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..
.. 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 .
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
Photo courtesy Deyo’s Photography
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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!