Tag Archive | miss usa

Superwoman

Raise your hand if you watched Miss USA Sunday night!

Ok, good. Glad we’re all on the same page.

Oh, how I LOVED it – and how excited it made me for the Miss Nebraska Pageant in just 3 weeks!! (EEEK!) I LOVED the gowns, the intelligence, the poise… and the evolution.

The Miss America Pageant started in 1920, first created based on an event called The Fall Frolic in Atlantic City. Designed to bring business to the boardwalk, the main attractions were the young ‘maidens’ who sat in rolling chairs, headed by a Miss Ernestine Cremona, dressed in a flowing white robe representing ‘Peace.’ It was so successful, a newspaper-based beauty contest encouraged photo submissions, allowing women nationwide to participate in a ‘bather’s revue’; the Atlantic City Businessmen’s League paid for eight women from across the US to travel to New Jersey to compete to become ‘Miss America’. Margaret Gorman, 16, won the title and $100. 30 years later, Miss America 1950 Yolande Betbeze refused to pose for photos in her swimsuit. Sponsor Catalina created its own pageant: Miss USA. Decades later, the two programs have become the clear queens of the pageant world; two powerhouse organizations that empower women and provide them countless platforms for service, career advancement, opportunity and personal betterment. Perhaps my favorite part is that within both of these programs we are seeing more and more successful women of all shapes and sizes, a far cry from the bathing suit showcase of 1921.

Right photo courtesy Pageant Update; Left photo courtesy Vince Bucci/FOX

Miss Georgia 2017 DeAnna Johnson was a showstopper during last week’s preliminary competition in Las Vegas. She is curvy, healthy and CONFIDENT. Miss USA host Ashley Graham, the first plus size model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, grew up in Nebraska to become one of today’s most sought after muses, and just launched her own swimwear line ‘For All’. And one of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants is not only working to become healthier, she is proudly sharing that journey to help inspire others.

Miss Queen City of the Plains 2017 Jaicelyn Shakespaere

“One of my favorite quotes is from Miss America 2001 Angela Perez Baraquio Grey,” Jaicelyn told me recently. “<She said>: ‘Before any barriers are broken, you have to break it for yourself. It’s so cliche to say, oh, believe in yourself, but if you don’t believe in yourself, you’ve already lost. For me to just believe that I could was enough.’ I want to make sure that throughout this experience as a titleholder, I am believing in myself. We as humans are all pretty harsh critics. It is important to put that belief that we can do things and believe that we can strive to make a difference in the world, no matter how big or small.”

Jaicelyn has competed in the Miss America Organization before, a woman born to speak her mind and destined to perform. Now living in West Point, she was crowned Miss Queen City of the Plains at one of Nebraska’s first local pageants last summer, and somehow, that moment sparked a new fire within her.

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“When preparing for pageants I never really focused on the fitness portion of the competition,” Jaicelyn posted on Facebook. “This time around I decided that it was time to change. I started right after I was crowned Miss Queen City 2017 at 240 pounds. Now I am currently 190 pounds. I feel more healthy and have more energy than I ever have before. This wasn’t just a diet for me, but a lifestyle change. I neglected to take care of myself for years. But throughout this adventure I’ve realized how important self-care is, both physically and mentally. My weight loss journey has been a hard one, but it’s been completely worth it.”

50 pounds GONE. I cannot adequately express how incredible that is, and the dedication and hard work that kind of progress requires. Yet, those are traits Jaicelyn has showcased repeatedly as Miss Queen City, particularly through her personal platform #Hopelist: Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness.

“Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a genetic disease that affects the motor neurons and makes it hard for the afflicted to move their muscles,” said Jaicelyn. “SMA is a very rare disease. In June of 2013, my cousin, baby Mathis, passed away from Type 1 SMA when he was only 9 months old. When he was diagnosed with SMA, my aunt and uncle decided to create a #Hopelist. This was a list of different things that focused on making memories with Mathis before he passed away. I believe it is so important for people to make goals and have dreams. As Miss Nebraska, I will help educate people about SMA, as well as help people create #Hopelists of their own.”

