Tag Archive | deyo’s photography

Picture Perfect

A few years ago, I was playing with my boys at Oakview Mall. I looked up from the play area chaos, and walking by was Creighton Basketball (now NBA star) Doug McDermott. My station had interviewed Doug countless times, and my husband was at that time the Production Director for most of Creighton’s games at the CenturyLink Center. Trying to be friendly, I reached my hand out and said ‘hey, Doug! I’m Brandi Petersen. Nice to meet you in person!’

In my mind, I looked like my TV-ready self..

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Photo courtesy KETV by Deyo’s Photography

Then I caught a glimpse of myself in the escalator reflection. In reality, I was a working mom-of-two, no make-up, running-on-a-few-hours-of-sleep, hot mess.

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No cigarette, though. That’s gross.

I’m sure Doug and his pals walked away that day thinking ‘yowsa. Whoever does her hair/makeup for the news deserves a RAISE!’

I’d argue we all have perceptions about perfection. Models on Project Runway never a hair out of place or a zit on a face. Moms on Pinterest have clean houses with mind-blowing crafts their kids are endlessly interested in. We each have loved ones on Facebook or Instagram that are just PERFECT – showing off their perfect activities with their perfect families in their perfect clothes living perfect lives.

It’s a false assumption that Kelsie Therkildsen, at just 15 years old, is trying to set straight.

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“You don’t have to be perfect,” said Kelsie. “The biggest issue today is kids being detached from the real world because of too much phone time. Practice less time behind the screen and focus on living in the present and communicating live.”

REVOLUTIONARY. And an impressive understanding from a young teenager. Kelsie is a student at Bennington High School, a dancer and volunteer in her community. She’s also been surrounded by an elite group of girls and women for many years; her mom owns Kim Therkildsen Photography, often working with clientele including Mrs. Nebraska and America’s National Teenager contestants. Kelsie sees what the lens doesn’t always show, including her inspiration behind the camera.

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“My female role model is my mom because she is a good person and many people look up to her,” said Kelsie. “She knows how to make people feel good about themselves and make sure everyone is included and never left out. My mom gives good advice and teaches my sisters and I many important things. I love how she is outgoing and can start a conversation with anyone.”

 

Kelsie wants to make sure her peers are forming the same connections; REAL connections, and not just those through a Snap or Insta post. Crowned Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen, she’s sharing her personal platform of service she calls ‘Come Out From Behind The Screen.’

 

 

“Not only have I worked on spending less time behind the screen myself, I have talked to numerous schools and ages about my challenge,” said Kelsie. “I offered checklists and posters as reminders, and challenges that allow kids to be involved in making good choices regarding their smartphones. Teachers have even offered extra recess, no homework days, or parties if goals are attained.”

Service like this is a key reason Kelsie wanted to compete for the title of Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

“It’s important to give back to others around you,” said Kelsie. “My favorite part so far has been visiting the schools and talking about my platform. The innocence of the kids and the questions they asked made me smile. I loved seeing how happy and involved they were. The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program is important because it rewards young girls for being positive role models who set examples for others.”

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Photo courtesy Kim Therkildsen Photography

Positive.. without being perfect. Kelsie is a beautiful young woman, inside and out. She’s talented, caring, smart – she wants to be a trauma plastic surgeon when she gets older. She loves her family.. and chocolate ice cream, enjoying it every chance she gets.

We aren’t always polished and TV ready. More often than not, especially when our focus shifts to life swirling around us nonstop, we realize those Pinterest women are just that – they live in our computers and don’t really exist. It’s great to get all gussied up and feel STUNNING from head to toe; it’s also great to strut your stuff in yoga pants and a ball cap, my fashion of choice at home or at the mall.

One week from today, Kelsie and 18 other outstanding young women will compete to represent our state. They are already showing through their words and actions they realize people won’t remember if they were dressed perfectly, or had every hair and accessory perfectly in place. They know they will be remembered by their actions, what they are doing with their time, and how they made others feel.

That alone is picture perfect.

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Photo courtesy Kim Therkildsen Photography

“My goal at MNEOT is to walk into the weekend knowing I have already made a difference in my community, meet new friends, and walk away knowing I did my personal best,” said Kelsie. “Crown or no crown, I have already learned so much about myself through this experience.”

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To follow Miss Metro’s Outstanding Teen Kelsie Therkildsen, click here.

