Yeah. Blown away. ME.
I attended the preliminary rounds of competition of the Miss Nebraska pageant last weekend. After talking to all of the contestants over the last few months to write features for this blog, I felt like I knew some of them! And those that I do know personally are incredible, OUTSTANDING young women. I wanted to see all of their hard work in person!
These women are just phenomenal. Talented. Gorgeous. Intelligent. Hard working. DRIVEN. To see all of that wrapped together in one production was kind of mind-boggling. AND ABSOLUTELY INSPIRING.
For those of you who have been following my series on this year’s contestants, THANK YOU, and here is a recap of what happened at Miss Nebraska 2014.. both the real awards, and the Brandi Petersen Unofficial Superfan Awards.
Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson
Megan Swanson, representing Miss Douglas County, won the crown of Miss Nebraska 2014. (Thanks to Corbey R. Dorsey/Pixel Creation Workshop for the photo!) I LOVE this moment, because it shows jubilation, celebration and unity, and also gives a glimpse into Megan’s personality. Megan worked so hard over the last few months, on her talent, her physical and mental self, and on her platform, Total Body Wellness. One of my favorite things about her is that in the videos she has posted from visits to schools and kids, Megan gets on their level–they are goofy, they have fun, they LAUGH. She’s not an untouchable figure talking to children, she’s AMONG them, talking WITH them. Other photos and videos show abandon, a free spirit, LIFE. You see all of that in this image.. and her connection to family, celebrating this amazing moment if only through their eyes. I can only imagine how very proud her mom, sister and rest of her family must be right now–they were her biggest supporters in the crowd and no doubt in real life.
Megan won a Preliminary Talent Award for her incredible rendition of ‘You Raise Me Up,’ and she tied for 2nd place for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award, given in honor of an awesome guy, Bobby Foehlinger. Add it all up–Megan Swanson takes home approximately $11,000 in scholarship money. Learn more about Megan by checking out my post about her a few weeks before the pageant took place. You can also read the KETV article about Megan and my interview with her in her first days as Miss Nebraska.
The 2014 Miss Nebraska Top 5
I look at each of these women, and remember thinking while watching prelims ANY of them could win (and a few others!!!) THAT is how strong the competition was this year. (Thanks to Field Director Darrell Drullinger and the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Organization for the picture!)
Starting from the left, Alyssa Howell finished 4th Runner Up. Alyssa’s piano performance was one of my favorite talents–INCREDIBLY strong and commanded attention from start to finish. I don’t think this young woman stopped smiling the entire time she was in North Platte; a lesson to all of us, no matter if you are on stage, in an interview, or talking to someone on the street, a smile and positive attitude will make you memorable. Alyssa certainly is!
Rachel Foehlinger finished 2nd Runner Up. WHAT A WEEKEND for this incredibly talented young woman. Rachel’s talent, twirling a baton(s) at ridiculous speeds to Proud Mary, made me forget to breathe, and apparently everyone else, too; she won both Preliminary and Overall Talent awards. Acrobatics, dance, 3 batons at once, all while smiling and energizing the crowd–IT WAS AMAZING. Rachel also won the Overall Interview Award, and was a finalist for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award.
Megan Swanson, Miss Nebraska 2014. I like to sing. I’m not the best.. or even great.. but I think I have a good ear for what IS good (and I’m pretty nit-picky about it!). MEGAN IS GOOD. Scratch that–SHE’S GREAT. From her first notes, Megan captured the audiene. Her talent isn’t just well practiced (which as a Christian recording artist and music major, I’m SURE she is), it’s a gift that’s been fine tuned into an art. Megan told me after Miss Nebraska she wants to win awards for talent at Miss America; I truly think she can do it.
Aleah Peters finished 1st Runner Up. My overall thoughts about Aleah: DAAAAAANG. I don’t know if Aleah left the studio or gym in the months leading up to Miss Nebraska. She is a model of health and fitness and her stage presence was literally, jaw dropping, winning her the Overall Swimsuit Award. Another young woman who never stopped smiling, or shining brightly, on that stage. Just AMAZING.