Jaicelyn notes this is what kept her coming back to compete for a Miss America Organization title, to serve others, visit people and share her platform.

She’s organized group efforts to make finger puppets for young SMA patients. She’s delivered cookies and Valentines to National Guard soldiers. Jaicelyn has spent countless hours in classrooms and kids’ clubs, encouraging them to eat healthy and stay active.

“I’ve been able to put myself out in the community and make a name for myself,” said Jaicelyn. “As a titleholder, I’ve also been able to meet countless people both in [my] community and across the state. That’s something I always look forward to whenever I volunteer or have appearances, is the fact that I constantly get to meet new people.”

And when they’re lucky, Jaicelyn performs for them.

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“I remember the day I fell in love with music, “said Jaicelyn. “I remember vividly as a young girl, waking up on Saturday and hearing Angel by Shaggy. I walked out into the living room and saw my dad standing behind his DJ equipment with the biggest smile on his face. In that moment, I could see how much he loved music and the power music could have on an individual. [This] gives me the opportunity to convey my love of music with the audience. As a titleholder, I’ve had countless occasions to share my talent with others and those experiences are the ones I’ll remember for a lifetime.”

Jaicelyn also notes the other perks of competing for Miss Nebraska; scholarships that are helping pay for her education at BYU-Idaho, and friendships through both our state program and the Miss Utah Organization.

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“[I am] spunky, energetic,hopeful and I have a BIG personality,” said Jaicelyn. “I enjoy being in the company of other people, whether it’s striking up a conversation with a stranger at the store or speaking in front of hundreds of people, that is just how I am and where I am most comfortable. I love to laugh and something even more rewarding for me is to make others laugh. Through this organization I’ve received incredible support from my family, friends and people all over!”

We all face challenges, and so often we say to ourselves ‘I can’t do that because <insert excuse here>’.

I’m not smart enough to apply for that job.

I’m not talented enough to get that part.

I’m not thin enough to compete for Miss America.

Jaicelyn Shakespaere tells herself I have as many hours in the day as Beyonce.

For every excuse, she instead finds inspiration.. sharing the stories of women like Malala Yousafzi, Frida Kahlo de Rivera and Rosa Parks. Each raised the bar a little higher, pushed themselves to do more and cleared a path for those who follow their lead. In a way, Jaicelyn is doing the same thing as Miss Queen City of the Plains. Competing for Miss Nebraska, and really, life’s journey in general, isn’t about being the skinniest or the anything-est. It’s about becoming the best version of yourself.. and Jaicelyn,  singing Superwoman on International Women’s Day, is doing just that.

Even when I’m a mess, I still put on a vest, with an S on my chest, oh yes. I’m a Superwoman.

YES SHE IS.

“Since I’ve been competing, I’ve had the dream of competing on the Miss America Stage in Atlantic City. Competing in the Miss Nebraska pageant is helping me get one step closer to achieving my goal and crossing yet another item off of my #Hopelist,” said Jaicelyn. “I am going to be completely and 100% myself. I want to show the audience, judges and fellow contestants the best ‘me’ that I can be. I loved myself beforehand, but I love myself even more now, which I never thought could be possible. Win or lose, I’m going to show people what I am made of, what I stand for, and make sure I give it my all.”

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To follow Miss Queen City of the Plains 2017 Jaicelyn Shakespaere on Facebook, CLICK HERE.

For more information about the Miss Queen City of the Plains/Miss Kool-Aid Days Pageant or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to visit their website, or CLICK HERE to visit their site on Facebook.  You can also emails Directors Angie Trausch at angie.trausch@gmail.com or Angela Keiser at angelakeiser@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Chadron 2017 Shaniah Freeseman

NEXT.. Miss Douglas County 2017 Kogan Murphy

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2014-2016 click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Special Feature: Miss Nebraska USA 2016 Sarah Hollins

THIS.

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First, can I get a ‘heck ya!’ for my fellow Shania Twain fans out there?!?!

A few weeks ago, I heard ‘Man, I Feel Like A Woman’ on the radio, and I proceeded to have a full-out car concert on my drive in to work.  It’s probably been years since I heard it, and I still remember ever word, I still sing it with sass and attitude, I still LOVE it.

