Rose Gold + Marble Bathroom Decor

The recent blush and rose gold craze has caught up with me. Which is somewhat shocking because for years I was someone who despised pink and wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. I decided a long time ago upon moving to a new, single bedroom apartment I wanted a white ruffled shower curtain (which I’ve loved the look of for quite some time) and that I’d choose other items around that.

I’m going to let you in on a secret that I discovered while shopping for some of these items. I have the Target app on my phone and pretty frequently browse items, favorite them, and/or place them in my cart. So when I went to Target after finding an apartment and was searching for some of these canisters and bath accessories that were in my cart on my app, I realized that my location services had discovered exactly what store I was at in Fitchburg and showed me what aisle the items were in that I needed. It also showed me when the item couldn’t be found in the store and how soon it would arrive if I ordered it online. Come on, that’s a “all hail technology” moment in my book!The room scent I have in my bathroom is Almond from Bath and Body Works which I oddly enough fell in love with while working a painting job with my Aunt at someone’s home this fall. I have the almond wall plug-in adjacent from my counter and the candle placed in a rose gold holder on the back of my toilet. Shop Almond 3-Wick Bath and Body Works Candle HERE // On sale right now for $12.95. Note, it is currently in a different, darker design than pictured.

Almond CandleTo accent my floating shelves, I purchased two of these small, contemporary white vases for $4.99 a piece from Hobby Lobby and light pink flowers that I cut down and arranged inside. Placed next to my favorite Amber & Argan body lotion from Bath and Body Works and almond room spray. Questions or comments? Post below and let me know what you think!


Sisterhood Spotlight: Morgan Vanderhei

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: Redcollage-0011. 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.00112. 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.


What I’ve Learned as a Multi-Media Journalist

I’ve hit my one year marker working as a Multi-Media Journalist.  The past twelve months haven’t been easy, but it’s been a rewarding journey thus far to say the least.

If someone asked me ten or even five years ago what I wanted to be, I would’ve said I was pursuing a career in sports medicine and laughed if anyone told me otherwise.  Yet, as fate would have it, life and God had other plans in store for me.  I arrived at college with intent of earning an Athletic Training degree and pursing a pre-professional track towards a Physical Therapy degree.  As I dove deeper into coursework, I quickly realized sports medicine wasn’t for me (despite how much I love sports).  In turn, I changed my degree to Communication Studies and Sports Broadcasting.

It’s crazy to think I graduated a year and half ago already…where does the time go?!  I received an Organizational and Professional Communication Studies degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in May of 2015, securing and starting an internship with WXOW News 19, the local ABC affiliate prior to receiving my diploma.  After a few months of being known as the “Quintern” and developing my camera, writing, and broadcasting skills I was offered a full-time Multi-Media Journalist position with the station-which I gladly accepted. Enough about my back story, let’s be honest most of you probably know it already or don’t care to hear details about my life, I get it.  I’ll get to the main focus of this post.  The fact of the matter is, over the course of the past year as a local television reporter I’ve developed my on camera speaking skills, enhanced my ability to edit quickly on deadlines, met many incredible people in the community, heightened my knowledge of how broadcasting works, polished my interview skills, improved my writing ability, and expanded my creative eye for capturing unique video shots for stories.  However, there are also a few broader life lessons I’ve learned along the way as a Multi-Media Journalist, that are applicable to anyone no matter what profession you’re