For more information about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen program or to become a contestant, CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Facebook, or CLICK HERE to follow the organization on Twitter. You can also contact Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com or Director Kali Tripp at KaliNicoleTV@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Competition takes place April 28 in North Omaha, Nebraska.

PREVIOUS.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen Jadyn Wetherington

NEXT.. Miss Elkhorn’s Outstanding Teen Rachel Greufe

Stethoscopes & Tiaras

This week, I celebrated my 36th birthday the best way possible… with Influenza A.  I’ve written about this before, this has NOT been my season of health.  In baseball terms, I’m trying to hit for the cycle of ailments, I suppose.

Sunday, I texted my friend Natalie for her over-the-phone diagnosis.. poor girl is my only physician BFF, and therefore, I bother her on the weekend when I can’t reach a doctor.  Thanks to her help and advice, I (hopefully) turned onto the road to recovery sooner than waiting a few extra days.

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Photo courtesy CHI Health

My friend Natalie may look familiar.. because she’s Dr. Natalie Stuntz, a highly respected and admired pediatrician on all of the CHI Health commercials in eastern Nebraska. She’s also a former Miss Omaha contestant and 2-time 1st runner up to Miss Nebraska USA.  She’s a busy mother of two, wife, and yet she still she donates her time across Omaha and to communities around the world.  She’s beautiful, brilliant, and kind.

Maybe it’s a doctor thing.. the same dedication, intelligence and drive required to get through medical school and residency is also exemplified in other facets of life.  An Elkhorn teenager hoping to pursue medicine herself is already following in Dr. Stuntz’s footsteps in more ways than one.

Miss Elkhorn’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Emily Lenser

“I plan on attending UNL as a pre-med student, dancing on the Scarlet Dance Team and moving on to medical school,” Emily told me recently.  “My dream is to be a pediatric surgeon.”

Big goals for a young woman who can’t yet drive a car.  Emily credits her focus to her participation in pageants, including her preparation for this year’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant in Omaha.

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“I love competing in pageants and have been doing so since first grade,” said Emily.  “Sometimes even my friends had a negative view of pageants.  I have really talked to them about pageants and all that is involved with pageantry.  I focused on telling them about interview skills which will help me in my future, speaking in front of an audience, confidence and grace on stage, and the wonderful opportunities to serve my community.”

Emily has been a titleholder within the National American Miss system and continues to mentor younger participants.  She’s a student at Elkhorn South High School, where she’s active with the Storm Dance Team.  Emily also finds time to do what she loves most, to joke around and to’shop, shop, shop!’

 “As a busy teen, it’s very important to stay organized with my schoolwork, activities, dance team and competitive dance,” said Emily.  “[Being organized] is the only way I can do so much!”

Those are the kinds of things Emily is excited to share with not only a panel of judges, but to any group who will listen as she advocates for pageant girls everywhere.

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“My platform is ‘Don’t Judge The Sparkle: Changing Pageant Perception’,” said Emily.  “There are so many people who do not understand the world of pageantry.  I am making this my mission and want to change the negative stereotypes that some people have of pageants.  The general public does not understand all of the wonderful opportunities that take place through pageants.  College scholarships, interview skills, public speaking skills, poise, grace, resume skills just to name a few.”

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I’ve done the name dropping, giving you proof of the incredible women who’ve been part of the Miss Nebraska Organization.  Brook Matthews-Hudson, co-founder and producer of Omaha Fashion Week.  Brittany Jeffers, Emmy Award winning broadcast news journalist.  Dr. Natalie Stuntz, role model for young women dreaming of being a doctor.. and Miss America.

“My goal/dream is to become as involved as I can in the state pageant,” said Emily.  “Of course I want to win and along the way I hope to make new friends, promote the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Organization, serve my community and continue to do well academically.  [There are] so many wonderful opportunities available to serve others.  It really makes a person feel good.  I hope to continue promoting serving others.”

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant takes place April 21-22 in Omaha, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more details, HERE to follow on Twitter, HERE to follow on Facebook. For more information about becoming a contestant, email Director Heather Edwards at heatheraloseke@gmail.com

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Sarpy County’s Outstanding Teen 2017 Phoenix Stanford

NEXT.. Miss Old West Balloon Fest 2017 Tristen Wecker

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!

Fire and Gold

June 4, 2015.

I had the humbling honor of hosting the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant, and spent the day at North Platte High School in rehearsals.  During breaks, I tried to upload as many photos to the Miss Omaha Facebook page as I could, typing furiously to tag contestants and draw more viewers to our site.  I almost didn’t notice when a stunning blonde sat next to me and said ‘Hi, how’s it going?’