Maybe it’s one of the reasons I love Miss Nebraska week so much.. for a few blissful days in June, I’m surrounded by smart, funny, talented, powerful, BEAUTIFUL women.  We get glammed up, we laugh, we hug and take pictures, we enjoy the show and that history-making final moment.  Man, we feel like women!

THIS moment got me even more jazzed up for Miss Nebraska week..

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.. the crowning of Miss Nebraska USA 2016 Sarah Hollins just a few weeks ago.

“Since winning Miss Nebraska Teen USA 2009, becoming Miss Nebraska has been the real dream.  I have thought about it at least once a day since taking off my crown,” Sarah told me recently.  “I stood on that stage as a Top 5 finalist but walked away without the crown twice.  It was rough.  I worked to the bone this year to become the person I knew I needed to be to win in what is now a very competitive state!  I was the lucky girl that walked away with the title.”

For pageant newbies reading this.. yes, there is a difference between Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska USA.  All of the local titleholders I’ve been profiling throughout this series go on to compete for Miss Nebraska to qualify for the Miss America Pageant; Sarah will compete for the title of Miss USA .

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Photo courtesy Laurel Austin Photography

“Both are the best of the best when it comes to pageantry,” explained Sarah.  “I would say both America and USA systems are working for the same bottom line, creating leaders.  The Miss America Organization puts more of an emphasis on academics and a talent portion.  This is not to say that the Miss USA contestants aren’t some of the most talented and brilliant women I’ve met.  The USA system concentrates on modelling and being a brand ambassador.  We are like-minded organizations creating and cultivating strong women who are future doctors, political leaders, teachers and so much more.”

Sarah is an Omaha native and Burke High School graduate.  She also attended Creighton University and the New York Film Academy before earning her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism (though she is quick to note: ” I never switched to the dark side.. GO BIG RED.”)

In addition to preparing for the Miss USA Pageant, Sarah will spend her year advocating for fitness and self-worth, a cause she is passionate about, drawing from her own personal experiences.

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Sarah posted this photo to Facebook the day after she was crowned Miss Nebraska USA.  “Lights out, back in the gym! I didn’t bring home a title belt.. but I did bring home a shiny crown and banner!!”

“I am working with organizations like FitGirls Inc to spread a message of self love to our young generations,” said Sarah.  “7 out of 10 girls are not satisfied with their bodies and would change something about themselves.  I used to be one of these girls.”

UMMM, WHAT?!?! I see these pictures of Sarah, on stage and in the gym, and have a hard time believing this woman could EVER find a flaw in her body!  So what’s her secret!?! How did she reach this point, and more importantly, how did she find confidence in herself?  Sarah’s answers are also the same response she would give to anyone who criticizes the swimsuit portion of both the Miss USA and Miss America competition.

“To be as candid as possible, I have gone through periods of hating my body.  Because of pageantry, I grew a love for fitness and pushing myself to my physical limits.  It’s changed my life,” said Sarah (describing these photos as ‘strong is the new skinny’).  “There is something about a woman confident enough to put on a swimsuit and say ‘look at the work I’ve done,’ that is incredibly powerful.  To feel strong is to feel beautiful and to feel beautiful comes with great power.  The motivation and drive I cultivated in the gym transcends all areas of my life.  Life really is mind over matter and anything is possible.”

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No matter what she wears, Sarah is preparing to step into the national spotlight.. again.  Many in the pageant world may recognize Sarah’s name and face from the reality television series Obsessed With The Dress, centered on Omaha’s Winning Crown Boutique.

“So many people take what they see on television and think they know exactly who you are,” said Sarah.  “You can’t control how editing works and let’s face it, none of us would watch reality television without a little spice.  Were there moments I watched myself and cringed? OH YES.  But I was so proud to be a part of something so big for our city, a reality show based in Omaha and about pageants, two things I love.  I thought it would give me and the cast an opportunity to show people how progressive and wonderful Nebraska is and shatter the many stereotypes about pageantry.  I hope those who may not have liked a comment I made or something I did will let go of whatever they saw and get a chance to really know me.”