  1. Establishing community connections is key.  The time old argument between what is more useful: education or experience is one that will continuously be debated for years to come.  One thing is for certain, no matter what you do in life or where your journey takes you-it’s all about WHO you know.  Establishing relationships is what helped me start my broadcasting career in college with a local internship with Coulee Region Sports Network.  Furthermore, creating and maintaining positive connections with local business owners, community leaders, managers, students, etc. is what helps me discover and create stories for broadcast on a daily basis.  Ask for business cards, give others your business card, think of something unique about people you meet that will help you remember them the next time you run into them, and remember that neither of you will most likely remember what was talked about, but people always remember how you make them feel.
  2. Planning is a crucial component in success.  Sure, there are days when I’m rushing around, stories pop up out of no where, and I’m not prepared in the least bit; forcing me to think quick on my feet.  However, for the most part, the extra time I spend reading up on my story, doing some research, and talking to experts to get a better understanding of what I’m reporting on not only makes me feel more comfortable with the subject matter but makes the quality of my work that much better.  This applies to many different things in life.  As the saying goes, “haste makes waste.” 
  3. Appearance plays a large role in others’ perceptions and your attitude.  Waking up an hour earlier or even a half hour earlier to get ready and ensure you like your outfit and the way you look for the day plays a factor in a lot of things.  First off, it provides you with the confidence, poise, and not to mention, feel good attitude to start the day.  Second, being a reporter comes with a self-image that needs to be maintained within the community.  Whether you expect it or not, people are going to start recognizing you at some point and it’s important to keep up that well-rounded, professional perception they view you in when they’re watching you on their TV at home or when they run into you in the community.  Even if you aren’t in the broadcast profession, maintaining your appearance and presenting a well-rounded image shows people that you take pride in yourself, possess keen organizational skills, and value time management-trust me friends, it stems a lot deeper than looks.  It gives others a glimpse into your professionalism, values, and what kind of person (and employee) you are.
  4. A firm handshake, good eye contact, and a smile go a very long way. Soft skill sets are many times overlooked in our society as people let a fast paced, technology driven lifestyle consume them.  Despite the apparent lack of strong, face-to-face communication abilities, there’s no doubt those qualities still play an instrumental role in relationships, achieving goals, and attaining success.  Remember, a first impression can never be redone.  As one of my favorite quotes says, “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark,” let your impact be a positive, memorable one. 
  5. Pour your heart, time, and energy into work, but prioritize time with family and friends too.  Finding a healthy balance between work and leisure can be difficult.  Waking up early to work 9+ hours then coming home to a never-ending to-do list is tiresome and quite frankly most of the time I end of falling asleep from pure exhaustion and waking up even more stressed than the previous day knowing everything I need to accomplish (the struggle is real friends).  It’s in those moments of chaos you remember to prioritize spending time with friends and family because it’s those precious, fleeting moments that you can’t get back.  While it’s vital that you invest in your work too, it’s even more important to embrace those that mean the most to you.
  6. Life gets lonely and work is time consuming-make time for YOU.  During the first year of my full-time career I was the “Weekend Multi-Media Journalist” for my station (the normal progression for a new reporter in the business).  This meant that I typically that Mondays were my Friday, I had Tuesdays and Wednesdays off for my “weekend,” and I worked Saturdays and Sundays.  In addition to that skewed schedule, I was on call Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights which meant that I took a camera and tripod home and needed to be ready to go with the ring of a phone call if there happened to be breaking news.  This limited my nightly plans, forced me to turn down chances to hang out with friends, and didn’t allow me to travel home or visit friends.  I would be lying if I said I wasn’t lonely or slightly depressed at times.  Constantly coming home to my tiny, one bedroom apartment and always thinking about work even when I was clocked out.   With that being said, it’s paramount to create YOU time and force yourself to develop a way to transition out of work mode.  Whether it’s a certain point at your drive home that you stop thinking about work or a ritual when you arrive home that ensures you relax a bit, keep your mental and emotional health in mind.
  7. ALWAYS say yes to new adventures.  As a reporter, I’ve had the opportunity to do things I never would’ve had the chance to do in different fields (that’s pretty neat if you ask me).  Throughout those experiences like: crawling into an old WWII plane, learning how to ski while I helped break a Guinness Book of World Records,  covering a behind-the-scenes story on EPSN’s College GameDay, and standing waist deep in a cranberry bog while reporting on harvest, I’ve learned a deeper, much more valuable lesson-say yes to adventures and never miss an opportunity to cross an item off your bucket list!
  8. Make time for exercise and healthy eating habits.  It seems like a crazy, extremely simple concept (I know).  Nonetheless, when your daily schedule is as unstable as that of a Multi-Media Journalist’s it’s helpful to plan out meals and work out times.  That may mean waking up an hour earlier in the morning to go for a run or driving to the gym after the 6 p.m. show when all you really want to do is curl up with a bowl of popcorn in your bed.  But it’s those decisions that help provide you with ample energy to put all your time and energy into your work and personal life.  It’s easy to pick up unhealthy food choices on the go, but you’ll pay for it later.  By taking charge of my consumption and choosing fruits, veggies, protein, excess water, and minimal lattes I’ve drastically noticed a positive shift in my mood, energy, and perception on tasks I need to accomplish both in the newsroom and at home.
  9. Comfortable shoe choices are always in style.  I’m a pageant girl, I’ve competed in the Miss America Organization for six years and love heels.  Yet, I’ll be the first to tell you that on the days I choose to wear heels to work, I typically have flats tucked away in my bag.  On those days, in the instance when I go to grab my camera, camera bag, tripod, purse, and microphones I typically regret my decision to rock 3 to 4 inch pumps even though they go with my outfit perfectly.  Sure they may look good, but they’ll leave your feet screaming at the end of the day.  There’s also that chance you get called to a story that’s not heel conducive, say a muddy field or construction zone.  In those situations it helps to be prepared with those flats and/or keeping a pair of rain boots under your desk (a lesson I learned the hard way this past year).
  10. Embrace successes, but always remind yourself there’s room for improvement.  I continuously save clips of myself on-air in the studio, live shots of me out in the community, and stand-ups from longer stories to my computer.  I recently looked back at clips from when I first started and couldn’t help but laugh, smile, and feel humbled all at the same time.  It helped me realize that each day is a learning opportunity and while I’m thankful I have gained so much knowledge and experience in my field over the past 12+ months, there’s always room to improve.  It’s a valuable lesson that many of us tend to forget as we get wrapped up in the moment, yet it’s one that helps keep us thankful for the past and grounded and hungry as we look toward the future.

If you’re a reporter or have worked in the broadcasting business, there’s other trivial aspects you’re probably familiar with that most certainly teach valuable lessons.  Like learning how to continuously back up your stories so you don’t lose your work when your editing software freezes (be prepared for all possibly outcomes).  Or always bringing a spare battery out on a story just in case yours does quicker than expected or you’re called to breaking news (again, preparation is everything).

I’ve been fortunate enough to begin my career in the same city I moved to as a relatively naive 18-year-old, eager to begin college while learning more about myself and what I wanted out of my future.  This is the same city that showed me through trials and tribulations what I was meant to do with my profession and provided me with the connections and tools to make it happen.  I don’t know with certainty where my career will take me in the years to come, but I do know one thing-this city will always hold a special place in my heart.

“In La Crosse, Tianna Vanderhei WXOW News 19.”Want to follow my journey from here and stay up-to-date on my stories?

Be sure to check out WXOW-Tianna Vanderhei on Facebook, @WXOWVanderhei on Twitter, and @TiannaVanderheiTV on Instagram.

