ago, but as classes picked up and my work schedule increased I put it aside for another time.  Late this past summer of 2016, I decided I was going to finish it.  I sat down one afternoon at my parents, worked through the online coursework and scheduled my field day for a few weeks later.I was fortunate to go out opening weekend of deer season with Nick and Nikki, alumni grenadiers I met when I was Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest.  I shot my first deer (and buck) Sunday of opening weekend.  He was about 140 yards away on top of a rolling hill and I can’t tell you how shocked and ecstatic I was when I discovered I hit him.  The experience has completely captivated me and brought me a newfound love for Wisconsin’s Outdoors (which I wasn’t quite sure was possible).  I’m hooked, folks!

I went out turkey hunting a few weeks ago too with a good friend of mine since 3rd grade.  We did not get a big Tom for me, but we certainly heard them in the valleys of the scenic Coulee Region and we saw a few hens.  My favorite part?  Communicating with them and hearing all of them communicate with one another, pretty neat!  How many days until deer season…? 

#likeaMAOwoman     #MarComScholarship      #MissWisconsin


Patriotic Floral and Blue Suede Bliss

Style is one of the four points of the Miss America Organization crown.  To me, its relevance is demonstrated by staying current with trends, but also taking into account what clothing best represents your own personality (and comfort is high on the list too).  It’s fun and exciting to experiment with new patterns, textures, and cuts of clothing pieces but it’s essential that in doing so you never stray away from who you are and the things that you like.

I typically describe my style as sexy, classy, and simple.  Trying to balance these three qualities can be tricky, however, I feel they’re three accurate adjectives to describe not only my daily wardrobe but my stage wardrobe within the Miss America Organization as well.IMG_5342IMG_5344This patriotic, floral dress caught my eye when I was making a quick sweep through TJ Maxx and I couldn’t pass it up!  Off the shoulder tops and dresses are very in for the spring and summer seasons and I love the dramatic neckline they create!

IMG_5361IMG_5375I had my eye on similar suede, bow sandals from DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) for the past few weeks.  When I stumbled upon these Kenneth Cole ones (the only ones I could find in store at TJ Maxx) I was elated!  If you like those, here are some similar styles you might like:


Stay stylish and comfy my friends.


#likeaMAOwoman, Strength

A common association that is attached with the term “girl” is that someone is weak or dependent on another individual and I can confidently tell you that’s not the case for women involved in the Miss America Organization.

Not only are contestants and titleholders on a local, state, and national level mentally strong in terms of knowledge and witt, but they’re physically in optimal shape.  Why?  Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimsuit is one of the phases of competition and women prepare diligently for it.  It’s not simply something we do for fun leading up to the big show, it becomes a way of life.Staying physically active in some way, shape, or form and strengthening our bodies and minds enables us to be the best versions of ourselves.  We push ourselves because we understand that the human body is capable of some pretty miraculous things, afterall we do have the courage to step foot on that stage and it’s not an easy thing to do.

For me, physical fitness has always been a way of life it’s just simply evolved over the years.  I began dancing at the age of five in two and ballet classes before branching out into jazz, modern, and pointe.  I was on my high school’s dance team for two years and was named ‘Junior Captain’ before compacting discs in my lower back and pinching my sciatic nerve (at that point I decided to withdraw myself and regain my strength for studio dance).  I played recreational soccer for a number of years before joining the competitive league, the Wisconsin Rapids Kickers.  Heck, I even played basketball for awhile (I wasn’t the best, but I played nonetheless).  Now I lead a healthy lifestyle by running on a regular basis.  Just weeks ago I completed my fifth half marathon alongside my mom who finished her second and my friend, Liv who ran her first (thanks to my persistence and encouragement).  I’ve also taken a liking to lifting lately, which has always been something I wasn’t fond of.  In the past, I would ALWAYS pick cardio over weights and now they go hand in hand.By setting attainable goals, motivating ourselves, and working hard MAO titleholders increase their strength in so many ways.  We are by no means “pageant girls” but rather empowered women seeking another mountain to conquer!

     #likeaMAOwoman      #MarComScholarship      #MissWisconsin

Embracing the Powers of Sisterhood

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.

Miss Badgerland 2017 Is…

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

#likeaMAOwoman, Sisterhood

It’s been nearly 7 years since I began competing in the Miss America Organization.  While that time frame seems like a blink of the eye from my perception, it’s been a considerable span of time that’s included many obstacles, lessons, and successes.  Although things have and continue to change, there are a few constants-like skeptical questions and comments I receive.

