A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….
I competed in the Miss Nebraska pageant. Many moons and many pounds ago.
I loved performing on stage and speaking about issues and causes I believe in. I will also never forget the amazing show of support I had from my family, friends and even strangers throughout the two years I competed.
Before Miss Nebraska 2002, a sweet little girl approached me with a neon green poster she had created just for me–it warmed my heart, especially considering her older sister was competing, too. That little girl’s name was Rachel.
This year, SHE is competing for the title of Miss Nebraska 2014.
Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger
Rachel has been part of the Miss Nebraska family for more than a decade. Both of her older sisters, Tina and Tami Foehlinger, competed in the Miss Nebraska pageant in 2001 and 2002 respectively, and Tina went on to represent Nebraska in the Miss America pageant, named as a Top-20 semi-finalist. Rachel was just 9 at the time.
“There are no words for the impact this had on me,” Rachel told me in a recent interview. “Not only was I in awe of what she had accomplished, along with all of the other contestants, I was in love with the organization and everything it stood for. I looked at those young women on the stage and said to myself I want to be just like them when I get older.”
Rachel went on to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2008. Her journey continues now as Miss River City, representing the Omaha metro area along with her ‘pageant sisters’ Miss Omaha Payton Merritt and Miss Douglas County Megan Swanson. Her history with the Miss America organization has made her a passionate advocate for the system and the women who participate in it.
“Never before has there been such a need for genuinely positive role models, which is exactly how I would describe the women I have met through the Miss America Organization,” said Rachel. “I have already grown so much just by competing that I will be forever thankful to have been involved with this organization, whether I walk away with the crown or not.”
PASSIONATE, STRONG, FUN!
Rachel is no stranger to pressure or to the spotlight. She is a world champion baton twirler with Sue’s Stepperettes in Ralston, which is owned by her mother, Sue Foehlinger. Rachel has not only competed and performed since she was old enough to hold a baton, she has watched generations of twirlers train at her family’s studio and around the world. KETV showcased Sue’s Stepperettes when they celebrated 40 years in May of 2013. Two other Miss Nebraska contestants, Miss Metro Kim Brennan and Miss State Fair Aleah Peters, are also Stepperettes.
That legacy has earned the Stepperettes notoriety and respect around the world, even drawing local sports guys in to try and learn the art of the baton. Rachel was on TV again in July of 2011, trying to teach KETV’s Andy Kendeigh how to twirl.. without hurting himself or others 🙂
Rachel made a name for herself several years ago, named as the Featured Twirler for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. She performed every Saturday during football season in front of 80,000 plus football fans, the fourth Foehlinger sibling to twirl for the University of Nebraska. Omaha World Herald columnist Mike Kelly chronicled their run before Rachel’s last home game in November.
“I have spent my entire life dedicating myself to the sport that has given me the drive to succeed individually as well as part of a team,” said Rachel. “I feel blessed beyond belief to be able to share my talent on the Miss Nebraska stage!”
As Miss River City, Rachel is also sharing a personal message, spreading awareness of skin cancer. Both Rachel’s uncle and cousin died from melanoma.
“Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States. At the current rate, one person dies from melanoma every hour,” said Rachel. “I spend every day thinking of ways to get the word out it CAN happen to anyone.”
Rachel says she’s involved in several efforts to raise awareness, including a recently launched campaign called #TheBedIsDead, encouraging people to avoid tanning beds.
Rachel is also a student liaison for the Nebraska Skin Cancer Prevention Act, recently passed by the Nebraska Legislature requiring anyone under the age of 16 have parental permission before using a tanning bed.
“My part in both of these campaigns is to spread awareness to youth, high school students and colleges,” said Rachel. “So many of us have an ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude. This is a dangerous attitude, because once you get melanoma, you can never turn back.”
It’s truly amazing how life comes full circle. That 12 years after a sweet little brunette presented me with a poster she made, wishing me luck at Miss Nebraska, I would be BLOGGING about her journey for the same title. That ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ played when Tina Foehlinger competed for and won Miss Nebraska, and Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger will be competing for the same title in June.
Fate? Who knows. A dream? Absolutely. Rachel’s ready to bring the crown back home.. and maybe her own poster made by another sweet, little girl.
Connect with Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger
The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska. For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.