Well, HELLO!!!!! Long time no post! As always, THANK YOU for reading the blog!
I have been ‘off the grid’ for most of the month of June. Vacation, time with family, heaven at home.
IT HAS BEEN FABULOUS!
Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, step back, close your eyes and BE. I feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and reminded of who I am. GO OFF THE GRID! IT’S GREAT! Even if just for a few days.
Before my amazing time at home with the three men in my life (four, if you count our dog, Mack), my hiatus began with a long awaited trip to North Platte, Nebraska.
MISS NEBRASKA 2015.
Photo courtesy of Corbey Dorsey for the North Platte Telegraph; click here to read the NPT’s wonderful article on Alyssa by reporter Kamie Stephen!
After seven days of rehearsals and events, four days of nerve-wracking competition, a lot of laughs and some tears, too.. Miss Douglas County Alyssa Howell was crowned Miss Nebraska 2015. What an INCREDIBLE moment to cap off a wonderful week for this caring, young woman. Alyssa has dedicated so much of her time to others. She is sweet, kind, hard working and focused. For five years, she also watched her big sister compete at both the Miss Iowa and Miss Nebraska pageant, finishing as a finalist multiple times.
THIS MOMENT WAS ALL ALYSSA. SHE WILL NOW FOREVER BE MISS NEBRASKA.
So many cool moments; the kids who just LOVED Alyssa, including her Little Sisters who took part in all of the Miss Nebraska events at her side, and the little boy who not only wanted one kiss, he circled around for a second. Alyssa’s real boyfriend, Grady, and his excitement and sheer pride every moment leading up to his girl’s crowning moment. Shrieks of joy between Alyssa and the new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Steffany Lien; the two have been Miss Douglas County sisters for months, now they are going to Miss America together. And the heartwarming friendship and bond between Alyssa and her sister queen Miss Omaha Megan Gould, supporting each other from Omaha to North Platte and still to this day.
But.. I’m going to throw this out there.. was Alyssa ‘the best’?
How do you choose which flower is ‘the best’ in the garden? Which city is ‘the best’ in our state? Which art, whether it be singing or dancing or playing piano, is ‘the best’? Alyssa will be a FANTASTIC Miss Nebraska and I cannot WAIT to see how far she’ll go at Miss America. This is Alyssa’s time; this is the result of her hard work; this recognizes an exceptional young woman, helping her to inspire so many more; and five smart, talented, and critical judges determined Alyssa Howell was the best candidate for this job as Miss Nebraska 2015.
The best of the best, you might say.. because HOLY CRAP, did this event showcase some absolutely incredible women in our state.
4th Runner Up, Miss Northwest LaRissa McKean
JOYFUL. LaRissa McKean radiated happiness, and made everyone in the Miss Nebraska audience feel it. She also shared that positivity with her fellow contestants, voted Miss Congeniality by the majority of the other titleholders. LaRissa CAPTIVATED the audience Thursday night, winning the Preliminary Talent Award with an energetic and dazzling dance (another Kitty Lee Dance graduate!) As I told one of my friends during finals night, she JUST MAKES ME SMILE. What a better role model than that?
3rd Runner Up, Miss Heartland Steffani Jiroux
BREATHTAKING. I love watching dance, but don’t know much about it (and hurt myself trying.) I know even less about ballet, but I LOVE the costumes, the makeup, the SHOW. And boy, oh boy, did Steffani Jiroux deliver.
Just stop and look at this picture for a second.. (and thanks to Kamie Stephen and the North Platte Telegraph for sharing it!)
It was like watching a scene from a movie. Steffani also seemed to enjoy herself every moment; smiling nonstop, walking across that stage like she OWNED it, twirling around her Little Sisters like they were just dancing in the living room and not competing for the title of Miss Nebraska. What’s next for Steffani? Continuing LAW SCHOOL at Creighton University.
2nd Runner Up, Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann
SENSATIONAL. Miss Nebraska and Miss America challenge a woman to become the best version of herself in all areas, and Brooke Ludemann pushed herself to the max in every. single. test. Her gown made me gasp (in a good way!); her answers showed evidence of a woman with a business plan as Miss Nebraska; her physical self was a demonstration of what our bodies can become with hard work and discipline, and her talent.. I have no words. On the final night of competition, with everything on the line, Brooke’s performance singing ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables game me CHILLS. Brooke won 2nd place for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award, and she will be Nebraska’s representative at the National Sweetheart Pageant this summer.
