She Said Yeah

16 Apr

YEAH..

The Rolling Stones song, Joe Nichols, Usher.. they’ve all made that 4-letter word famous in their music.

This guy made a career out of it..

Kool Aid

Kool-Aid Man debuted in 1975, using his signature phrase, “Ohhhhh, yeeeaaaaahhh!” to remind us all how awesome a glass of ice-cold Kool-Aid tastes in the heat of a Nebraska summer.

Where am I going with this?!?!? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Kool-Aid Man’s female (and much cooler) counterpart..

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Miss Kool-Aid Days, Jessica Littlejohn

Ummmm.. Kool-Aid? There’s a ‘Miss Kool-Aid Days’?!?

This local pageant, another preliminary to the Miss Nebraska pageant in June, is named for the festival of the same name that takes place in Hastings every year.  Hastings is the ‘birthplace’ of Kool-Aid.

Make jokes, but Jessica is serious about the business of Miss Nebraska and the Miss America system.

“This program produces well rounded and ready to work individuals striving for the best,” Jessica told me recently.  “I think this  is more relevant now than it has ever been!  This is the biggest scholarship program for young women in the world and with school prices on the rise, it’s a blessing to have the scholarships.  This coming from someone that has literally paid her entire way through school thus far with the scholarships from this program.”

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Jessica’s already had practice with traveling, frequently driving across the state for appearances as Miss Kool-Aid Days.  This is one of her favorite parts of her job, but also leads to some ‘low’ moments.

“The dreaded ‘low fuel’ light that comes on in the car,” said Jessica.  “Being from the west side of the state, many of the appearances and events happen to be on the east side.  Don’t get me wrong, love the drives, love the scenery and love the music blaring on the radio the whole 9-hour trip, but as soon as that light comes on, party’s over!”

Jessica’s had enough gas to make it to Omaha a few times; in the summer of 2013, she, along with several of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants, was featured on the reality television show ‘Obsessed With The Dress’, recorded at Winning Crown Boutique.

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National TV aside, Jessica uses many of her public events to discuss her platform, ‘Kid Power, Stranger Danger.”

“I was actually taken as a child,” said Jessica.  “My mother had taught me the right actions and she had alerted the authorities and I was returned.  I feel it is my duty to spread the world on how to one, avoid a danger situation.  Two, to stay safe in a dangerous situation.  Three, what to do in a dangerous situation.  I feel it is worthwhile to teach children, teens and adults to be aware and prepared.”

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DEDICATED, STRONG WILLED, EFFERVESCENT

“I feel like every situation, I try to bring up a positive vibe and I’m naturally a very happy person,” said Jessica.  “I choose to never give up.  I have always set my mind on a task and done all I can to accomplish that.  I’m willing to figure out other options to get a job done.”

Jessica will take that positivity with her to Miss Nebraska; she says ‘the girls’, her fellow competitors, are her favorite part of the pageant.

“They understand you!” said Jessica.  “They have the same goals, they are constantly striving to better themselves and others along their journey.  We understand each other and understand that this is not just a beauty pageant, we are all talented in our own ways.  I value each of them for that.”

Still, if you ask Jessica is SHE is ready for the job of Miss Nebraska, she could probably sum up her response in a word fitting of Miss Kool-Aid Days. OH, YEAH!

“I want this job and that is exactly how I see Miss Nebraska, as a job!” said Jessica.  “The Miss Nebraska program celebrates the unique, diverse, impeccable women that have and will yet compete.  [The program] looks for the ‘it girl’ factor in every girl, and I feel that I possess those qualities.”

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Connect with Miss Kool-Aid Days, Jessica Littlejohn

on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram

You can also follow the Miss Kool-Aid Days Pageant on Facebook and on the web

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The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.

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PREVIOUS POST.. Miss Omaha Payton Merritt

NEXT POST….  Miss Sugar Valley Tosha Skinner!

Omaha! Omaha!

14 Apr

DISCLAIMER: Omaha’s my town.  Ok, Papillion is actually my hometown, but Omaha is my ADOPTIVE town. (I have dual citizenship.)

