Tag Archive | MAO

Girls And Dolls

Raise your hand if YOU LOVED BARBIES as a little girl.

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Now raise your hand if you’re a 34-year old who cried when Dumbledore died.

Go ahead and judge.

I LOVED Barbies.  I would sit for hours in my room, living out an imaginary day for my dolls in their fantastic Barbie dream house.  To this day, when a little girl I know has a birthday, I pick out a Barbie for her gift.  It’s an American classic, but not without controversy.  Some say these dolls are a poor representation of what women should be, an unfair lesson taught to little girls about who they should strive to become.

Ironically, many say the same things about pageants.  While I certainly cannot speak for all of them, I would argue the merits of the Miss America Organization outweigh the negatives.  I challenge those who hold stereotypes about the women and teens who compete to get to know them, learn what they are doing in their communities, find out what they are doing right now as the Miss Nebraska and Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant draws ever so close.

Or, keep reading.. and meet the girl from Alliance who could teach Barbie a thing or two.

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MISS NORTHWEST’S OUTSTANDING TEEN 2015 CHEROKEE PURVIANCE

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“The [stereotype] that I see a lot is that the girls who are in pageants are unintelligent Barbie dolls who only care about their appearance,” Cherokee told me recently.  “I am a young, beautiful and intelligent girl who values her appearance but values her education more.”

I just want to reiterate what Cherokee said.. I am a young, beautiful and intelligent girl.  Now THAT is what I like to hear!! Confidence, articulation and clear priorities radiate from this young woman.  She’s been guided by strong female leaders her whole life, including several Miss Nebraskas and Miss Nebraska contestants.

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Cherokee meeting Miss Nebraska 2011 Kayla Batt-Jacox the night she won the state title, and meeting Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan when she attended Miss Nebraska. Cherokee was 11 years old.

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“My piano teacher is Sue Dimmitt.  Her daughter Megan Dimmitt did pageants and I grew up watching her on stage,” said Cherokee, pictured above with Megan at the Miss Nebraska pageant in 2011; click here to read my profile on Megan when she served as Miss High Plains 2014.  “When Sue asked me if I wanted to do that someday, I said yes.”

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Becoming a local titleholder offers Cherokee an opportunity to pay forward the life skills she took from other important women in her life.

“My biggest supporters include my mom, my godmother, Jerry Mathistad, and finally, Krista and Chloe,” said Cherokee.  “Krista Blumenthal was and in a way still is my dyslexia tutor and is always there to help if I need anything.”

DYSLEXIA; Cherokee sees words differently than many of us, a disorder making reading especially difficult.  She is now working to make sure other children get the help she received, creating images and flyers to spread awareness of dyslexia.

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“I have been talking to as many parents as I can about the warning signs of dyslexia and where to get their child tested,” said Cherokee.  “Right now, I am working on a fundraiser to get children tested for free who may not have the money to do so otherwise.  i want to raise as much money as possible by October, which is Dyslexia Awareness month, then we’ll reward a few children with the opportunity.”

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Cherokee has also taken part in several community activities as Miss Northwest’s OT, including the Chadron State College Homecoming parade and the Miss America Free Cone Day to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.  She’s only 15 years old, and she’s done all of this in addition to activities at Alliance High School including show choir, drama, tennis, golf, art club and upward bound club.

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“Outside of school I attend four dance classes a week, take piano lessons and teach piano lessons of my own,” said Cherokee.  “If there is ever a time when I’m bored I just sit down and paint.”

A young lady with a sense of style, adding she’s proud of the fashion sense that makes her unique. (“Audrey Hepburn is my fashion icon!” said Cherokee.)  However, evening gown isn’t what Cherokee likes most in this whole pageant experience.

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“My favorite part of competing in the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant would have to be the months leading up to the pageant when all of the contestants get to know one another and form friendships,” said Cherokee.  “The Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen pageant brings out the best in all of the girls who compete and that is what I love about it.”

Let’s think back on why we all played with Barbies in the first place.  Barbie herself, while beautiful, was the plastic perfection we all wish we could be sometimes, right? Always smiling, hair and makeup always in place, and no lie–a body that is always in great shape? YES, PLEASE!  But here’s the thing (at least for me), I didn’t ever think about that stuff as a little girl.  I wanted to change their outfits, to play ‘house’, to act out the dreams and adventures I wanted to have myself.  Maybe Barbie was driving somewhere in her convertible.  Maybe she was heading to work.  Maybe she was taking care of her baby.  And I’d argue what my Barbie did was different than every other little girl’s.

