Well hello there, pageant friends.. we meet again!
Maybe you saw a link to my blog and were bored. Maybe you follow my series on Husker football players but don’t give two toots about pageants. Maybe you watch my work on KETV and thought, ‘what the heck.. I’ll check out this Miss Nebraska thing..’
For whatever reason you are reading this, I THANK YOU. And if you are a pageant nay-sayer, I hope to convert you to our club. Yes, IT’S TIME! This post kicks off Year #3 of my There She Is series, profiling the incredible young women and teenagers competing to become Miss Nebraska 2016 and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. For the next four months, you’ll meet the more than 30 contestants working hard in their classrooms, spending hours developing their talents and abilities, all while volunteering in their communities and inspiring those around them. They’ll all meet in North Platte, Nebraska in June for an unforgettable week, hoping and praying for a moment like THIS.
Photo courtesy Getty Images
She’s 20, a Creighton University student, a frequent visitor to patients at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, a gifted piano player, a beloved friend, sister and daughter. Alyssa Howell will also now, forever, be Miss Nebraska.
Every year I acknowledge the criticism of the Miss America program.. that it objectifies women.. that it’s sexist and archaic. In 2014, I responded by showing how successful a few formers are doing today. In 2015, I used myself as an example of the benefits of this program. This year, I give you the 2016 Miss America Pageant.
Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson struck a chord with America and the nurses across our country who give us comfort when we are at our worst. Her non-traditional talent, a monologue talking about her REAL talent as a certified nurse, made #NursesUnite everywhere. Kelley finished 2nd Runner Up at Miss America, and soon after was invited to numerous programs and speaking events including The Ellen Degeneres Show. At last check, Kelley had drawn more than 35,000 followers on Facebook.
Miss America 2016 Betty Cantrell has won hearts across America.. including mine. (Photo courtesy Matt Boyd Photography) Full disclosure, Betty was not my pick to win the big crown that night, and Sweet Georgia Brown has she shown me just how wrong I was. Ask yourself… what should Miss America bring to the table? Talent? Compassion? Shouldn’t she be a person YOU want to be.. someone you want American girls to grow up to become?
PLEASE CLICK HERE AND WATCH THIS VIDEO.. showing Betty singing ‘Let It Go’ at an Atlantic City school soon after she was crowned Miss America. First, THE GIRL CAN SING.. HOLY CRAP, CAN SHE SING!!! And every time she’s asked to sing at a professional basketball game, or a college football game, or for a HUGE group of professionals, senators, or anyone else.. she’s bringing awareness to the Miss America Organization and thousands of other women taking part. But second, in this video.. Betty CONNECTS with a child, holding her hand and swinging her around the gym floor as she sings. It is a beautiful moment that reminded me of how such a simple thing can make such a huge difference in someone’s day.. or life.
..just one of many meaningful acts from Miss America 2016. THIS happened right around Christmas. This ‘beauty queen’ chopped off her LONG, GORGEOUS HAIR.. to donate to a child, or children, who need it. She’s not just talking the talk… Betty Cantrell is actively DOING things to make a difference in children’s lives. She’s impacting not only them, but hopefully inspiring OTHERS to do more good, too; sparking a chain reaction that may be rippling across the country.
And finally.. THIS. SISTERHOOD.
Yes, this is a competition… but THIS.. the smiles, the support, the hugs and jubilation in the moments Betty was crowned Miss America are NATURAL and REAL. We live in a world of competition, in the workplace, getting that job, winning that role.. this experience is a terrific way to show women a way to work hard and earn what you want by becoming the best version of yourself WHILE supporting (and receiving support) from other women.
I could go on and on.. about scholarships, about improving public speaking and interviewing skills, about networking… but instead, I hope you’ll follow along with this year’s series and see for yourself what this program and these women are made of. (Shameless plug.. you can sign up for email alerts notifying you of every new post!)
As a journalist, I see the bad nearly every day. Still, when people ask me about the biggest stories I remember in my career, the positive moments are at the top of the list. In a world with conflict, hurt and hate, we need good. We need inspiration. We need smiles and positivity and LOVE. Scroll back up.. look at Alyssa’s picture. Look at Kelley. Look at Betty and her sisters.
We need moments like this.. and a little sparkle doesn’t hurt.
Watch for this year’s first THERE SHE IS post.. Monday February 8!
To read more about the 2014 & 2015 Miss Nebraska & Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestants, click the There She Is link at the top of this page!