I’ve been a volunteer with the Miss Omaha organization for a few years now, so I know Miss Omaha and her fellow titleholders Miss Douglas County and Miss River City a little better than I know some of the others.  I’ve been following one of these young women ever since she competed as a teenager back in 2011.  The first night I saw her compete, I remember this tiny little girl walking on stage, opening her mouth to sing.. and my jaw DROPPING in awe of her voice.

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Miss Omaha, Payton Merritt

This young woman is not only on a mission to win the title of Miss Nebraska in June, but to shatter every stereotype about pageants along the way.

“My job isn’t about outer beauty, but compassion and intellect,” said Payton, who recently received nearly a full-ride scholarship to Creighton University.  “I want others to see that and understand that not everyone is simply seeking a place in the spotlight, but that we truly want to make a difference.”

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As Miss Omaha, Payton is waging war against eating disorders, something she says she has personal experience with.

“It is not always the easiest thing to talk about, and the fact that it isn’t so is the exact reason I am doing it,” said Payton.  “It was difficult for me to choose this as my platform because of the shame I had felt for so long, but ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I needed to set a precedent for others suffering.  It is my hope to let people know it is okay to talk about and reach out for help, but also to make friends and family members aware of the severity and warning signs.”

I asked Payton, as I did all of the contestants, if Lifestyle and Fitness, aka the swimsuit competition, should remain part of the Miss Nebraska pageant?

“Many illnesses can be prevented from establishing healthy eating habits and exercise routines,” said Payton.  “To me, fitness in swimsuit is about working to become the best you can be inside and out and truly loving and embracing yourself and your body as God created it to be.”

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Payton with Miss Omaha’s Outstanding Teen Morgan Holen at Omaha’s St. Patrick’s Day parade

Payton graduated a semester early from Lincoln East High School in December, and travels to Omaha frequently to take part in events.  Most recently, she sang the national anthem for the University of Nebraska-Omaha baseball game versus Kansas State. (Click here to watch.. and listen!)

“I am young and have a lot to learn, and that openness to learning allows me to relate to a broad spectrum of people, tirelessly devote myself to a multitude of causes, and to fully embody the job and mission this title brings,” said Payton.

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BELIEVER

“My faith tells me that I am exactly where I need to be,” said Payton.  “I believe in the power of one person, but more importantly, I believe in the power of one person and an organization as prestigious and respected as the Miss America Organization.”

The Super Bowl may be over.. but the Super Bowl of pageants is about to begin.  THIS Payton is ready for Miss Nebraska.

Connect with Miss Omaha, Payton Merritt

on Facebook, on Twitter, and via the Miss Omaha website

***

The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.

***

PREVIOUS POST..  Miss Heartland Allison Tietjen

NEXT POST..  Miss Kool-Aid Days Jessica Littlejohn

Where The Heart Is

13 Apr

You’d think that after 13 years in news, I’d have built up an immunity to some of the emotional stories we share every night.

Not so much.

When we showed our viewers the Honor Flight late last month allowing 460 Korean War veterans to visit their memorial in Washington DC, I almost lost it ON AIR.  I was overwhelmed seeing these brave men seeing the gratitude and appreciation they deserved for fighting for our country.  For so long, they had been forgotten; not anymore.  As their tears flowed, so did mine.

Watch KETV’s story on the Korean War Honor Flight, from photojournalist Andrew Ozaki

I’m not alone.  One of the young women competing in the Miss Nebraska pageant this summer has made it her mission to recognize our heroes.

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Miss Heartland, Allison Tietjen

Allison was one of the volunteers who not only raised money for the Honor Flight, she accompanied them as a guardian.

“It gave me a much greater understanding of the incredible sacrifices these men and women have given and the little recognition they got in return,” Allison told me.  “As Miss Nebraska, I want to encourage schools and youth organizations to raise money so another Honor Flight can happen.”

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Allison accompanying Nebraska veterans during March’s Honor Flight to Washington DC

To promote her ‘United We Stand: Remembering Our Heroes’ platform, Allison has also spoken at local women’s clubs, school organizations and Girl Scout troops.  She’s done all of this in addition to her senior year schedule at Thayer Central High School, where she was crowned Homecoming Queen the same month she was named Miss Heartland.