Sisterhood Spotlight: Rebecca Charles

Many times young women utilize the Miss America Organization as a stepping stone towards their educational goals and an opportunity to grow as an individual while impacting the community around them, without a long term plan to continue competing.  I recently caught up with a past, local teen within the Miss Wisconsin’s Outstanding Teen program, Rebecca Charles.  She held the title of Miss Beliot’s Outstanding Teen and was extremely fun and compelling to watch on stage (I’m sure you remember her).  Well if you’re wondering what she’s up to know and how her experience was in WIOT, you’ll just have to continue reading…
Name: Rebecca Marie Charles
Hometown: Beloit
Education: Rising junior at Pace University
Dream Job: Actress, politician, or travel blogger. I’m a very indecisive girl.
Favorite Color: Lavender
1) What inspired you to get involved with the Miss America Organization? After first being diagnosed with depression and later attempting suicide, I felt it was important for me to educate young people on mental illness and suicide. I wanted to be a voice for teens who were too afraid to speak for themselves or those who thought they were all alone or “abnormal.”
2) Tell us about your first MAO pageant. My first pageant was in 2013, competing for Miss Beloit’s Outstanding Teen.
3) What is/was your platform? Teen Suicide Awareness and Prevention
4) What is your favorite phase of competition, why?  My favorite phase of competition is interview. I love speaking to/meeting new people because I am a natural extrovert. Current events, for me, are so interesting to discuss and that really shows during interview. It’s also the best opportunity for me to let my genuine personality shine through.
5) Style, Service, Scholarship, or Success?  Scholarship.  An education is a girl’s best weapon and I truly believe that.
6) What titles have you held? Miss Beloit’s Outstanding Teen 2013
7) What is/was your talent and what do/did you enjoy most about performing it? My talent was singing. My favorite part of the talent portion was the song I sang, “Colors of the Wind.” I picked this song based on my platform. The song is all about putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and loving others for who they are, and until you’re able to do so, you won’t be able to live a fulfilled life. The best line in the song for me was, “How high can a sycamore grow? If you cut it down, then you’ll never know.” So many teens who struggle with depression or mental illness are not able to see their worth or full potential at that point in their lives. It is important that young people be reminded of how much more there is to this life and how much they are capable of accomplishing with their time on earth.
8) Who is your biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program? My biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin organization is, hands down, Stephanie Klett, Miss Wisconsin 1992. I have known her for most of my life and I truly admire her passion for life and all people. She is one of the funniest, most charismatic, and bravest women I know and she doesn’t fit “the mold” of a former pageant girl. Stephanie is everything I want to be someday.
9) Favorite comfort food outside of competition mode? Bread. All the bread.
10) Who is your favorite Miss America? Why? Miss America 2013, Mallory Hagan. She reminded me a lot of myself. Mallory is very unorthodox as far as pageant girls go and doesn’t seem to care what others think of her.
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? Winning my first title really didn’t feel real. It was something I had dreamed about ever since the age of five so once it really happens you’re just honestly in a state of shock. The best moment, for me, was seeing my section of supporters all fly up from their seats in celebration. I will never forget that visual. So many friends and family came to support me that did not have to. I say it all the time but I am very blessed to have so much love and support in my life, especially in my hometown of Beloit.
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? To this, I would explain the importance of the Miss America Organization, for both the surrounding community and the contestants themselves. This organization has paid for many young women to get through college and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for the Children’s Miracle Network, which supports research of fatal illnesses in young children. On top of that I would tell them that, without a doubt, the most intelligent and successful women I have ever met have been in the Miss America Organization.
13) What is the most memorable moment you’ve experienced as a contestant/titleholder? I got to visit UW Madison Children’s Hospital one day and play with a little four-year-old boy who had been hospitalized for the third time. For me, it was eye-opening to see this little boy and know that he had gone through more trauma than I had or possibly ever would. And yet, he still found every reason to smile.
14) How has your involvement influenced your life? For me, the most life changing part of the pageant process was developing more social skills/awareness — interview really helped with that. Since competing, I have never “bombed” a job interview or even gotten anxious over one.
15) What is a hidden talent others might not know you possess? I absolutely love doing imitations and like to think I’m somewhat good at them as well.
16) What advice would you give to fellow sisters, contestants, and young girls looking to one day compete for a title? Embrace your differences. That never fails.
17) What are you up to now and do you plan on competing in the future? In Manhattan, where I currently live, pageants are harder to come by. Right now, I’m just focusing on getting through undergrad and I’m hoping to go to law school one day.
18) As a woman who has aged out of competing, reflecting back, how would you sum up your experience using only one word?  Gratifying.

An Open Letter to 17-Year-Old Pageant “Girl” Me

Let me preface this by saying if someone would have told me six years ago when I began competing in the Miss America Organization that I would be blessed with multiple titles, change my career plans from sports medicine to broadcasting, and secure job opportunities as a result of titles I would win within this scholarship program I probably would have laughed.  Yet, the fact of the matter is all of those things are true and much of where I am and who I am today, I owe to the influence of the Miss America Organization, Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program, and the incredibly influential people I’ve had the opportunity to meet along the way.  Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to compete in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen program, there wasn’t one in my small town and I wasn’t familiar with the teen portion.  I was, however familiar with the “Miss” program after watching women compete in the local, Miss Wisconsin Rapids pageant which is precisely where my journey began.

The point of this reflective post and letter is to help other young women find comfort, support, and inspiration in the unknown.  Sharing pieces of my journey, I hope, will help you realize that, “There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

Dear 17-year-old pageant “girl” me,

It’s exciting, I know.  You’ve watched young women compete in your hometown pageant, Miss Wisconsin Rapids Area for years and now it’s finally your turn to perform on that stage.  You’ve purchased a yellow, thick strapped, belted swimsuit from Venus that you will wear a couple other times for competition before realizing it’s not the style many other women competing wear and consequently you’ll opt for something more updated.  You have a borrowed blue dress from the local pageant closet that is slightly too short and also slightly outdated, but it’s your favorite color at the time and sparkly so you go with it…after all, who doesn’t love a fancy outfit you don’t have to pay for?  P.S. Borrowing and lending clothing items will help your bank account (and your parents’ bank account) greatly in the future.

Brush your curls out more, don’t leave those ringlets brush aside your face…you look like Shirley Temple.  Don’t leave your tight curls, brush them out to loose waves, be comfortable with switching up your parts and hairstyles.  Also, there’s no need to fret, at some point over the next four to five years you will (thankfully) learn how to properly do your make-up, to contour your face, and create a smokey eye look with an overwhelming eye shadow pallete.  As you grow older, YouTube videos and pageant peers will help show you how to properly contour your make-up, style your hair differently, and create a killer smokey.

I know your mindset right now, I’ve been there and I’ve learned from it.   You think you have a grasp of the values and beliefs the Miss America Organization is founded on and that you could whole heartedly take on the job of a local or even state titleholder, but you have absolutely no idea.  More importantly, you think you know who you are, what you value and belief, and the things you want out of life-reality check, you don’t (You probably think I’m wrong and rude for telling you these things which is yet another blatant sign of your immaturity and need for a broader view of the world around you. Sorry, not sorry).   I know it sounds a tad overbearing for me to say that, but it’s the truth.  First off, your confidence and poise on stage and off stage for private interview will gradually develop and strengthen.  Over the course of your journey you will gain a deeper sense of self and a greater perspective on life.  Your desire, passion, and skill sets will broaden and you will continuously become a better version of yourself with each new pageant experience you take on-allow yourself to change, it’s a good thing.The truth is, you are not as invincible, knowledgeable, and mature as you may think.  Over the next six years as you finish high school, go to college, and secure your first full-time job you will emotionally and mentally grow beyond your wildest beliefs-embrace the change.  You will go on to compete in two “open” pageants, Miss Fox River Valley and Miss Seven Rivers and feel like a very small fish in an ocean.  You will not place and feel rather defeated not knowing what you’re doing wrong, I’m here to tell you not to worry.  Things will work out how they’re supposed to, when they’re supposed to.  Pay attention to older women who have walked in your heels, ask them questions, learn from them-they are your greatest asset within this organization.  On your fourth attempt at this whole titleholder gig you’ll secure the job of Miss La Crosse/Oktoberfest 2012-an opportunity that will forever change your life.