The first, “Do you like one another, I mean it’s a competition?”  Yes.  It’s not like in Miss Congeniality folks.  We wouldn’t be out to glue another contestant’s talent props to her hands or emotionally destroy one another.  One of the unique things about being involved with the program is the fact that each and every contestant, both at a local and state level are so different.  Part of the fun of Miss Wisconsin week is getting to know more about each woman’s story.  Whether it be her educational background, family, career goals, or personal platform-no one is the same and that’s pretty incredible if you ask me.  Despite all of those differences, we do share some qualities.  I know I speak on behalf of the other ladies when I say that we are knowledgeable, talented, hardworking, compassionate, and educated individuals who all possess a common desire to make a difference and leave our communities a little better than before.  If we have the opportunity to share our stories and touch at least one life, we’re satisfied.

The second is a statement and one that rattles me to the core.  “Oh, you’re a pageant girl.”  The term “girl” is defined as, “a female child,” as well as, “a young, or relatively young woman.”  It commonly comes with perception that we are uneducated, lack independence, and are simply a pretty face; but that my friends, is simply untrue.  The Miss America Organization fosters personal growth, community involvement, and further education within all who are involved.  As the saying goes, “Girls compete, women empower.”  Women within the MAO are much more than sparkly gowns, crowns, and sashes.  We are women of substance and we empower other women to strive for success.

Each year the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program offers a number of scholarships for contestants to apply for, including the MarCom Scholarship which stands for marketing and communications.  While I have applied for this particular one in the past, I decided to take a different, personal route with it this time that includes a little sisterhood outreach.  Every week leading up to Miss Wisconsin (starting with today) I will be publishing a blog post with a corresponding featured image that will also be shared on my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook using the hashtag “#likeaMAOwoman.”  My goal is to showcase the uniqueness and force this program provides women while also sharing a little more about myself in an effort to allow all of you to get to know me on a deeper level.

The first topic is none other than sisterhood.  I chose to utilize a photo that was captured right after I was called into the Top 5 as a Finalist at Miss Wisconsin 2016.  For three years prior to that, I finished as a Top 11 Semi-Finalist, with each year yearning for some advancement towards my dream.  I was the final woman called into the Top Five and as I stood there anxiously my mind was drawn to the fact that I was standing between two incredible women who were aging out, and four others to my right-all whom are extremely dedicated to this program.  Then, my name was called and my knees buckled as I fell to the ground in shock.  It was these women standing around me who graciously opened their arms with hugs, smiles, and congratulations along with all the women backstage.  These are the same ladies among the larger group of contestants (including myself) that swarmed Courtney Pelot, Miss Wisconsin 2016 as soon as her crowning moment completed.   Supportive, gracious, and humble women.

#likeaMAOwoman     #MarComScholarship      #MissWisconsin

Tickets, Tickets, Get Your Tickets!

Trying to find events to fill up your summer calendar?  Want to watch talented, driven, compassionate women from around the state compete for the chance to serve Wisconsin?

If so, it’s your lucky day!  Tickets for Miss Wisconsin 2017 are now on sale on the Miss Wisconsin website.  Preliminary competition will take place on Wednesday, June 14 and Thursday, June 15-those tickets are only $15 and are available online.

How does preliminary competition work, you ask?  There are 26 total women vying for the job of Miss Wisconsin 2017.  At Miss Wisconsin Prep Day which took place on Saturday, April 22 (SEE: Miss Wisconsin Prep Day post) titleholders chose respective contestant numbers, which split the pool into two groups.  ContestantsThe first 1-13 will have their private, 10 minute interview with the judging panel on Tuesday morning.  They will then compete in preliminary talent and evening gown on Wednesday and swimsuit and onstage question on Thursday.

The second group, contestants 14-26 will have their private interview on Wednesday morning.  Those contestants will compete in swimsuit and onstage question on Wednesday night and talent and evening gown on Thursday night.  Essentially, the two groups alternate in order to provide the audience with a complete production each night.

The Miss Wisconsin’s Outstanding Teen pageant will take place on Friday, June 16.  You can purchase those tickets online as well for $20.  At that time, the miss contestants get a little bit of a break, embracing the chance to sit in the audience, relax, and cheer on the teens.

court and kylene
Photo credit: Miss Wisconsin 2016, Courtney Pelot.  Follow her on Instagram @MissAmericaWI
These two lovely ladies are the current Miss Wisconsin (Courtney Pelot) and Miss Wisconsin’s Outstanding Teen (Kylene Spanbauer) if you aren’t familiar.  They’ve spent the past ten months or so volunteering throughout the state, sharing their platforms, and making a positive impact on our communities.  So when will a new representative take over the Miss position?  Courtney will crown her successor on Saturday, June 17 at Alberta Kimball Auditorium in Oshkosh.  Tickets for finals are $40 and yet again, are available for purchase online (technology is glorious, isn’t it?).

Come out and support the largest scholarship provider for young women in the country at a local and state level.  Hope to see you there!

Have questions about the show?  Please don’t hesitate to email me!