“I completely understand why girls participate in the Miss Nebraska/America organization,” said Allison.  “Yes, the scholarships are wonderful, but the experiences and memories you take away from the service work you do are beyond any scholarship.”

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These appearances have also given Allison an opportunity to showcase her favorite part of the competition.

“Who doesn’t love walking on stage in a swimsuit?! I am joking,” Allison said. “I started playing piano at a young age and have loved it ever since!  In the past, I have always worked on playing for church, so playing more upbeat songs for pageants has been a blast.  Almost every group or organization I speak to as Miss Heartland asks me to play for them, and I never turn down an opportunity.”

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From Chester, Nebraska.. to Washington DC.. to North Platte.

Allison has already had quite the journey. There’s still room in her heart for more.

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Connect with Miss Heartland, Allison Tietjen

on Twitter and on Instagram

***

The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.

***

PREVIOUS POST.. Miss Gering, Alexis Smith!

NEXT POST….  Miss Omaha, Payton Merritt!

Just A Small Town Girl

10 Apr

Ah, how I love Journey.  C’mon, you know the words…

‘Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world.  She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere.’

<<Great, now it will be stuck in my head all day.>>

The next contestant in the 2014 Miss Nebraska class might not even know who Journey is, as this song was released the year I was born.. a good 14 years before she was.

<<Ouch.>>

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Miss Gering, Alexis Smith

“While I know and recognize that I’m young, I do believe I can share positive vibes with anyone,” Alexis told me recently.  “I truly do believe that there is no action taken without a reason.  Some people just need an ear to listen to their reason.  As Miss Nebraska, I can share my stories and listen to others.”

Here’s part of Alexis’s story.

DIVERSE. POSITIVE. COMMITTED.

Alexis, a high school senior from Morrill, Nebraska, plans to move to Utah in the fall to study pre-med at Utah State University.

“I love to be involved in everything I can,” said Alexis.  “I never like to sign myself in for something if I cannot do it well or finish it.”

Alexis’s latest endeavor was to compete for the title of Miss Gering.  She won.

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“I got involved in Miss Nebraska to better myself in more ways than one,” said Alexis.  “I have always been able to get on stage and dance from my 17 years of competitive dancing, but I’ve never been one for speaking on stage.  Being Miss Gering 2014 has helped amazingly.”

Alexis now says Interview, which accounts for 25% of a contestants score, is her favorite part of competition.  It’s also an opportunity for her to discuss something she is passionate about, agriculture education.

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“I chose my platform because I find that the farmers in America do not get the respect or appreciation they should receive for all the work they do,” said Alexis.

Speaking of work, Alexis is busy.  In addition to studies at Mitchell High, she’s enjoying her new responsibilities as Miss Gering.

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“My favorite part of being a titleholder is the ability to be a role model for youth,” said Alexis.  “My least favorite part is dieting.  I love food! So sometimes it can be a bit difficult for me to fully commit to!”

THERE SHE IS

Still, Alexis believes the dreaded ‘swimsuit competition’ (officially called Lifestyle and Fitness) should remain part of the Miss Nebraska and Miss America programs.

“While it is always a plus to be physically fit, swimwear is more a component of showing someone’s confidence in herself!” said Alexis.  “More girls need to love themselves; we are all so beautiful!  Yes, swimwear should be involved to show more girls to work for what they want to look like and love how they look already.”

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It’s going to be a busy next few months for this small town girl. Finals, high school graduation and preparations to compete for her state’s crown as Miss Nebraska.

I think it’s a pretty safe bet all 925 people in the village of Morrill in Nebraska’s panhandle will be cheering on this beauty come June!  And maybe, just maybe, singing Don’t Stop Believin’ on the road trip to North Platte.

Connect with Miss Gering, Alexis Smith

by email: alexismikellesmith1995@gmail.com

***

The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.

***

PREVIOUS POST.. Miss High Plains, Megan Dimmitt

NEXT POST….  Miss Heartland, Allison Tietjen!

Flying High

9 Apr

flowers

I do not have adequate words for how awesome this is.  Thank you, Brittany Jeffers, for sharing it!

We don’t have to compete with anyone–simply by being the best people we can be individually, we create an amazing world together.

So, think of the Miss Nebraska pageant like the state’s most beautiful garden of flowers.