1st Runner Up, Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen
JAW DROPPING. Every time Allison Tietjen walked on stage, my eyes were just DRAWN to her. (In a completely uncreepy way, regardless of how that sounds…) She is the model of poise, grace, and beauty. Allison could’ve walked right off the Miss Nebraska stage onto Hollywood’s red carpet and fit right in. BUT, what I love is that Allison knows, and SHOWS, this program’s power and purpose extends long beyond Miss Nebraska week. Allison’s work promoting awareness of our veterans earned her the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award and the Miss America Community Service Award; she also earned the Miracle Maker Award for raising more than $1300 for the Children’s Miracle Network, helping hospitals like Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. Oh yea, and Allison JUST TURNED 19 in April. Truly exceptional.
I would argue not one of these women is ‘better’ than the other; each is SENSATIONAL. They each prepared, volunteered, practiced.. hoping THIS was their year, and their time. It was only destiny for one–and Alyssa is FABULOUS. But this is why you see so many girls try again for the crown.. and thank the Lord for that, because they are all deserving, INCREDIBLE women, and bringing them together to recognize them and their accomplishments is uplifting and inspiring to everyone who can be part of it. WE ARE WOMEN, HEAR US ROAR!!!!
Now to the moment I know you all have been waiting for…
The 2nd Annual Brandi Petersen Unofficial Superfan Awards!
( ahem… I’ll wait for your laughter to die down before I proceed..)
The ‘My Life Goal Is To Look Like Carrie Underwood’ Awards…
Again.. the work and service that take place the other 364 days of the year are arguably the most important part of the Miss America Organization.. but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the gowns!! C’mon.. from dreaming of your wedding gown, to picking out prom dresses, to playing dress up as a little girl, who DOESN’T love beautiful dresses?!? 2015 was simply a RAINBOW of color on the Miss Nebraska stage, and THAT alone made it awesome. So much diversity; different colors, styles, fits.. and so much elegance!
Remember how I said Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann’s gown made me gasp? GASP!!! OHHH.. this dress.. this moment.. absolutely INCREDIBLE. (Details: Tarik Ediz gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique in Lincoln)
Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen.. ANOTHER gown that stole my breath. Just STUNNING. (Details: custom Sherri Hill gown from the Winning Crown Boutique in Omaha)
And boy, those Kearney Crane Festival Directors KNOW THEIR STYLE.. because Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen was possibly MY FAVORITE gown of the weekend! There was just something so very special about Merrilee Prill when she walked on stage in this dress. The color, the style, HOW she wore it. I LOVED IT. ( Details: Jovani Fashions gown from the Black Swan Dress Boutique in Lincoln–thanks to owner Joe Bohac for the photo!)
Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen Cherokee Purviance.. what a GORGEOUS choice for her gown! On stage, this color and the sparkle were just RADIANT. (Details: a Mac Duggal gown from Hirschfeld’s Prom Shoppe in North Platte–thanks to them for the photo!)
The ‘Holy Crap, Petersen, Put Down That Blizzard’ Awards..
I’d like to show you my reaction to this year’s Miss contestants competing in swimsuit.
My thanks to Taylor Swift for the assist.
ABSOLUTELY SENSATIONAL. This year EXEMPLIFIED that Lifestyle and Fitness is just that–this competition is intended to encourage women to treat their bodies like temples and reach their full physical potential. AND THESE WOMEN DID. Abs, biceps, quads for days. This wasn’t about starving, or being the skinniest. You could SEE their work; the time they spent in the gym and the time they DIDN’T spend at their local fast food spot.
Miss Omaha Megan Gould was my winner for swimsuit. I know this girl puts in countless hours of dance and practice as a Nebraska Cornhusker cheerleader, and WOW-did that hard work show!! Plus Megan was just SOO confident, not conceited in the least, just wonderfully comfortable in her own skin. You go, Megan!
Miss Heartland Steffani Jiroux. This is her profile picture now on Facebook (taken by Kamie Stephen for the North Platte Telegraph), and to me, that’s using restraint. If I looked like this, I’d make a cardboard cutout of myself to greet people at my front door. THIS is what happens with 20 years of ballet training and several more as a member of the Creighton University dance team!
Miss Kearney Crane Festival Allison Tietjen was the Overall Swimsuit Winner at Miss Nebraska this year, and here’s why! Another absolutely radiant moment in red for the UNL sophomore, and in case you’re wondering, she’s a piano player.. so what you see is the result of sheer hours in the gym and dedication to nutrition!