You will go on and represent the region as Miss Seven Rivers 2014 and then take on the position of Miss Madison Capital-City 2015.   Although both jobs will present a number of similarities being the fact they are locals within the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program, both experiences will be extremely different.  Whole heartedly love every individual you have the pleasure of meeting through your volunteer efforts, accept constructive criticism from those in the “pageant world” that you establish relationships with, and take lots of pictures of the unique opportunities you have the chance to experience, they will turn into precious memories you’ll cherish forever.  Next, you will compete in Miss Wisconsin Central, another open pageant with an opportunity to compete at Miss Wisconsin a fourth time and you won’t place.  You will feel an immense amount of frustration, sadness, and hopelessness.  However, in this moment, remember that you never “lose” within this program-you either win or you don’t win.  In times like this where you don’t walk away with the crown and sash, God is teaching you an important lesson and it’s crucial that you pay attention to what He is trying to tell you.  In my personal opinion, with any goal you set out to achieve in life, you learn a lot more from the times you “don’t win” from the times that you do.  A few weeks following that pageant you will compete for the position of Miss Harbor Cities 2016 and capture the title.  Feelings of nervousness, uneasiness, and that consumed you in the morning will dissipate as you hear your name called for a fourth local title within the Miss America Organization.  At this point, the seemingly baby, 17-year-old version of yourself that you once thought could take on the world and slay the pageant realm is a version of you that remains in the past.  You now have the maturity, self-awareness, community consciousness, and knowledge to realize that you were rather naive in the past and have gradually transformed into an extremely driven, compassionate, and selfless woman you are today thanks largely to the influence of the Miss America Organization.  It is only now, after all of your involvement that you are able to reflect back on your journey and fully realize that the first three years when you competed at Miss Wisconsin and placed as a Top 11 Semi-Finalist served as stepping stones and a chance to gain an understanding of who “Tianna Vanderhei” is and what your pageant brand is.  Your fourth year at Miss Wisconsin representing the Manitowoc and Two Rivers area as Miss Harbor Cities is when you finally break into the Top 5 Finalists for the very first time.  You will be in a state of shock, relief, gratitude, and calmness when your name is called, knowing your shift in preparations paid off.  

It is only now, after the trials and tribulations that you can look back and laugh at all those hardships along the way and be thankful for how far you’ve come over the years.  One of your favorite quotes, “Everything happens for a reason,” holds a much more powerful meaning now under a different life outlook.  You stand firmly by the fact that God’s timing is everything and what is meant to be will always find a way, embracing comfort in the journey that’s led you down the path you’re on today.


23-Year-Old Pageant Girl who’s entering her final year of eligibility with a full, thankful heart for all the bumps along the way and lessons learned.

I encourage each and every one of you young women embarking on a journey within the Miss America organization or anything in life to take my advice.  Take my lessons, my failures, and my successes and internalize them, personalize them.  You too will go through some obstacles that are unexpected, know they will serve a purpose to mold you into the individual God intended you to be.  It’s hard to see that in the moment, but I promise you years down the road you will reflect back and be thankful for every single one of those experiences because it led you to exactly where you needed to be.

“You don’t have forever to create an impressionable moment, but you possess the ability to create many impressionable moments that will last forever.”   -Tianna Vanderhei

Sisterhood Spotlight: Alyssa Bohm

The Miss America Organization and Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program are much more than pageants, they’re networking systems, confidence boosters, and an avenue to form community partnerships.  This Sisterhood Spotlight feature is meant to dig a little deeper into the lives, passions, and accomplishments of the well-rounded, driven women the MAO fosters.  Alyssa is a prime example of the women that are involved in the program.  She possesses a deep desire to make a difference in the lives’ of others while sharing a message to a larger audience that she is personally connected to.  I had the pleasure of getting to know Alyssa when I was Miss Madison-Capital City and she was Miss Racine.  I can tell you that she stays true to who she is, will surely make you laugh, and cares deeply about everyone she meets. Meet Alyssa Bohm everyone…Alyssa and IName: Alyssa Bohm

Hometown: Racine, WI

Education: Senior at University of Wisconsin- Whitewater studying Special Education

Dream job: High School Principal changing the way we teach our children

Favorite color: Purple

1. What inspired you to get involved with the Miss America Organization? When I was a senior in high school a classmate of mine who was the current Miss Racine encouraged me at an event we were volunteering at to compete. The titleholder was Paula Mae Kuiper and she said “you would be a great representative with your outgoing personality!” I thought about it and decided to give it a shot. The first year I competed for Miss Racine in 2013, I was instantly hooked! I realized how much the Miss America Organization has to offer and how much I love being on stage and promoting my platform!

2. Tell us about your first MAO pageant. Like I slightly mentioned before, my first experience was in 2013 competing for the title of Miss Racine. I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided to compete. Not knowing much about pageants or the Miss America Organization I was very grateful to have the Morrall family become so supportive in the process. From choosing my talent piece to finding an evening gown to borrow, I can’t thank the entire Miss Racine organization for their constant support my first year. Even though I did not go home with the crown I was very proud of myself for stepping out of box. I continued to work hard and prepare for the next year to compete again for Miss Racine 2014.

3. What is/was your platform and why did you choose it? My platform is Enhancing Opportunities for Youth with Special Needs, giving individuals with special needs the opportunities to enhance their lives through activities and involvement in their communities. My platform is inspired by my aunt Cindy who has special needs. When I was a little girl I never saw Aunt Cindy as someone who was different. Cindy is a very happy, lovable and independent. She works at Goodwill Industries, is on a bowling league, attends church every Sunday and loves Mickey Mouse more then anyone else I know! As I grew up I realized more and more that Aunt Cindy was very special and the sole reason why I am so passionate about my platform. Aunt Cindy fuels my love for those with special needs and helps me to be able relate and communicate with individuals with special needs. I want those with special needs to be able to have an equal opportunity at their dreams. I have experienced first hand how organizations like the Special Alyssa Bohm8Olympics, Miss Amazing Pageant, Best Buddies and the Sparkle Effect have enhanced individuals lives with special needs for the better. I can remember being an the Special Olympics Track and Field Tournament and cheering on the athletes at the end of the finish line. When the winner reached the finish line I said to him “You won the first place blue ribbon, I am so proud of you!”. He responded “I want the yellow ribbon Jimmy can have the blue, he did great!” To him it did not matter what place he finished in, it was seeing everyone in the crowd cheering him on and being able to showcase his skills he has worked so hard to master. He was a confident young man that cherished friendship, sportsmanship and dedication. That is what I want to create for every individual with special needs, the opportunity to feel invincible in being the best person they can possibly be. “The hearts I have touch will be the proof that I’ve lived.”

