It’s human nature, picking favorites. We naturally gravitate towards a choice flower, a soda we’ll always buy at the grocery store, the character you follow on that great show (coughcough, Grey’s Anatomy.. Alex Karev..coughcough). For decades now as I’ve watched from home, I’ve chosen favorites on the Miss America stage, too. This year, when the Top 15 names and states were called, this young lady quickly became my FAV.
MISS IOWA 2014 ALY OLSON
There was just something GLOWING about Miss Iowa on that stage. Her sheer excitement, how genuinely elated she was to represent her state and be chosen in the Top 15, and just simply how stunning she was; that red hair and gorgeous smile just RADIATED into my living room.
I don’t think I was alone; during preliminary competition, the Twitterverse was all ‘atweet’ about Aly’s vocal performance during talent and she quickly emerged as a social media favorite. Pageant Junkies predicted Aly would be among the Top 5 contestants who could be crowned Miss America. And in the end, when the Top 10 were named and Aly’s name was not among them, pretty sure my moan was echoed by several others watching at my house.
For Aly, the Miss America experience was more than she ever expected.
“I was called 14th of 15 on Sunday night’s broadcast of Miss America. I was shocked when at last I heard ‘Iowa’,” Aly told me recently. “My fellow contestants (I prefer to think of them as sisters) are so intelligent, kind, funny, NORMAL, beautiful and driven. Support from my sisters is an enduring highlight from my Miss America experience, although making it into the Top 12 at Miss America was also more insane than I could have imagined!”
So what next?? Often, I think people (and sometimes titleholders themselves) forget that these young women hold their crowns for a full year, whether they win that next level or not. Aly Olson came home and figured out who she was as Miss Iowa AFTER Miss America.
“I began to say yes to as many opportunities as possible, which blossomed into a remarkable year as Miss Iowa,” said Aly. “I have traveled over 30,000 miles, spoken with thirty schools about my platform of Do One Thing: Diversity Everyday, and performed for hundreds of thousands of Iowans.”
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF IOWANS. Let that sink in for a moment. Hundreds of thousands of Iowans now know there’s a Miss Iowa, who she is, and what she stands for. On November 1 alone, Aly sang the national anthem at the Iowa vs Northwestern football game in front of 67,000 people.
Aly’s been interviewed by television, radio and print reporters across the state and beyond. (Including me! Click here to watch my interview with Aly before she left for Miss America!) She’s been recognized by Iowa’s elected officials as well as businesses, institutions and organizations. All of these things make our program RELEVANT; it shows people why the Miss America Organization MATTERS. It drives publicity not just for Aly and what matters to her, but for every Miss Iowa and local titleholder who follows in her footsteps.
Still, Aly says her proudest accomplishments are more than numbers.
“I have been able to connect with people in special moments, such as visiting a child in a hospital, eating a meal with a family that is hosting me in their community, being welcomed into a variety of cultural organizations, and listening to the incredible stories of life,” said Aly. “The resulting relationships are more inspiring and beautiful than I could have ever expected. I feel lucky to have been touched by so many people in my year as Miss Iowa.”
That time will soon come to a close for Aly as she ends not just one year but a legacy with the Miss Iowa program. Aly also spent a year as Miss Iowa’s Outstanding Teen. That’s at least five years of her life as a teenager and woman devoted to serving others and bettering herself.
“Being Miss Iowa had been a dream of mine for a long time, so it is definitely more sad than I had anticipated to see it nearing the end,” said Aly. “However, I know that there will be many more exciting chapters in my life. I will return to the University of Iowa in the fall to finish my Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance and then graduate in December 2015.”
As Aly told me last fall, she’ll do that debt free thanks to all of the scholarships she’s received competing in the Miss Iowa Program. DEBT FREE. Just one of the lifelong benefits she’ll take with her when she passes on her title.
“[My fellow Miss America contestants] continue to support each other as well as find ways to connect across the country. Our class truly is an example of sisterhood,” said Aly. “I want every girl from the Midwest to know that her state and background do prepare her for success in life; that is one of the main sentiments I took home from Miss America.”
And Aly herself will continue to mentor those future titleholders; she wants to be a Miss Iowa volunteer.
“I can help other women discover how much grace, poise, compassion and love they have within themselves through the Miss America Organization,” said Aly.
(Photo courtesy Miss Iowa Pageant and Say Uncle! Photography)
Was it what she expected? When she imagined this moment for so many years, did Aly Olson every think this year of her life would be HER favorite?
“This year has been so much more than what I had expected; more exhilarating, more beautiful, more tiring, more demanding, and more important.” IMPORTANT. That one word from Aly is MY favorite part of our interview. Aly Olson MADE her reign matter, for both herself and for her state. Iowa’s never had a Miss America, but Aly put her state BACK on the Miss America map, showing the country what Hawkeyes are made up, and laying the groundwork for those who follow in her footsteps.
A warning to whomever that young lady may be in 2015; Aly Olson is leaving you with VERY big shoes to fill.
To learn more about Miss Iowa 2014 Aly Olson,
follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr. To book Aly for appearances and events, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Aly was also recently profiled by Pageant Junkies; click here to listen to the podcast interview with Aly!
The next MISS IOWA will be crowned June 13, 2015 in Davenport, Iowa. For more information about the pageant, the Class of 2015 contestants, and how to compete in the Miss Iowa Scholarship Program, click here to visit the organization’s website, and click here to follow the organization on Facebook.
To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014 and more special features, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.