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Who is Sarah Hollins?  She is a fierce competitor who spent much of her first social media post as Miss Nebraska USA thanking her fellow contestants, including 2nd Runner Up Sarah Summers, also a former Miss Nebraska Teen USA. “She is the definition of graceful.  She is godly, beautiful, and I have no doubt in my mind she will be Miss USA someday.”

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Photo courtesy Deyo’s Photography

 She is a businesswoman, landing a gig hosting a soon-to-be-released game show, while securing numerous corporate sponsors during her reign as Miss Nebraska USA.. including her now former ‘boss’ at the Winning Crown, Michele Strom.

“They are an absolute stand up business and I wouldn’t be here without their coaching, impeccable taste in design and selfless persistence,” said Sarah.  “My mentor and friend Michele always tells me ‘you ARE Miss USA until someone tells you otherwise.'”

She is a volunteer, just as eager to cook tacos at the Ronald McDonald House as she is to model thousand dollar gowns.  And she is a confident woman, proudly posting selfies without makeup to show her 4:30am wakeup calls, the non-stop travel without stops or sleep, and sweaty gym sessions she’s putting on her calendar to represent our state.

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From an airport bathroom in Chicago.. “You have to always remember to be thankful and grateful for what you have while working for what you want.”

Sarah Hollins wants to be YOUR Miss Nebraska USA, because man, she feels like a woman and is darn proud to show EVERYTHING that represents.

“I can’t take this wonderful gift lightly.  I am so proud of our state and the people,” said Sarah.  “I want to connect with them, tell my story, and encourage people to never give up on themselves.  If you have something going on, an event, a cause you care so much about, a dream, or just need an ear, I want to hear it!  I am here to serve the state and that’s what I hope to do.  But most importantly, if you learn anything from me it should be NEVER give up on yourself.  You could be so close to your dreams.”

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Photo courtesy Deyo’s Photography

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CLICK EACH LINK to follow Miss Nebraska USA Sarah Hollins

on FACEBOOK, on TWITTER, on INSTAGRAM

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen 2016 Ashly Helfrich!

NEXT.. Miss Kool-Aid Days 2016 Chelsea Arnold!

To read more about this year’s contestants, or the Miss Nebraska/Miss Nebraska’s OT classes of 2015 & 2014, click the THERE SHE IS link at the top of the page!

Special Feature, Miss Nebraska USA 2014

“Who is Amanda Soltero.. and how do I meet her??”

Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is Amanda Soltero, Miss Nebraska USA 2014

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..and NOW you know why my friend asked to meet her.

Jaw. Dropping. GORGEOUS.  If ever there was a time for me to write a blog using only photos, this would be it.

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STUNNING: adj. To astonish; astound; amaze: Her beauty stunned the audience.

(Photos courtesy of Rachel Imdieke, Fadil Berisha and Georgina Vaughan)

Believe it or not, Amanda seems to be just as beautiful, if not more so, on the INSIDE.  The same weekend young women from across the state will compete for the title of Miss Nebraska, Amanda will be competing in Baton Rouge for the title of Miss USA.  Today in a special feature, get to know Miss Nebraska USA, and find out why she wants your support representing our state.

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First things first.. what’s the difference between Miss America and Miss USA?  I think my fellow KETV anchor and pageant-graduate
Alex Hoffman put it best in saying these two organizations are the most prestigious, well known and respected in the pageant world.  They are televised, have history on their side, and have thousands of participants nationwide.  While many of the same young women compete for both, they are two different systems.

The Miss America Organization is a not-for-profit organization; The Miss USA/Miss Universe organization is a joint venture partnership between NBC and Donald Trump.

Women who compete for Miss America must be 17-24 years old; women who compete for Miss USA must be between 17-27 years old.

Finally, Miss America contestants compete in swimsuit, evening gown, interview and talent; Miss USA contestants do not compete in talent.

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Miss USA Erin Brady and Miss America Nina Davuluri

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Enough with the facts and figures… meet Amanda!

at Miss Nebraska USA

“I am determined to use my year to make a difference in people’s lives, especially children with cancer,” Amanda told me in a recent interview.  “You get one year to be Miss Nebraska USA and even though I come from a small town (Columbus, Neb.), I know I can still make a big difference by using my title to do so!  I want to show my state that I can make them proud by representing them in the best way and by truly making the most of my time with the crown, not just for all the glitz and glam.”