4. What is your favorite phase of competition, why? Swimsuit! I love being able to confidently strut my stuff on stage and showcase all of my hard work. Working out is a stress reliever for me, I am able to wind down and enjoy my favorite music while pushing myself further and further each time!Alyssa Bohm6.jpg

5. Style, Service, Scholarship, or Success? Service! “The most important thing is to try and inspire people so that they can be great in whatever they want to do.” This is my favorite quote by my favorite basketball player Kobe Bryant. Service has changed my life and being apart of the Miss America Organization my service has only progressed. The experiences that I have had being Miss Racine 2015 and being exposed to the heart warming community of Racine has inspired me to continue my service throughout the rest of my life. One day during my year I was at a community center in Racine for “National Night Out”. The children at the center were so surprised to see Miss Racine in their neighborhood which has a high crime rate. One little girl said to me after we talked about our favorite colors and danced to Justin Bieber for an hour, “I am so glad you came today, I want to be just like you.” It brought tears to my eyes seeing all of the children so excited to just have me in their neighborhood and realizing someone cares about them. I want to inspire people everyday to become successful individuals who will make a difference. My platform is also all about service and I continue to promote, volunteer and create memories from myself and others with or without a crown on my head.

6. What titles have you held and what were some of your biggest accomplishments or most cherished memories during each of them?

  • Miss Racine 2015
    • Volunteering for Miss Amazing Wisconsin (Special Needs Pageant)
    • MC for Special Olympics World’s Largest Truck Convoy (raised over 10,000 dollars)
    • Promoting Special Olympics “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign at Miss Wisconsin
    • Appearing at “A Night To Remember Prom” (Special Needs Prom)
    • Combining the Sparkle Squad Special Needs Cheer Squad and Special Olympics athletes together in one (cheering on one another)
    • Meeting my best friend Desiree Andrews at The Down Syndrome Walk and giving her one of my own cheer medals
    • Landing a job a Kenosha Bradford High School as a special education assistant
    • Creating the UWW Special Olympics Organization

Alyssa Bohm9.jpg

7. What is/was your talent and what do/did you enjoy most about performing it? My talent is tap dancing, and I danced to “It Don’t Mean A Thing” by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. I LOVED my talent routine because it showed my personality. My father is a professional magician and being apart of a family that is full of magic I figured adding magic would really embrace my personality. During my talent I wave a red scarf around and then throw the scarf in the air and it magically turns into a black cane! No one expects the magic to happen which is what I love most.

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8. Who is your biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program? Paula Mae Kuiper, she encouraged me to compete for Miss Racine four years ago and I can’t thank her enough for all of her encouragement throughout the years. She represented Racine, Madison and the state of Wisconsin amazingly and I truly admire her determination, compassion and grace in everything she does.

9. Favorite comfort food outside of competition mode? Tacos, Tacos, Tacos and did I mention tacos? I love Mexican cuisine and could probably never get tired of it, it definitely makes me happy!

10. Who is your favorite Miss America? Why? Mallory Hagan, not only is she an amazing tap dancer but she also stays true to who she is on and off the stage. Following her Miss America journey, I admired her compassion for the Miss America Organization and really representing the organization in her own way which inspires so many young woman to be true to themselves every single day. Being the best “you” you can be!

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? You could say, “umm wait… did they just say Alyssa Bohm?” That is exactly what Alyssa Bohm4was going through my head when my name was called at the Miss Racine 2015 pageant. Like I said before it took me three times to win the title of Miss Racine. Hearing my name not be called for two years really put me into shock when my name really was called. It was amazing to finally know that all my hard work had paid off and it was finally my time! Tears of joy running down my face as Haylee Bande, Miss Racine 2014 is screaming “Alyssa it’s you they called your name, I’m so proud of you!” It was a dream come true to be able to represent my hometown of Racine, WI.

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? First explaining how the Miss America Organization is a scholarship program. The Miss America Organization offers 45 million dollars in scholarships every year and 500,000 hours of service just in the year of 2015. These statistics show that thousands of young women are making a difference in their communities. The Miss America Organization specifically provides opportunities for young women to grow and inspires young girls to want to achieve their dreams.

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13. How has your involvement influenced your life? Being involved with the Miss America Organization for four years now it has helped me in my personal and professional life. I am involved with several organizations, gained many new life long friendships and have been able to make my mark. Professionally, being apart of the Miss America Organization it has helped me improve my speaking skills and networking portfolio. Without this organization I would not be as confident going into an interview, speaking in front of class or taking on leadership roles. I was able to figure out my professional career and land a job this year in the career field of my choice. Because of the experiences I have had I am a confident young woman that plans to have a successful future.

14. What advice would you give to fellow sisters, contestants, and young girls looking to one day compete for a title? Be yourself! No matter what be yourself, it may be hard seeing other girls around you who might be more experienced competing against you but you are not them, you are you! From my own experience, I have learned that being myself is all I can be and the judges will see that. At the end of the day whether or not you walk away with the crown, wearing your invisible crown everyday is just as important.Alyssa Bohm7

Miss Harbor Cities in Manitowoc

Exploration, engagement, and capturing the essence of the area were the main focus of my short trip to Manitowoc earlier this month.

After work on Monday, May 30 I drove home to Wisconsin Rapids to spend the night before waking up and driving to Green Bay for talent rehearsal with one of my directors, Danielle on Tuesday afternoon. Following a lengthy dance session, I eagerly made my way to Manitowoc for the night. Working a full-time job doesn’t allot much time for travel (especially across the state), but I’ve been able to prioritize, plan, and accommodate my hectic schedule since being crowned Miss Harbor Cities 2016 on March 12. From driving to Wisconsin Rapids (typically as a midway, sleep point), to driving to Milwaukee and back in one day, and making the trek to Illinois to search for my Miss Wisconsin evening gown at Bridal Elegance, I haven’t experienced a”dull day” off of work since early March and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Upon arriving in Manitowoc early Tuesday evening, I was instantly captivated by the shoreline of Lake Michigan. One of my directors, Abbey who grew up in Manitowoc, showed my the submarine museum and shoreline (we enjoyed a little photo session too!).