Her name was Alyssa Howell.

Funny how such a small gesture of kindness, just taking a moment to ask someone how they are doing, can make such a big impact on how you think of a person.  A panel of six judges thought VERY highly of Alyssa.. naming her Miss Nebraska 2015 just 24 hours later.

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Photo courtesy the North Platte Telegraph

“Miss Nebraska week was the most fun I have ever had!” Alyssa told me recently.  “I was surrounded by 12 amazing contestants that not only were great friends to me during the week, but who also supported me throughout my year.”

And so began a reign that represents everything this Miss Nebraska has stood for; friendship, kindness, genuineness.

As a longtime Miss America fan and a journalist who is always subconciously observing, I’ve noticed over the years the reaction of other contestants speaks volumes about the woman crowned.  Minutes after Alyssa was named Miss Nebraska, she was immediately embraced by  her ‘pageant sister’, Miss Omaha Megan Gould.  Just weeks later, Alyssa invited Megan, as well as other Miss Nebraska finalists Brooke Ludemann, LaRissa McKean and Allison Tietjen, to perform at her send-off party for Miss America.  These women, Alyssa’s competition at this time last year, seemed genuinely happy for her and showed up in full force to give her their support; Alyssa was eager to share her spotlight that night to showcase the titleholders who had become her friends.

For me.. it goes back to that day in the cafeteria.. Alyssa Howell is REAL.  She doesn’t pretend to care about people; she just DOES.  She’s taken that incredible quality across the country for the last year, focusing much of her time and energy on children.

“Not having grown up in Nebraska, this year took me to so many new places!” said Alyssa.  “Just being able to reach Nebraskans across the state was such a wonderful experience.  Whether it was a Pumpkin Chuckin’ in a cornfield in northeastern Nebraska, a small town elementary school with a total of 42 students, or a large scale fundraising Gala in downtown Omaha, I was able to reach out to the people of Nebraska on so many levels.  If anything, this year reminded me just how much I love being a part of the Cornhusker State.”

Alyssa visited dozens of schools across Nebraska, and four Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in several states.  THAT has been Alyssa’s passion for years now, connecting with sick children through her Miracle Bags program.

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Alyssa recruiting 2016 Miss Nebraska contestants to put together and deliver bags of goodies, ‘Miracle Bags’ to kids at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital & Medical Center

CLICK HERE to watch KETV’s story about Alyssa & her Miracle Bags!

“As soon as I won Miss Nebraska, one of my priorities for the year was to impact as many children as I could with my Miracle Bags program,” said Alyssa.  “And with that goal in mind I was able to visit the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in Omaha, Denver, Milwaukee, and Washington DC, and deliver over 180 Miracle Bags!  Many people ask me how I am able to visit children who are in such dire situations, and not be completely depressed after the fact.  I always tell them that the feeling of seeing a child who is going through the most difficult time in their life light up at the sight of my crown and Miracle Bag is indescribable.  And I will never forget the parents who tell me that this is the first time they have seen their child smile in days.  Children’s Miracle Network will forever be a passion of mine.”

To countless families and children, Alyssa made a profound impact.  She also made a huge mark on the pageant world, when in September, she travelled to Atlantic City to represent Nebraska in the 2016 Miss America Pageant.

“I have watched the Miss America Pageant every year on TV since I can remember, but never in my wildest dreams did I believe that I would one day be on that stage!” said Alyssa.  “Even after winning Miss Nebraska, my goal for Miss America was to have a blast, meet some amazing girls, and represent Nebraska well.”

Check, check, CHECK.  And when 7-million Americans tuned in to see who would make the Top 15..

Left photo courtesy Getty Images

..they heard Miss Nebraska, Alyssa Howell.  I screamed and jumped in my living room.. Alysa’s family and friends were EXUBERANT in the crowd in Atlantic City.  With the confidence women dream of and the swagger of Bruno Mars, Alyssa strutted her stuff on that stage in Lifestyle and Fitness.. and sauntered right into the Top 12.

Photos courtesy Getty Images

“Being called into the Top 15 was a complete and total shock,” said Alyssa.  “Standing on that stage with 51 other talented, beautiful, intelligent women, I never thought that I would hear NEBRASKA called! I still get goosebumps when I watch the video.  When I made the Top 12, I was just so excited and honored to move on!  I was surrounded by some of my best friends in the competition and it was such a surreal moment.”