Allison Tietjen finished 3rd Runner Up. She’s only 18. SHE IS 18 YEARS OLD. And she knocked the socks off of everyone in the crowd at Miss Nebraska. Allison also had an exceptional talent, playing what seemed to be a very difficult piano piece, along with musical accompaniment, which I can only imagine adds substantial difficulty–you lose your place or tempo once, you’re in trouble for the remaining performance. I literally said, ‘WOW’, out loud when she finished during the preliminary competition.
Other Miss Nebraska Award Winners..
(Thanks again to Darrell Drullinger & the Miss Nebraska Organization for the photo!)
Again, starting on the left, Megan Dimmitt received several awards in North Platte, including 2nd place for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award, the Miss America Community Service Award, the non-finalist Interview Award and the Miracle Maker Award. Over the course of her year as Miss High Plains, Megan has raised more than $10,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals. 10-GRAND that will go straight to hospitals and the kids they care for, like Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha. Absolutely AMAZING.
Next to Megan is Mindy Schreiber, who also received several awards at Miss Nebraska. Mindy won the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award for her work with mentoring and the Teammates Organization over the last several years, as well as the Miss America Scholar Award and Miss Congeniality. Smart, caring and dedicated to service. INCREDIBLE.
(Thanks to Joe Bohac & Colour Artistry for the photo!)
Lianna Prill received the non-finalist Talent Award, and it was truly special. Lianna played piano to music.. then SANG to music.. all in the same performance. Again–I can’t imagine how difficult it is to play piano along with background accompaniment.. adding singing to the mix makes my head spin thinking, let alone performing! And Lianna NAILED it, wowing the crowd with her rendition of ‘All By Myself’. Great job from a terrific young lady!
NOW, the awards that don’t come with scholarship money or plaques… but the history making honor of being noted on my blog!!!
<<no applause… not even crickets.. tumbleweed rolls past me as I type this…>>
Whatevs. Thanks for reading :)
THE KERRI STRUG AWARD FOR BEING BOSS
Remember Kerri Strug, and this historic Olympic moment?
Strug needs a 9.5 on vault to secure the United States Women’s Gymnastics Team a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games. She falls on her first vault, badly injuring her ankle. She performs her second vault as literally, millions of Americans hold their breath watching, and lands it on ONE FOOT, scoring a 9.7 before crumbling to the ground in pain. GOLD. THAT, folks, is BOSS. (No, seriously, real word… Merriam Webster defines it as ‘great or excellent’.)
Cue Kimberly Brennan, Miss Metro. After a wonderful night of preliminary competition Thursday, Kimberly had arguably one of the worst days of her life Friday. During rehearsal, a baton hit her in the eye. As if that wasn’t bruising enough (literally), Kimberly was then overcome by symptoms of gallstones; she spent much of the day in the hospital, sick and in pain. Still, Friday night at 7pm sharp, Kimberly was on the Miss Nebraska stage, smiling and competing, as if she felt PERFECT. If you didn’t have ‘insider information’ as to what happened, you wouldn’t have had any idea. And with that, she became a Top 10 finalist. AMAZING. I gave her a hug after Friday’s night of competition–she had to be exhausted. But she was still smiling.
KIMBERLY BRENNAN IS TOTALLY BOSS. Kim, I BOW DOWN TO YOU. You are MAGNIFICENT!
THE CHARLIZE THERON DROP DEAD GORGEOUS AWARD(s)
One of my favorite parts about Miss Nebraska (and pageants in general…) the gowns. OH, THE GOWNS! So this award is named for the earth’s most gorgeous human being, Charlize Theron. Yup. This year, I have 3 favorites (photos copyright of Brown Harano Photography).
Megan Dimmit, Miss High Plains.. STUNNING. Her gown was just so different than what anyone else had, and reflected incredible poise and maturity. Knowing Megan and the work she’s done–this is WAS SO fitting for her, and absolutely perfect :)
Chrissy Townsend, Miss Lake McConaughy.. at Miss Nebraska, as is usually the case at Miss America and Miss USA, there are so many gorgeous white and black gowns. Chrissy, with her amazing green gown, totally stood out in a great way. LOVED IT–loved it even more up close. Chrissy was also named a Top 10 finalist–loved her!