After wrapping up the lake tour, we had dinner at the Courthouse Pub, ah delicious!  The coconut shrimp were by far some of the best I’ve ever had and that’s saying a lot because I love seafood!  Then it was off to sleep to rest up for a busy day of school visits the next morning.  Wednesday was a crazy, heartfelt day filled with sharing the message I’m most passionate about, my platform. Through “Let’s Talk, Skill Sets 4 Success,” I am actively working to empower the future of Wisconsin for college and career readiness. Courtney Pelot, the current Miss Green Bay Area lives in Manitowoc and already had two reading appearances (correlating with her platform) scheduled for that afternoon, so I invited her to accompany me on my three classroom visits that day. We spoke to a group of more than 70 6th graders about both of our platforms, read to a handful of groups of 1st and 2nd graders, and two eighth classes. It was an exhausting, but exhilarating day sharing the importance of communication and information regarding soft skill sets with all of the students; a message that is not only my degree in college and my now career, but truly my calling and passion in life!I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to represent the beautiful city of Manitowoc as Miss Harbor Cities 2016 and look forward to showcasing that pride on the Miss Wisconsin 2016 next week!XO

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.”

It’s much more than sparkles and pretty dresses.

The job of a titleholder within the Miss America Organization (MAO) is comprised of much more than what meets the eye (yes, it’s a job).  The vast majority of society sees the sparkly crown, fancy outfits, and a pretty face, but women who compete in the program are women of substance. I’ve been confronted on numerous occasions where people have told me that I’m a much different person than what they initially expected, you know, with me being a “pageant girl” and all (insert my best attempt to refrain from rolling my eyes here). Over the course of my journey within the MAO over the past five years, I’ve come to see this comment as a perfect time to enlighten them on the values and beliefs the organization embodies. Not to mention, the work that goes into preparing for a pageant and the time, dedication, and passion that is necessary to carry out the duties associated with being a titleholder within the program.Here’s some main points I like to address (and for all those who are still a little skeptical about the Miss America Organization, I recommend you read closely):

  1. The women within the Miss America Organization have personal platforms they advocate for. The platform portion of the program started in 1989 when Miss America 1988, Kaye Lani Rae Rafko was determined to continue her career as a nurse during her reign, simultaneously changing the face of the MAO by advocating for health issues. Today, personal platforms vary greatly and usually are influenced by a tragedy, individual, or problem in society that the contestant had a personal tie to. Issues include but are not limited to: diabetes awareness, the importance of the arts, promoting physical fitness, domestic violence advocacy, heart health, and my unique platform, college and career readiness.
  2. Women wearing the crown are not only role models within the community, but public speakers, public relations specialists, event planners, communication experts, and marketing personnel. With the pervasiveness of social media in today’s society, local and state titleholders are even more so in the public eye than ten or even five years ago. They constantly strive to not only promote their personal brands online (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, etc.), while also sharing the work they’re doing in the community. In addition, they must reach out to businesses and people in the community in order to form relationships, set up speaking engagements and volunteer opportunities in order to share their message with a broader audience. Let me tell you friends, it’s not nearly as easy as it looks!
  3. Scholarship is one point of the crown that represents the opportunities the program provides women to pursue higher education with financial relief. The MAO is the largest provider of scholarship money to women across the country. Yes, there’s a pageant that takes place with various phases of on-stage competition being included in the show. However, there’s also a private interview portion of competition with a panel of five judges where contestants’ personality, intelligence, and awareness on current issues are put to the test. Many women initially get involved with the program to help relieve financially burden they feel from college loans and I can attest to the fact that as someone who worked multiple part-time jobs throughout school while balancing a full credit load and struggled to make ends meet, the scholarships I’ve received alleviated a lot of stress from my life. Let’s face it, college is expensive and it’s not getting any cheaper. The Miss America Organization is an outlet for growth that truly helps women reach their full potential while chasing their aspirations.
  4. The organization promotes civic engagement. Volunteering within the community and giving back to people who have provided us as titleholders with so much love and support is at the forefront of titleholders’ years of service. Typically, girls will get involved with volunteer opportunities that align with their personal platforms; however, it’s not uncommon to see local titleholders at a wide variety of events in the community. After all, helping to make the community, state, and country a better place is one of the central focuses of the MAO.
  5. The sparkly crown that sits upon a titleholder’s head is small, but mighty. In my platform presentation in schools I talk about the importance of community outreach and I can honestly say that much of what I’ve learned has stemmed from the Miss America Organization’s influence. The crown teaches titleholders and those who we get the pleasure of meeting, just how crucial it is to utilize the resources in your life. Fostering new relationships, embracing role model positions, and establishing connections with individuals and businesses who can help you along the path towards your intended pageant and/or career goals is a main facet of this organization (and a very important one at that).
  6. Being a titleholder teaches women the importance behind proper planning, prioritization, and the importance of time management. Juggling multiple appearances, volunteering opportunities, rehearsals, and other pageant engagements along with school, work, and a social life isn’t an easy task…let me tell you! Nonetheless, all of the sleepless nights, early mornings, and long days pay off in the long run. Why? Because pushing yourself to balance a multitude of engagements teaches you important skill sets that are needed in the real world and translate impeccably to success in college and the workforce. #YasQueen
  7. Even when the crown is off, a titleholder doesn’t get a “day off.” Serving as a local or state (and especially national titleholder) is a 24 hours, 7 days a week job. Whether the crown is on or not, you’re still a public figure and you must hold yourself accountable to the expectations set forth by not only the local, state, and national organization, but yourself as well. In addition, there’s a lot of planning and preparation that occurs behind the scenes when the crown is safely at rest and it’s those efforts that help ensure you’re ready for times when the sash and crown are on including: school visits, public speaking opportunities, events, and competitions.
  8. The opportunity to step into the heels of a real life princess provides women with a voice. It’s a job that allow women to stand for something greater than themselves, to allow the passions that fuel their soul to be shared with anyone and everyone around them, and a time to forever make a difference. It’s rewarding, difficult at times, but undoubtedly one of the best jobs some women will ever hold. Whether it’s stepping into duties as a Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (the national platform of the Miss America Organization) raising funds for local families in need and sharing their stories or sharing your message, titleholders are more than a pretty face, but rather women of substance.

Titleholder; (noun) a local representative within the Miss America Organization who works to promote a personal platform, serve as a Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, market herself and her community service efforts on social media, engage in civic activities, and positively influence the lives’ of others in order to make society a better place for everyone.

Sisterhood Spotlight: MeKenzie Lund

I absolutely love getting to share Sisterhood Spotlight features with all of you. Whether you’re involved with the Miss America Organization and know some of these incredibly young women or are skeptical about the program, the purpose of these posts is to shed light on the positive aspects and benefits the scholarship program creates.