Just as each of the Miss Nebraska contestants have a personal platform of service, Amanda is focusing her year on spreading awareness of childhood cancer.

“Pediatric cancer research and awareness is very near and dear to my heart,” said Amanda.  “6-year old Sammy Nahorny is a family friend of mine and when they started Sammy’s Superheroes, I knew I wanted to get involved.”

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Sammy was diagnosed at 4-years old with Neuroblastoma, cancer that commonly affects the abdomen and adrenal glands and is very difficult to treat.  Loved ones formed Sammy’s Superheroes to show their support and raise money for research; more than 10,000 people now support the cause, including Olympic Gold Medalist Curt Tomasevicz.  Check out Sammy’s Superheroes online or on Facebook to learn more!

“When you see directly the effects childhood cancer can have on someone you care about, it really hits you hard and makes you want to help in any way that you can,” said Amanda.  “I knew that if I won Miss Nebraska USA, I would be able to give a larger platform for Sammy’s Superheroes and really get the word out how desperately funds are needed for research to find a cure.”

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Amanda recruiting Miss Arkansas USA, Miss Kansas USA and Miss Oklahoma USA to become Sammy’s Superheroes!

Amanda has also offered her support and time to Team Jack, the organization raising money to fight pediatric brain cancer in honor of Jack Hoffman.  Jack and his dad, Andy, are good friends to KETV, sharing their story of Jack’s long battle with a brain tumor, his friendship with Nebraska football player Rex Burkhead, and the now legendary Spring Game touchdown run viewed more than 8.4 million times on YouTube.

I, too, have had the privilege of sharing Jack’s story, and the fight he represents.  Team Jack has now raised more than 1.1 million dollars for pediatric brain cancer research, and has the support of tens of thousands across the country.

Click here to watch my story following up with the Hoffmans in the middle of Jack’s fight, as two other families lost little boys to brain cancer

Click here to watch my story about the ‘Year of Jack’ following the touchdown that touched America.

Click here to learn more about Team Jack online and on Facebook

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Amanda and Jack at the first annual Team Jack Gala

“I know that the more people that hear and see where their money is going, the quicker we can find a cure!” said Amanda.

It is THIS, not the fancy photo shoots or glamorous trips around the country, that Amanda enjoys the most about being Miss Nebraska USA.

“The appearances I have gotten to do WITH Sammy have had the most impact on me and have been the most meaningful,” said Amanda.

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While many state titleholders take a year off from school and full time work to focus on service and appearances, Amanda has not; she remains a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and will graduate this weekend with a degree in Broadcasting.

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Amanda reporting at a Nebraska women’s soccer game for the B1G Network

But make no mistake; Amanda says she is ready to represent Nebraska at Miss USA.

“I want to make the people of my home state proud and go out knowing that I did everything I possibly could to prepare and leave no stone unturned,” said Amanda.  “I want to be a platform for the organizations that mean the most to me, and get others on board as well.  I want to represent myself, my family and my state in the best light possible.”

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Amanda and her family

Amanda will fly to Louisiana on May 25th, but she’s hoping to take Nebraska with her.  You can watch the Miss USA pageant live on NBC June 8th at 8/7 Central, hopefully cheering loud enough that Amanda will be able to hear you 1,000 miles away.

“My hopes for the pageant are to show the world what Nebraskans are made of and to let people know there is more to Nebraska than cornfields and flat land,” said Amanda.

And there’s more to Amanda than a pretty face.  This young woman is reshaping how children, families and Nebraskans think of ‘beauty queens’.  Beauty INSIDE and out.

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GO. BIG. RED.  Represent, Miss Nebraska USA!

Georgina Vaughan Photography

Connect with Miss Nebraska USA 2014 Amanda Soltero on

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

on the Miss Nebraska USA website

and on Amanda’s blog

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PREVIOUS POST..  Miss Alliance Staci Craighead

NEXT POST.. Miss Northwest, Alex O’Connor!