Tag Archive | diversity

Follow The Rainbow

One of my favorite events I got to take part in during my time at KETV was Omaha Fashion Week. I know NOTHING about fashion (I’ve got a solid 5-outfit rotation and that’s it..) but I LOVE seeing it. OFW offers anything and everything you could envision, from swimwear, to children’s wear, to the most beautiful gowns to the craziest avant garde designs. CLICK HERE to read more about my adventures hosting Fashion Week while pregnant.. or about the time I became Fashion Roadkill in front of hundreds of people.

This is an event where the people are art as much as the garments. Every designer chooses different models based on that collection or their aesthetic. You will see rail-thin and plus-size women, translucent skin tones to the darkest ebony.  This showcase is a spectacular rainbow of color and life, a display of the array of beauty God created in so many different types of people.

This year, you’ll see the same thing at the 2017 Miss Nebraska Pageant.

Bags

The Class of 2017 spans from barely 5-feet to almost 6-feet tall (without heels!). We have dancers and singers, a SLAM poet and a violinist, pianists and a sign language artist.  They are young women with various backgrounds and ambitions, as different on the inside as they appear outside. It’s something one of these contestants is not just proud of, she’s made the message of diversity her mission during her time as a Miss Nebraska titleholder.

Miss Western Nebraska 2017 Devin Owens

“My platform ‘Representation Matters: The Importance in Being Present’, focuses on the importance of diverse role models/leaders/representatives in media, film, systems of government, our communities and beyond,” Devin told me recently. “With race, gender/sexuality, and religious issues being at the forefront of many of the national conversations/debates that we are having, it’s important to ensure that all are accurately, fairly and equally represented in various spaces.”

This is Devin’s first year as a Miss Nebraska titleholder, though she previously represented Nebraska in the Miss Black USA Ambassador pageant. Devin attracted media attention multiple times in that roll through her work to empower girls across the Omaha area.

“In the summer of 2015 I hosted the first ‘Queens For A Day’, which gave 20 young women from across the state the opportunity to feel like the queens they truly are,” said Devin. “Our day began at Memorial Park where we had a photo shoot with a professional photographer, and rode off to the spa in a VIP limousine. Once we arrived at the spa, each girl was able to get either a pedicure or manicure, we loaded back on the limo, and we went to decorate crowns.”

Queens for a Day 2015

CLICK HERE to read the Omaha World Herald’s story on Devin, or CLICK HERE to watch KETV’s story on her event!

This was the continuation of work Devin began in 2014 when she founded Project Poise, a leadership initiative for young women in need, focusing primarily on low income/needs based areas.

“Operating out of existing nonprofits, elementary and middle schools and after-school programs, I bring tailored programming to each site and work with young ladies on developing their core strengths,” said Devin. “Everyone has leadership potential, and my goal is to help these young ladies discover, embrace and grow within in their leadership potential.  I’ve had the privilege of working with over 250 young women in the last three years, and I am looking to impact even more as we delve into 2017.”

Solomon Girls Center

Devin has studied at both the University of Nebraska Lincoln and Omaha campuses, she’s worked at 10/11 News and now at the Peter Kiewit Foundation. So why add to an already busy schedule by competing for Miss Nebraska?

Crowning 2

“Overall I was once again ready to utilize the platform to serve and lead that the Miss Nebraska Organization offered and pageantry at large offered,” said Devin. “Upon winning the title of Miss Western Nebraska, I am really eager to learn more about the western portion of Nebraska that I haven’t been able to see as much residing in Omaha and Lincoln most of my life.”

Devin hit the ground running, lining up school visits to speak to students from all areas and backgrounds. She’s also extremely active on social media, stressing not only the work she is doing, but spreading the word about Miss Nebraska Organization sponsors and opportunities.

“I want those who are skeptical to know that we work hard, really hard, and are all passionate about the communities we serve and the platforms we advocate for,” said Devin. “For many of us, we wear multiple hats; whether that’s as students, employees, entreprenuers and more. I personally balance a full time job, being a student while paying my way through school, my own nonprofit organization and pageantry, not even considering personal or social obligations. While the many roles often leave little time for a personal life, I wouldn’t have it any other way. One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Example is leadership’, and therefore I recognize the grave importance of my presence and activism in my community and state.”

Elementary School Visit

And while Devin’s main objective has been to empower others, she says she herself has been empowered by the experience, and the women she’ll compete with in just over a month.

“I am overwhelmed by the immense amount of opportunities to learn and serve my state,” said Devin. “One of the most important things to me when being a participant in a pageant is being able to walk away a better person than when you started the journey.  Having the opportunity to compete in three very different pageant systems, I must admit my favorite thing about the Miss Nebraska Organization is the sense of family I get from my sister queens, volunteers and state directors. I was nervous to enter another pageant system so ‘late in the game’ as I am 22 years old, but never once did I feel alone or isolated in my journey. It’s been a blessing to be surrounded by such amazing women from across the state.”

Our goal as volunteers who recruit women to compete for Miss Nebraska is to find the best representatives of our state and reward them for their hard work, talents and service. We don’t consider race, how much money a girl has, where she’s coming from or where she’s going. We are blind to who a young woman is when she reaches out to us saying ‘I’d like to learn more’, and we are willing to help anyone and everyone to become the best versions of themselves.

Devin and girl

Still, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t warm my heart this year to see a rainbow of little girls look up to our titleholders, maybe thinking ‘she’s just like me… and I can be just like her when I grow up.’

Devin in class

“When I close my eyes and dream of being Miss Nebraska, it’s an opportunity that I’d be so blessed and humbled to have,” said Devin. “I think about the potential lives I could impact, and bringing awareness to my platform on a large scale, it’s kind of scary, but an opportunity of a lifetime. Each member of this Miss Nebraska class brings something so unique to the forefront when considering who will represent our state next, so in any circumstance, the outcome will be great!”

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Click here to follow Miss Western Nebraska 2017 Devin Owens on Facebook, click here to follow her blog, ‘DJ Writing Out Loud’, click here to follow her on Twitter, and click here to follow Devin on Instagram.

Devin was crowned at Crowns & Gowns 2017, Nebraska’s largest annual prom/pageant showcase.  CLICK HERE for more details about the 2018 pageant and event! You can also email Director of the Miss Gering/Miss Western Nebraska Pageant, Heather Hayes, by emailing Heather.Hayes@charter.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant takes place June 7-10 in North Platte, Nebraska.

CLICK HERE for more detailsHERE to follow on TwitterHERE to follow on Facebook.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2016 Hannah Miller

NEXT.. The Perfect 10: Recap of the 2017 Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant

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!

Special Feature, Miss Iowa 2014 Aly Olson

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.

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MISS IOWA 2014 ALY OLSON

(Photo courtesy the Miss Iowa Pageant)

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.

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(Photos courtesy the Miss America Pageant)

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.”

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.”

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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.

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(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.

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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, InstagramFacebook, and Tumblr.  To book Aly for appearances and events, email businessmanager@missiowa.com.  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. 

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Sandhills 2015 Kate Lynne Duncan

NEXT.. Miss Northwest 2015 LaRissa McKean

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.