This past year I had the honor to get to know Mekenzie Lund, Miss Oshkosh (and her fabulous parents Kay and Gary). I know I’ve probably said it before, but she is the epitome of what this program is all about. She’s extremely passionate about community service, puts others’ needs before her own, and constantly strives to grow as a person. I am so lucky to have met her and am grateful to have her friendship in my life!   Name: MeKenzie Lund

Hometown: Oshkosh, WI

Education: Double Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Studies and French from the

University of Wisconsin-Madison. Graduating this May, 2016!

Dream job: International Humanitarian/Aid Work

Favorite color: Purple 1. What inspired you to get involved with the Miss America Organization? Truthfully, the scholarship dollars appealed to me most at first. It wasn’t until preparation and rehearsals were underway that I began to see the true values and skills I could gain while competing within the Miss America Organization.

2. Tell us about your first MAO pageant. My first MAO pageant was with the Miss Oshkosh Scholarship Pageant in 2012. The amazing people I worked with during the preparation process and the friendships that I continued after the pageant definitely inspired me to continue competing. I won a $950 scholarship plus a $100 ticket award for placing 4th runner-up that year. After all was said and done, I saw the many values in continuing to compete. It took me seven tries to finally win a title- I think that says a lot about the Miss America Organization and the ways that it promotes perseverance and goal-setting.

3. What is/was your platform and why did you choose it? From the first year I competed until the year I won Miss Oshkosh in 2015, my platform kept changing and evolving. In the last two years I competed, my platform was Finish the Fight:Supporting the American Cancer Society. I finally settled on the last one because of my heavy involvement with the American Cancer Society. I became involved with the Society when my mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2006. My grandma was diagnosed just a few years later. They both won their battles, thankfully. But then in 2011, my great grandfather was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Colon Cancer and passed away shortly thereafter. In late 2014 my young cousin, Isaiah, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia at age nine. It is through that last connection that my fire and passion to finish the fight against cancer has been constantly re-ignited. As of June 2015 he is also cancer free! At UW I became involved with the Society’s collegiate affiliate, Colleges Against Cancer. I found success in climbing the leadership ladder-becoming a committee chair, Vice President, and then President, respectively, during my first three years at UW. I have served on Divisional and Regional teams, am an advocate for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and have attended and facilitated state and national conferences for ACS. I love everything the Society stands for, from their focus on all cancers, to their volunteer-based model, to the amazing people I have met through my involvement with the American Cancer Society.  4. What is your favorite phase of competition, why? Interview. If you asked me four years ago or even one year ago, interview would have been last on my list. But it is through my experiences as a titleholder that I have gained the confidence to speak with all demographics of people on any subject thrown my way. I’ve learned that as long as I am informed, intelligent, and confident in defending an argument or telling a story, then a 10-minute interview with five (or more) complete strangers is not as intimidating as I once thought. Interview also allows the judges to get to know a contestant face-to-face, which makes the connection more personal.

5.  Style, Service, Scholarship, or Success? All four. Style is important not only in presence on the outside, but on the inside as well. How a titleholder carries herself as a personable human being is just as important as the way she presents herself on the outside. Service is my favorite point to carry out because it’s about giving back to something much greater than ourselves. Being a titleholder isn’t all about the crown, it’s about the people and the communities that we serve. Scholarship is important because it is crucial that a titleholder is well-informed and educated. Continuing to reach for higher education is an admirable trait in anyone, showing that there is always more to learn and higher dreams to reach. I think that Style, Service, and Scholarship all point toward Success.  6. What titles have you held and what were some of your biggest accomplishments or most cherished memories during each of them?

  • Miss Oshkosh 2015
    • I visited my High School, Oshkosh West, as a guest speaker in the Leadership classes. I spoke about many topics and points of being a leader, and one that really resonated with the students was my talk about “The Art of Failure”. It is from that failure that we can either stop trying or stand up, brush ourselves off and continue work toward achieving our goals. I spoke about the many times I tried to compete for a local title within the Miss America Organization, how many times I had failed to win the crown, and how devastated I was each time. But when I talked about perseverance and keeping goals in mind, these kids really listened. Many of them stayed after class to talk to me, thank me, and tell me that I had made an impact or shaped their negative thinking into something positive.
    • It is the tiny moments at different appearances where I would give a lecture or have a conversation with someone, and somewhere in the midst of the discussion, a light bulb would click in their minds. While I talked about my platform, about kindness and leadership, perseverance and goal-setting, I learned more than I taught. When people realize a titleholder is more than a pretty face wearing a crown, it’s magical. Being a decent human being doesn’t require someone to wear a crown- and vice versa. The crown doesn’t mean the person wearing it is empty-headed or unintelligent. MAO teaches us that we have the power to break stereotypes and break through the glass ceiling. It is moments where I was able to break those stereotypes in front of people in my community that I felt most accomplished and fulfilled.

7. What is/was your talent and what do/did you enjoy most about performing it? My talent is tap dance. What I love most about tap dancing is the way that I am creating and adding onto an existing beat or rhythm. The energy from a tap dance is contagious, and I love getting the crowd involved!

8. Who is your biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program? Choosing just one role model is difficult. One thing I’ve learned as a titleholder is that we don’t need crowns to make a difference. The crown gives us a larger platform and the ability to build relationships we may not have otherwise had, but isn’t the only way to make an impact on our communities. My best friend, Susan Fochs, is one of my role models in this organization. She has competed 15 times for a local title. Her perseverance and drive are truly inspiring. Earlier this year The Miss America Organization awarded her a national award- The Jean Bartel Scholarship for Military Awareness. This was a result of all of her hard work and dedication in supporting our troops and military personnel through her non-profit, Operation Not Alone. She makes a difference in someone’s life each and every day. For this, she is a role model not only to me, but to many others around our community and state.

9. Favorite comfort food outside of competition mode? I am a sucker for thick, creamy, buttery mashed potatoes!

10. Who is your favorite Miss America? Why? Mallory Hytes Hagan. I followed her journey as Miss New York, Miss America, and have followed her journey afterward as well. I would love to have coffee with her to actually solidify my opinion, but she is real, she is committed, and she is personable. Mallory is a strong, no-nonsense, respectable woman and I admire her for that. She is also an amazing tap dancer, and I look up to her for my talent inspiration. 