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Photo courtesy Getty Images

That is where Alyssa’s journey ended, sadly, before she could play her INCREDIBLE piano solo for America.  But when I spoke to her just a few weeks later at the Miss Omaha Pageant, Alyssa didn’t have ONE negative thing to say about her experience;  no trash talk on her fellow contestants, no coulda woulda shoulda’s.. simply a completely EXCITED outlook on what she could accomplish next in her home state as Miss Nebraska.  And holy cow.. has that been a lot.  After Miss America, Alyssa was featured in US Weekly and Pageantry magazines.  She was a high profile model in Omaha Fashion Week.  She secured and strengthened partnerships and sponsor connections with Omaha’s world renowned Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Sun Tan City, Kontempo. and nationally known stylist Kirby Keomysay among others.

Alyssa also became a frequent muse for photographers, taking part in numerous photo shoots with Deyo’s Photography in Nebraska and Jenn Cady Photography based in South Carolina.

Alyssa accepted every interview request that came her way, including the nationally recognized Pageant Junkies (CLICK HERE to listen!), Omaha’s KFAB and KETV (CLICK HERE to watch!)the North Platte Telegraph (CLICK HERE to read!), and ME!

“This year was definitely more challenging than I expected,” said Alyssa.  “Seeing all of the work Miss Nebraska does from Facebook and Instagram posts pales in comparison to the actual job.  What people don’t see is the full hair and makeup 4+ days a week, the early mornings, the days when I drive 8+ hours for an appearance, the days that I was sick, the days that I had three appearances and events.  Truly, this is a 24/7 job.  But what I also didn’t expect is how rewarding this whole experience would be! By going through everything this job requires, I have not only learned so many life skills, I have also learned so much about myself.  I know that if I can be Miss Nebraska, I can do anything.  This job has given me a strong sense of confidence about what I am capable of, as well as so many amazing memories and friendships!”

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June 4, 2016.

I have the humbling honor of writing this blog post, chronicling Miss Nebraska 2015 Alyssa Howell and her year of service.  Initially, I wanted to title this article Humble and Kind, inspired by the Tim McGraw song that to me, so reflects who this incredible young woman is.  Despite her jaw-dropping beauty, smile and grace, she doesn’t radiate a shred of arrogance.  She is giving, real, and most of all KIND.

Alyssa Howell is fire and gold.  She has a huge heart that she has opened to countless children over the last year and more, with the aura of a woman who can only be called QUEEN.  As this journey ends, she’ll pick up where she left off one year ago.. pursuing her Elementary Education degree at Creighton University, intending to impact even more children through her career, now with a big boost from her life experiences and financial awards from being Miss Nebraska.

“I have won over $20,000 in cash scholarships for school,” said Alyssa.  “This has made all the difference in my future!  I started at Creighton University with a total of $27,000 in student loans over four years.  Graduating to become an elementary school teacher with that debt was going to be difficult to say the least.  This program is first and foremost a scholarship organization, and I cannot say enough about the impact that Miss Nebraska and Miss America makes on young women who are getting a college education.”

As I close out.. I must share a ‘shout out’ to part of  Alyssa’s dream team.. her boyfriend, Grady, and her directors, Kayla and Rachel.

These three are superstars in their own right; people who have been in Alyssa’s corner since the moment that crown was placed on her head.  They have also become near and dear to my heart with their humor, loyalty and dedication to helping Alyssa become the absolute best she could be.  Each of this year’s 36 women I’ve profiled have set out to make the world a better place, supported emotionally and otherwise by their own #TeamAlyssa’s.  To ALL of you, THANK YOU for helping these fires burn so brightly, for allowing these gems to sparkle.  They’re about to embark on one of the craziest, exhausting, yet exhilarating weeks of their lives.. and they’ll need you.

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“To this year’s contestants, whether you win or not, Miss Nebraska week is the most fun you will ever have!” said Alyssa.  “Don’t let the stress get to you, and don’t take yourself too seriously.  Just have fun and enjoy that time that you get with your Miss Nebraska sisters!  To Miss Nebraska 2016, I am so incredibly excited to see everything that this year has in store for you!  Remember to make this year your own, to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and find those small moments that make every challenge worth it.  Most importantly, remember that this is a year of service.  Never underestimate what an impact a crown and a sash can make.”

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Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography

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CLICK HERE to watch Miss Nebraska 2015 Alyssa Howell’s Farewell Video

CLICK HERE to follow Miss Nebraska 2015 Alyssa Howell

on Facebook and on Instagram.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ALYSSA?