And Miss Kool-Aid Days Brooke Ludemann. Just.. WOW. MUSCLE ON MUSCLE WITH MUSCLE. When I messaged Brooke about using this photo, she responded ‘I’m darn proud of those photos!’ AS SHE SHOULD BE!! AH-MAZ-ING!!
STRENGTH, POWER, HEALTH. Are you listening, America? I just read this morning there are more clinically obese people in our country than simply overweight Americans. Heart disease remains a leading killer. These women exercised and ate healthy with consistency and self discipline for months, and likely formed a foundation to continue to do so to some extent. Long after that 10 second walk across stage in a swimsuit, their health is improved, their confidence is boosted, and they’ve empowered and inspired many others. (I’M AT THE TOP OF THAT LIST!) Ladies, you should be so very proud of yourselves.
The Nebraska’s Got Talent Awards..
MY WINNERS FOR TALENT: THIS YEAR’S MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN CONTESTANTS.
First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to the other young woman who wrapped up this weekend in North Platte with a state title..
Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen Steffany Lien is now Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2015! (A 3-peat for Omaha titleholders!) While Steffany shined all night at the competition, SHE OWNED talent. America, watch out; when this girl competes for the national title in Orlando this July, she will STUN YOU!
CLICK HERE to see a preview, showing Steffany competing at the World Championships in Italy in April, winning her SIXTH world title.
Steffany does things with a baton that challenge the Laws of Gravity and Physics. Not only have I never seen her drop a baton in competition, I’ve never seen the girl even ‘almost’ drop one in rehearsal. She is SENSATIONAL!
Nebraska’s 10th Outstanding Teen was one of several incredibly talented young teenagers who competed in North Platte this year. Piano players, singers, dancers.. these girls are so young they can’t vote, but they knocked the socks off everyone in the audience Friday night.
Among my favorites (along with Steffany, of course!)..
..singer Emma Kate Brown, Miss Platte Valley’s Outstanding Teen. There’s a reason why little girls love her.. because someday she will be the voice of a princess in a Disney movie. That’s how I described her voice to my husband. Emma Kate sang ‘Tonight’ from West Side Story and her innate vocal talent is just BEAUTIFUL. I’m calling it now.. the next animated blockbuster you take your kids to, you will likely hear Emma Kate in the soundtrack! (And a huge CONGRATULATIONS to this beauty as well! Less than two weeks after being named 2nd Runner Up at Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen, the Elkhorn South student was also named Nebraska’s Best High School Actress, winning an all-expenses paid trip to New York to compete for the National Award!!)
Grace Heggem, Miss Scotts Bluff County’s Outstanding Teen, was dazzling from start to finish. She played Tarantella on the piano, her fingers dancing across the keys at the speed of light, and she NAILED it. Much like ballet, I know nothing about piano, but I can hear a bad note… and I didn’t hear one off-key when Grace performed. Incredible!
Emma Keifer, Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen, was just a joy to watch. I felt like I was watching an act from So You Think You Can Dance (and you all know what a freak I am about that show!!) Emma tapped.. up and down STAIRS. Her energy was just OFF THE CHARTS. Emma, you would’ve made Nigel proud!
And finally, though she wasn’t competing for a title, this performance was MY FAVORITE TALENT PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK..
THE WATER CUPS DANCE. Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen, performing the same dance her mother Jodi did as Miss Nebraska 1988 at the Miss America pageant that year. Balancing three cups of water on her hands and forehead, Morgan bent backward, forward, down into splits, up from splits… all without spilling a drop. You could’ve heard a PIN drop in the auditorium, as hundreds of us collectively held our breath through this performance. ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE.. just like Morgan. Many of us shed tears as she took her final walk as our state titleholder.. mine started to fall as her proud daddy, Brad, handed her a bouquet of flowers at the bottom of the Miss Nebraska stage. The sky is the limit for this young woman–you WILL see her again.
The Brittany Jeffers Awards for Super Awesomeness
We all have someone we just ADMIRE.. their style, their confidence, just because THEY ARE AWESOME. Some of mine: one of my best friends Jenni Rohacik who always looks so good she could host E!, my neighbor Brittni Madden who can take a picture off Pinterest and make a project look like it cost thousands of dollars.. and my fellow anchor/reporter/forever Miss Omaha Brittany Jeffers-Hannema, who I swear is fabulous, in every way possible, 24/7. (And now that I’ve declared my obsession with these ladies.. they may all be working on protection orders..) THESE GIRLS ARE JUST AWESOME! Brittany gets the award named after her because she had to work rather than attend the Miss Nebraska pageant this year.. she may have been on air in Oklahoma, but her heart was in North Platte!