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Miss Nebraska Class of 2014

(photo courtesy Miss Nebraska 2013 JaCee Pilkington)

As promised, this post kicks off a series of features showcasing each of the fantastic young women participating in the Miss Nebraska pageant in June.

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Miss High Plains, Megan Dimmitt

I first met Megan a few years ago when I was asked to judge the Miss Omaha pageant; Megan was a contestant.  I was blown away by her wit, intelligence and down-to-earth personality.  I’ve kept in touch with Megan ever since, and if there’s one thing that stands out to me, it’s her level of service.  Megan has raised an unprecedented $10,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network, and spends hours each week volunteering in addition to work and time studying as a graduate student at UNO.

“I have always been very involved in volunteer work in my community,” Megan recently told me.  “Once I became a titleholder, I realized that the volunteer work that I was doing before could be elevated to a much higher level.”

Tea With a Queen

Megan’s ‘Tea With the Queen’ fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network.  Megan is a weekly staff volunteer at Children’s Hospital in Omaha.

TRUE GRIT, MAXIMIZER, PROBLEM SOLVER

“I make the most out of my time and energy and always give 110%,” said Megan.  “I make no excuses and always work past any challenge that comes my way.”

One of those challenges for Dimmitt used to the be the Lifestyle and Fitness portion of the pageant.. aka the dreaded Swimsuit Competition. <cue scary music>>

“I have battled with my weight for a long time; I was about 60 pounds overweight as a young teen,” said Megan.  “When I first started competing in pageants, I was solely focused on being as small as I could be.  As time went on, I realized training in that way was not working for me, so I took a different approach.  I started body building.  This year, instead of losing weight, I’ve put on twenty pounds of lean muscle mass.  I have worked so hard with my nutrition and strength training program and I cannot wait to show that to the judges and audience come June.”

Watch Megan’s workout!

A BELIEF IN HAPPY ENDINGS

Megan’s personal journey with self image and transformation was the inspiration for her mission of service with the Miss America system, a platform she calls Believe in Happy Endings – Goal Setting For The Future.  She credits a basketball coach who helped her confront weight issues by keeping a fitness journal and setting goals.

“In time, I became healthy, my grades were back on track and I had regained the stability that I had lost,” said Megan.  She now mentors kids in an at-risk after-school program, encouraging them to not only identify goals, but to create timelines and complete steps to achieve them.  Her ultimate goal is to earn her doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology and open her own practice.

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THERE SHE IS..

I am asking each of the Miss Nebraska contestants why you, my readers (and THANK YOU for reading!!) should care about what they are doing.  Why you should follow Miss Nebraska.. why is Miss America still relevant in 2014??

“This teaches young women to set goals for themselves, learn the art of public speaking and the importance of selflessly serving others in need,” answered Megan.  “We learn all of these important lessons, while earning scholarship money for ourselves.  I graduated debt free from Chadron State College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice just because of the scholarship money I received from this amazing organization.”

PreSchool reading

Connect with Miss High Plains, Megan Dimmitt

on Facebook, Instagram or by email: megdimmit@yahoo.com

***

The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.

***

NEXT POST….  Miss Gering, Alexis Smith!

There She Is..

4 Feb

Saturday night, I was anxiously checking my Twitter feed every few minutes for updates.  Not for a game, not for breaking news.. just for two names.

I wanted to see who won the titles of Miss Metro and Miss Eastern Nebraska; to see which two young ladies would round out the field of 19 to compete at the Miss Nebraska pageant in June.

Did I lose you? Are you shaking your head saying, ‘c’mon Brandi.. really? Pageants?!?’

Yes, Miss Nebraska.  I LOVE IT.  And here are three gorgeous reasons you should, too.

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Brittany Jeffers, Miss Nebraska 2009, now Anchor/Reporter at Fox23 in Tulsa, OK

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Brook Matthews-Hudson, Miss Nebraska 2004, now Producer of Omaha Fashion Week

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Our own Alex Hoffman, Miss South Dakota 2008, now KETV First News Anchor

These are only three examples of the fantastic young women who have participated in the Miss America program.  Women who are beautiful inside and out.  Women who have amazing talents.  Women who give of themselves to help others around them.  Women who are articulate, intelligent and confident.