2015 * ROAR

2015 * Miracle Worker

2014 * The Kid Whisperer

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CLICK HERE to meet the 2016 Miss Nebraska Pageant contestants!

The 2016 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Pageant takes place June 8-11 in North Platte, Nebraska.  Learn more on THEIR WEBSITE, FACEBOOK PAGE, or follow ON TWITTER and ON INSTAGRAM.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Steffany Lien!

NEXT.. Miss Nebraska Pageant 2016 Recap: The Year of the Phoenix

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 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!

When I See You Smile

There are some people in the world who can literally light up a room with their smile.  Take one of my best friends, Melissa.. no matter where we are or what time we are at in our lives, her smile makes everyone around her smile.  She is PURE JOY, pure sheer goodness, and that positivity just radiates out of her.

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My best friends and I at Omaha Fashion Week.  Melissa is the hottie second from the right.  Thanks to Herb Thompson for the photo!

I first saw the young lady you’re about to meet when she competed in the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen pageant last fall, where she finished 1st Runner Up.  From that night on, I continued to follow her over social media through the pageant where she would win her own title, and I don’t think this teen HAS EVER STOPPED SMILING.

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MISS PLATTE VALLEY’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 EMMA KATE BROWN

(Photo courtesy J Allen Photography)

Now, as I read my interview with Emma Kate and see what’s behind that smile, her attitude not only inspires me.. she’s kinda knocking my socks off.  Emma Kate is fighting two chronic illnesses, Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac Disease.

“I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease when I was three years old, so we’ve been doing gluten free at our house before it was trendy,” joked Emma Kate.  “I cannot eat wheat, barley, oats, malt or flour.”  (For more on what Celiac Disease is, click here to read my interview with Miss Crane Festival 2014 & Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2012 Lianna Prill.)

Emma Kate has also been an ambassador for Diabetes awareness and research long before her pageant days, appearing on KETV First News for an interview with John Oakey several years ago.

“Something else unique about me is my love for public speaking!  I had a great time talking with John Oakey and showing him my dance moves,” said Emma Kate.  “I wasn’t nervous a bit, but I do think my interview skills have improved.”

She’s getting plenty of practice; Emma Kate is also a youth ambassador for the JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).

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Emma Kate: ‘Had a great time this morning volunteering for my favorite group, the JDRF. Met this little girl who was diagnosed with diabetes two months ago. She inspires me by how strong she is facing such a life changing disease. Loved getting to talk about my story and hearing hers.’

“My platform is turning Type 1 into Type None and it is about raising awareness and funding for a cure to Type 1 Diabetes,”
said Emma Kate.  “[It] allows me to tell my story to businesses in the area.  I also volunteer at JDRF events throughout the year.”

(For more about Diabetes and fundraising efforts in the Omaha area, click here to read my interview with former Husker Jay Foreman regarding his work with the Foreman Foundation, as well as Diabetes services through Nebraska Medicine.)

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Until I heard about all of this from Emma Kate during our interview, I had NO IDEA she faced challenges like this.  The 16-year old junior at Elkhorn South High School is on the go NONSTOP, participating on the dance team, in show choir, concert choir, in speech and in National Honor Society.  This year alone, Emma Kate starred in Shrek the Musical as Princess Fiona, and took part in a grueling competition schedule with Elkhorn South Blackout (the varsity show choir), including trips to regionals and then nationals in Chicago.

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And off stage, when she’s not volunteering, there’s yet ANOTHER side to this girl.

“Even thought I am super focused and goal-driven, I love to get lost in a great book,” said Emma Kate.  “I love the ‘Matched’ series, the ‘Selection’ series and the ‘Red Queen’ series.  One of my proudest moments would be when I recently got a group of my friends to start reading as much as I do.  Now we talk about books at our lunch table and it’s so much fun.”

One of those friends is Emma Kate’s fellow dance team member and Blackout star, Morgan Holen, the current Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

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“Morgan encouraged me to compete in an upcoming pageant.  I was hooked after my first pageant experience in November.  I was so impressed by the whole organization that I knew I wanted to take part in it,” said Emma Kate.  “I enjoy meeting like-minded, successful girls my age and learning about their platforms and experiences.  All the girls are so kind and I have made lifelong friends.”

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That is Emma Kate’s message to other teens who may read this; she wants to encourage them just as Morgan encouraged her.