Rachel Foehlinger, Miss River City. I DIE. Rachel just FLOATED in this dress.. it just sparkled, and so did she. LOVED!!
THE JILLIAN MICHAELS AWARD FOR BEING ABLE TO CRUSH THINGS
Jillian Michaels is arguably the most in-shape woman on the planet.
At least, that’s what I thought.. until I saw Aleah Peters, Miss State Fair, at this year’s Miss Nebraska pageant.
(Thanks to Joe Bohac and Colour Artistry for the photo!)
I don’t have words. Just stop what you are doing and stare at this photo for a few minutes.
I am still IN COMPLETE AWE. I absolutely LOVE THIS. Aleah literally made people in the audience gasp (in a good way!!) She showed everyone there and everyone watching from afar that this part of the competition isn’t about being the skinniest, starving yourself, etc… it’s about dedication to becoming the best physical form of yourself you can possibly be through nutrition and fitness.
Aleah, there is a special prize for winning this award on my blog.. you have to follow me around for the next few months and motivate ME to get into this kind of condition. Or come to the newsplex with me, and everytime I head for the Reeses in the vending machine, just say ‘Brandi…’ and pose like this.
THE AWARD FOR WHO I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP
Pay no attention to the fact I am 15 years older than this young woman. Whatevs.
Miss Omaha Payton Merritt, also a Top 10 finalist, made me smile every time she walked out on stage. She’s STUNNING, she sings with soul, she’s the whole package. Arguably, her shining moment (and a shining moment for the entire program) came during the onstage question portion of competition during Friday night’s preliminaries. You’ve probably heard the horror stories, the ‘world peace’ and ‘the Iraq’ moments, that make all of us who volunteer in these programs CRINGE because it is such a poor representation of a group of truly brilliant young women. So this moment, answering questions from Miss Nebraska 2013 JaCee Pilkington, was FRIGGIN AWESOME.
(Thanks to the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County/Miss River City pageant for the photo!)
Payton didn’t get any ‘softball’ questions; she was asked how she promotes awareness of eating disorders when part of the Miss Nebraska competition is to walk around in a bikini.. she answered, very articulately and without pause, that just as in life, we all need to find a balance between healthy living and self image. Her second question was whether the NBA was right to fire Donald Sterling over racist comments made in private. Again, without hesitation, Payton competently and confidently answered that Sterling had a history of similar statements, and that his behavior was not the representation the NBA wanted or needed, so yes, they were within their rights to dismiss him.
Whether you agree with Payton or not in her responses, she answered each question with confidence, poise, reasoning behind her responses, and a display that she was not only aware of current issues, but goes beyond to learn about things to form a basis for her opinions. IT WAS AWESOME. I wish video of THIS would go viral–because THIS WOMAN is a true representation of the intelligence and confidence within these young women. WAY TO GO, PAYTON!!!
This is officially the longest blog post ever.. I leave you with one final award.
THE CAT DEELEY FUTURE SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE CONTESTANT AWARD
I. LOVE. So You Think You Can Dance. I even blogged about my favorite moments.
Judge me. Whatevs.
Another young woman was also crowned in North Platte last weekend..
Morgan Holen is the new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen! (Thanks to the organization for the photo!)
I didn’t get to see the teen pageant this year, but I am BEYOND THRILLED for this incredible young lady. From the first time I saw her dance and every time since, she is absolutely CAPTIVATING while she performs. She lets the music flow through her, and the emotions and stories she shares and tells through her dancing are truly phenomenal. Morgan is also a hard working, beautiful, kind young woman (and has an INCREDIBLE family behind her every step of the way!!)
Morgan, I am so very proud of you and excited to follow your big year! And yes, I am counting down the days until you try out for So You Think You Can Dance.
To all of you who have been following this series on Miss Nebraska, THANK YOU. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning and writing about each of these young women, and I flatter myself to hope more people learned about this program and the incredible young ladies who participate.
Crown or no crown, these are all exceptional people who are making our world a better place. TO YOU, LADIES, THANK YOU. You make me want to be a better woman; the best version of myself I can possibly be.
Best of luck to you no matter what path you take; you all make our state more beautiful.