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? At first, I was in shock. Then I had an overwhelming feeling of reassurance. Reassurance that my hard work had paid off, that three years of competing and persevering was worth it. A flood of emotions followed- I was in such a flurry of surprise, gratitude, excitement, and disbelief that I hadn’t even realized that my crown was on crooked and my sash was backward. I didn’t care about that too much though- I was focused on thanking my judges, thanking my family, and addressing the audience as their newest Miss Oshkosh.

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’ve gotten this several times before, and my response is always the same. Beauty is more than external- it’s also internal. The Miss America Organization and its titleholders strive to show that inner beauty. The relevancy of this pageant specifically is that it has allowed me to develop many skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise had without participating in MAO. Skills that will help me in my personal life and in the professional world. 

13. What is the most memorable moment you’ve experienced as a contestant/titleholder? I made over 100 appearances during my reign, so choosing just one is very difficult! I visited an elementary school in Oshkosh and had a “girl talk” with the fourth and fifth grade girls. We chatted about boys, what we like to do outside of school, about confidence, and about bullying. I had gotten wind of bullying as a big problem in this school, and was called in by a teacher to be a positive role model to these young ladies. The way that they were each engaged and listened to every word I spoke made me feel that my message resonated with each of them, and that’s all I had asked for. As someone that many girls look up to, it is my job to be a role model, spread positivity, and be someone that they can look up to and come to for help. It was one of the most rewarding appearances I made all year.

14. How has your involvement influenced your life? I am much more confident after my involvement within the Miss America Organization. I have grown tremendously as an individual. I know that this was just a stepping stone into my development as an individual and productive member of today’s society.

15. What advice would you give to fellow sisters, contestants, and young girls looking to one day compete for a title? The best thing to do is be yourself. Be goofy- laugh, cry, have passion, and set goals. I found that the moment I let my guard down and realized that being unique is an advantage is when I felt most confident. Have fun, relax, and be a positive member of society. Find your strengths, passions, and dreams, and follow them at all costs.

Sisterhood Spotlight: Jennie Collins

Determined, energetic, and passionate are in my opinion, three fitting adjectives to describe Jennie Collins; she is the epitome of what this organization stands for. She was determined to represent her home town, is passionate about giving back to her community, and possesses an indescribable energy towards life. I was lucky enough to share my Miss Wisconsin Week 2015 experience with her and can honestly say she’s one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met.  Name: Jennie Collins

Hometown: Green Bay, WI

Education: Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (Certified Medical Assistant

Dream job/ Current Job: I am currently working as a Respiratory Therapist Extern at Aurora BayCare Medical Center while pursuing my career as a Respiratory Care Practitioner.

Favorite color: Pink  1. Whad inspired you to get involved with the Miss America Organization? I grew up watching Miss America on TV and always said “I want to be her”. As I grew older I learned the Miss America Organization was much more than beauty. These young women had substance, passion, talent and so much more. Knowing this motivated me even more to turn my dreams into reality.

2. Tell us about your first MAO pageant. My first pageant was Miss Green Bay Area 2010, everytime I think of this pageant I instantly start laughing. Although I thought I did, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. From wardrobe, to makeup, to walks, there was so much to learn; including multitasking. When it was my turn for evening gown I walked on stage with the list of things I had to remember in my head (shoulders back, walk slow, look at the judges, look at the audience). Did you notice something missing from my list? Yes, smile. Out of all things, I forgot to smile. The girl who was later announced Miss Congeniality 2010, forgot to smile during evening gown. This organization is about learning and growing and let me tell you, after this pageant I never forgot to smile again!  3. What is/was your platform and why did you choose it? Volunteerism: The Gift of Giving, I picked this platform because volunteering is something near and dear to me. I began volunteering at local nursing homes when I was 9 years old. I saw how volunteering not only impacted my life but those I was helping as well and I wanted to continue making a difference in my community.   4. What is your favorite phase of competition, why? Interview is by far my favorite phase of competition. Besides the fact that I have the gift of gab and I love to talk. One reason I really enjoyed interview was because I liked the challenge of not knowing what to expect, especially since every panel of judges was so different it created such a variety of interview experiences.

5. Style, Service, Scholarship, or Success? Service

6. What title(s) have you held and what were some of your biggest accomplishments or most cherished memories during your year? Miss Green Bay Area 2015- This in itself was one of my biggest accomplishments. It has always been a dream of mine to compete at Miss Wisconsin representing my hometown. After 4 years of competing at Miss Green Bay Area I finally fulfilled my dream. I cherished every second of this journey and every person I have met along the way has touched my life in one way or another so there is no way I could possibly narrow it down to just a few.  

7. What is/was your talent and what do/did you enjoy most about performing it? The first year I competed my talent was dance and the following two years I played the trumpet. Neither of those talents seemed to showcase my personality at all. Therefore, my final year competing I decided to change my talent yet again and perform a comedic monologue; I liked that it was different but also allowed me to show the judges my personality.  

8. Who is your biggest role model within the Miss Wisconsin Scholarship Program? I think Laura Kaeppeler is extremely inspiring. When I was still fairly new to pageants I saw her win Miss Wisconsin and I remember her evening gown was the only one that did not have a single rhinestone on it. It was a simple purple dress and it made me realize, that it’s not about the gown, it is about girl in the gown that truly matters.

9. Favorite comfort food outside of competition mode? Deep fried pickles (from Regattas)

10. Who is your favorite Miss America? Why? Lee Meriwether, she was catwoman enough said!

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? Fulfilling a dream I had since I was little, was an absolutely incredible feeling, especially since it was the last year I was eligible to compete. When my name was called I was in complete shock and I knew I was in for the journey of a lifetime.   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? As I stated earlier, this organization is so much more than beauty. The benefits the Miss America Organization provides is priceless. It encourages young women to be articulate, poised, driven and intelligent. These women always have been and always will be tomorrow’s leaders and by that I do not mean just the winners, the contestants are role models as well. Therefore pageantry is extremely relevant in today’s society.

13. How has your involvement influenced your life? My involvement in this organization has influenced my life in every aspect. I would be lying if I said I left this organization the same person as I started. I have grown in ways I never knew was possible. As well as the immense amount of skills I have gained that I will take with me for the rest of my life and friends that will last a lifetime.

14. What advice would you give to fellow sisters, contestants, and young girls looking to one day compete for a title? Have fun, never give up and most importantly be yourself. You are not competing against each other, you are only competing against yourself to be the best version of you, you can possibly be.

15. As a woman who has aged out of competing, reflecting back, how would you sum up your experience using only one word? Irreplaceable.