“This program is relevant because there are more girls like me and other contestants who can benefit from the scholarships, volunteer opportunities and sisterhood of the pageants.”

I agree with Emma Kate on the positives that come from the Miss America Organization.  I DISAGREE with her that there are other girls like her.  That smile is simply one of a kind; welcoming, full of life, excited about what every day could bring.  She’s got ‘Outstanding’ on that sash for a reason.. and Emma Kate Brown is ready to prove it in North Platte.

Emma Kate Dance Team Pic (original)

(Photo courtesy Deyo’s Photography)

Follow Miss Platte Valley’s Outstanding Teen Emma Kate Brown, and contact Emma Kate for appearances or events via Facebook, Instagram and on Twitter.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Northwest 2015 LaRissa McKean

NEXT.. Miss Gering 2015 Kaylee Carlberg

To read more about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.

Cause For Paws

March 23, National Puppy Day. Millions changed their profile pictures and posted photos on social media showing off their 4-legged friends.  It was a WONDERFUL day to be on Facebook and Twitter.

(Shameless plug.. here’s my ‘puppy’, Mack, forever young at 10 years and counting)

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For today’s featured Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen contestant, there’s cause to pause for pets EVERY day, not just March 23.  Helping animals, specifically promoting animal adoption, is her personal mission.

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MISS PANHANDLE’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 MARIE KLIEWER

(Photo courtesy Deyo’s Photography)

“I started my platform P.A.A.W.S (Promoting Animal Adoption Within Society) in memory of my paralyzed cat, Lieutenant Dan,” Marie told me recently.

Yes.  Lieutenant Dan.  Marie says the cat was found at Sarpy County’s Town and Country Humane Society when he was a kitten, brought to her parents’ veterinary office and ultimately, to the Kliewer home.  For seven years, Lt. Dan was a treasured member of Marie’s family, even going on vacations with his humans.

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I started my Facebook page P.A.A.W.S. where I posted Lt. Dan’s success story and asked others to do the same,” said Marie.  “I also post articles on how to be a responsible pet owner and the benefits of adopting a pet.”

Lt. Dan has since passed away, but Marie has plenty of first-hand experience at home with four other cats and a dog.  She also volunteers every week at Town and Country walking dogs, cleaning cages and washing laundry.  She showcases pets available for adoption every month at area PetSmart stores, and has created P.A.A.W.S. T-shirts and wristbands to raise money for the shelter.

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“It’s all about service and what you do in your community to make a difference,” said Marie.  THAT, she says, is why she decided to compete for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen.

“I have been intrigued by pageantry ever since I was a little girl,” said Marie.  “I heard about Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant and all the great opportunities it offers through my cousin, Aleah Peters.  I especially love it because you get to choose a platform you are passionate about and love and share it with everyone.”

Marie is also a talented dancer, trained in Lord of the Dance Riverdance and tap.

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THERE’S MORE! Marie, just 15 years old, is ALSO an active sophomore at Plattsmouth High School.

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To Marie, becoming Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen didn’t add another burden to her already full to-do list, it tied together everything she already loves doing.

“This program is relevant for all young women,” said Marie.  “It instills good work ethic, love for your community and community service work.  It helps improve your interview skills, confidence on stage, self-esteem and public speaking.  All of these skills you learn through this organization will help you in life and to become a well-rounded person.”

Mature advice from a young lady who can’t even drive yet.

Marie Kliewer is DRIVEN.  Speaking on behalf of working mommas everywhere, I wish we could bottle her energy and share it! This already busy teenager has taken on her new responsibilities and embraced them, working with former TV News journalist Kali Tripp to fine-tune her speaking skills, and spending even more volunteer hours supporting the Children’s Miracle Network, Miss America’s community partner.

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It’s one thing to have goals.  It’s another thing to GO AFTER those goals.  And it’s pretty darn cool to see someone so young eagerly pursuing what she wants.  Definitely, cause to pause.

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Follow Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Marie Kliewer

on Instagram, on Facebook,

and on the P.A.A.W.S. – Promoting Animal Adoption Within Society Facebook page!

To contact Marie for appearances and events, please visit the Miss Panhandle’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook.

For information on becoming a contestant, contact Director Melinda Cullan by phone at 308-710-5593 or by email at maot.alliance@gmail.com.

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The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant will take place June 5, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website or the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant on Facebook and on Twitter.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Steffany Lien

NEXT.. Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Allison Baird

To read more about the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.