Why is it such a bad thing to recognize these things?!? Aren’t these the attributes we all wish we could have? Aren’t these the qualities we hope our children pick up on and someday emulate themselves?

We applaud athletes, recognize actors, respect leaders.  The women who participate in this system represent so many of those things.  Think The Apprentice meets The Voice meets The Biggest Loser, all on the red carpet.  What’s more, the program gives BACK to them, recognizing those accomplishments with scholarships for colleges and careers.

Of course, there are the ‘girly-girl’ parts of the pageant that I love.. who doesn’t love getting dressed up and feeling BEAUTIFUL??  Yes, there’s also the always controversial swimsuit competition–but as a former contestant myself, I have never been in better shape in my life than when I had motivation through Miss Nebraska to eat healthy and get myself to the gym.

Have I convinced you yet? If you’re teetering on the edge, I invite you to check out my blog over the next few months as I introduce you to this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants.  You’ll meet Miss Omaha Peyton Merritt, the recent high school graduate who sings with the soul of 10 lifetimes. (She gives me chills!!!)  You’ll meet Miss Crane Festival Lianna Prill, one of the distinguished recipients of a DJ’s Hero Award last year for her work with Celiac Disease.  You’ll meet Miss High Plains Megan Dimmitt, who has raised more than any other young woman in Miss Nebraska history, $8,400, all for the Children’s Miracle Network.

These young women are incredible.  They are the ‘cream of the crop’ in their college classes, often excel in their talent of choice, and have donated hundreds of hours to dozens of charities.  They inspire me to smile a little more and try a little harder.  They truly have glitter in their blood :)

There is so much bad in the world–I certainly see that day in and day out working in news.  THESE women represent so much good–so much beauty.  And if that beauty is showcased in a pageant, so be it.

I hope you follow their journeys with me!

GOOD LUCK, LADIES! And remember..

all you need

Thanks to Miss Nebraska Director Amy Engel for sharing

Have questions for any of the contestants?  Send them to me, bpetersen@hearst.com, or leave them here in the ‘comments’ section.  I’ll forward them on to the ladies and post their answers over the next few months!

Hi, I’m Miranda Baby Weight

10 Dec

This is Miranda Kerr.

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This is Miranda Kerr a few months after having her baby.

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This is how I feel about Miranda Kerr.

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Ohhhhh, baby weight.  How I loathe thee.

There is an amazing new book out, written right here in Omaha, called ‘It’s Really 10 Months.’  It’s a compilation of emails sent between three friends while they were all expecting babies, and showcases the less than glamorous side of pregnancy that never seems to make the Carter’s commercials.  You can check out the book and the moms’ blog online.  I knew I would love this book when I read:

“Delivering the Truth…In What to Expect When You’re Expecting, it is recommended that the average woman gain between 25 and 35 pounds.  We found this statement slightly amusing as collectively we gained 150 pounds.”

I’m not going to reveal how much weight I gained with either of my boys, but let’s say I let out a ‘Hallelujah!’ in my kitchen when I read that.

So now that my sweet little baby is a few months old, it’s time to get to work.  Hello, MyFitnessPal and MapMyWalk apps!  Time to put Blurred Lines on repeat and hit the walking trails (yes, I still love that song.)  Adrian and Rob, when you see me inhaling Reeses Pieces at my desk, just rip that beautiful orange bag out of my hand!! I have this vision in my head of how I look that isn’t THAT far off how I USED to look.. then I catch a glimpse of myself during our newscasts or in photos and get the ‘Miranda Kerr Angry Face’ again.

I’m not writing all of this to solicit complimentary messages and comments–THANK YOU for what you have all sent, you are amazing and always, ALWAYS, brighten my day :)  But I guess, it’s just to commiserate with anyone else out there who doesn’t feel like the best version of themselves.  So let’s make a pact. Ladies (and gents!) are you with me?!? To anyone who want a change.. to the brides hoping to look their best.. to the new mommies out there, just like me, LET’S DO THIS!

Here’s a great article tweeted by the Nebraska Medical Center today titled ’12 Reasons you’re Not Losing Weight’–definitely food for thought!

***

awesome

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