Two young ladies made a huge impression on me this year.. two teens who I didn’t know prior to this year’s pageant.
Shelby Blundell, Miss Chadron’s Outstanding Teen, was the youngest and tiniest of ALL of this year’s contestants, Miss and Teen. She was also Contestant #1 in the competition, a tough draw; you set the bar for the judges, you are the first contestant both that panel and the audience will see. Shelby rose to the challenge, nailing her song in talent, and impressing the hell out of me during her on stage question. Shelby was asked a very tough question, whether LGBTQ issues should be discussed at school in the classroom or in group/activity settings, or if those topics are best left for family and group discussion outside of school. Without hesitation, tiny Shelby answered confidently and quickly, sharing her opinions without pause. That’s a tough issue for politicians and public leaders to address, and often we see adults avoiding giving a clear answer. This young woman tackled the issue head on, and agree with her or not, it was refreshing to see such a young person stand tall and share her opinion.
I was also SO very impressed with Allison Baird, Miss Western Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen. For the second year in a row, Allison was named 1st Runner Up in the teen competition. I’ve touched on this before.. as exhilarating as it is to hear your name called as a new titleholder.. it is incredibly disappointing when all of that work does not result in that win. Allison’s now been through that twice.. coming ever so close both times. BUT.. the moment that curtain closed after Steffany was crowned, when the spotlights were off and no one was watching her (except me, the nosy emcee/reporter backstage), Allison was the first one to smile and hug Steffany. She was also the first to hug Morgan last year–and not just the cordial ‘arm around her, pat pat pat’ hug.. but a genuine embrace, wishing a friend well. It’s the moments you think no one is looking when your true character is revealed. Allison Baird is an exceptional young lady. A gorgeous voice. Mature and smart. Beautiful. And in those moments, when I can only imagine how her heart was breaking, she showed class and selflessness, to celebrate Steffany’s moment. That’s something you don’t often see in adults, let alone a young woman just entering her senior year of high school. Again, these competitions are not about choosing ‘who is the best’, but who is right for the position at that exact moment in time. YOU ARE A WINNER, ALLISON.. your future is so very bright.
So did you pick up on that ’emcee/reporter’ note? I had the GREAT honor of co-emceeing this year’s Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant with this beauty, my final Awesomeness Award Winner, Jessica States! A) She can sing REALLY well B) She’s a born leader, holding a respected position with Junior Achievement of Lincoln C) She was THE FIRST Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2005!
AND, she was SUCH A GREAT co-host!!! We had such a terrific time, and I hope the audience did, too! (And thank you to Joe Bohac and the Black Swan Dress Boutique for providing our gorgeous gowns for the evening!)
What a terrific, empowering week of incredible women and the people who support them.
I enjoyed every single moment, and CAN’T WAIT until next year to do it all over again! AND, I NEED to mention what these girls took away from Miss Nebraska (in addition to their own memories..)
MORE THAN $42,800 IN CASH AWARDS
AND MORE THAN $400,455 IN OFFERED COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS.
But hey, it’s just a silly scholarship pageant, right?
One final message to wrap up this post, and this year’s 2015 Miss Nebraska series..
I was SO very honored and humbled to receive this year’s Miss Nebraska Volunteer of the Year Award.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to all of you who have read these blogs and offered your congratulations. I’m still mystified and elated that so many people check in to read my work, and to receive such an incredible honor for it is just a thrill. THANK YOU.
To all 24 of the young ladies who competed in North Platte, YOU EMPOWER ME. You are the future of our state, and our country, and that makes me so very proud. CONGRATULATIONS Alyssa, Steffany, and every young woman taking a chance to set an example, be a role model, and to just SPARKLE.
No matter what you do next, crown or not, go out into the world and continue to ROAR.
Click here to learn more about the Miss Nebraska Organization, and the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant. You can also visit Miss Nebraska on Facebook, follow the pageant on Twitter, and follow the pageant on Instagram.
To read more about the Miss Nebraska, and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Class of 2014, click on the ‘There She Is’ link at the top of the page.