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Each of the young women competing for Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen has different goals, dreams and messages, yet they are all great representations of the ‘inner Barbie’ in all of us. Cherokee’s sweet smile blossoms from her happiness within.  She’s a young woman standing tall from her confidence and drive. A 15-year old with the whole world at her fingertips and gorgeous, powerful women leading her way.

“Even though I’m only 15, I try not to let my age get in the way of what I want to do with my life,” said Cherokee.  “All I want to do is make a difference in the world.  I don’t know what it will be yet, but it will be awesome.”

You know what sounds awesome?  More awesome than Barbie?  MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN.  Cherokee and 10 of Nebraska’s best arrive in North Platte to compete one week from today.

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Follow Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Cherokee Purviance and contact her for appearances and events on the Miss Chadron/Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen Facebook page.

Click here for a special feature on Cherokee on the Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Facebook page!

For more information about how to become a contestant, contact Director Riki Hunter at 308-430-4355 or by email at maoteenchadron@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 Chadron’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Shelby Blundell

NEXT.. Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Merrilee Prill

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.

Miracle Worker

You advocate for something because you believe in it.  You put your face and name behind a cause to share a compelling argument for why you are so passionate about that effort.  It takes courage to speak out (especially from a personal place); it takes time and dedication; it takes a leader who can command attention and compel others to make a difference.

This is one of the reasons I advocate for the Miss America Organization.. because no matter what you think of beauty pageants, or women competing for crowns, when that ONE DAY of competition is over, they are out in their communities and states 364 OTHER days of the year trying to do all of the things I just mentioned, in most cases, serving others.

This young woman will continue to promote her platform after her pageant days are over; she wants her cause to become her career.

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MISS DOUGLAS COUNTY 2015 ALYSSA HOWELL

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I will be a junior at Creighton University, studying Elementary Education, with the career ambition of becoming a child life specialist in a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital,” Alyssa told me recently.  “Truly, Children’s Miracle Network is my passion, and my platform, ‘Making Miracles Happen’, stands to improve the lives of children in hospitals all over Nebraska.”

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Several of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants, including Alyssa and Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson, delivered gift bags to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Rainbow House pediatric patients and their families for Miss America Serves day.

Children’s Miracle Network is also Miss America’s community partner, the organization which titleholders all over the country must raise money for in order to compete at the local and state level.  Money raised benefits hospitals like Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center.  Many of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants have spent time volunteering at Children’s; Alyssa visits on a consistent basis, inspired by her cousin and former CMN patient, Shayna.

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“Eight years ago my family (after a streak of 12 boy cousins) was finally blessed with a girl!  However, Shayna was sick with a frightening virus that left her sick and in the hospital for days after her birth,” said Alyssa.  “18 months later, she tested positive for profound hearing loss.  My family was devastated, however, with the help of St. Louis Children’s Hospital (a CMN facility), Shayna was able to receive cochlear implants that allow her to hear as a normal child.”

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Alyssa witnessed part of that journey in person, staying with Shayna and her family for two months while Shayna attended the Central Institute for the Deaf.  Alyssa had already been involved with CMN fundraisers as a young girl, at her sister Devin Howell’s side during her time as Miss River City 2008, Miss Douglas County 2009 and Miss Omaha 2010.

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When Alyssa was crowned Miss Eastern Nebraska 2014, (click here to see read my interview with her last Spring!) she wanted to take her passion for CMN hospitals and the children they serve to another level.  Alyssa designed and implemented something she calls the Miracle Bags Program.

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“I go to sororities [including her own, Pi Beta Phi], business groups, girl scouts and schools and collect donation items.  Each bag [I create] contains a blanket, coloring book, crayons, Play-Doh, and a handwritten card,” said Alyssa.  “I then deliver these bags to the patients at Omaha Children’s, and let me tell you, nothing makes a sick child light up like a princess with a bag of goodies!”

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To Alyssa, the Miss America Organization presented opportunities for both volunteering and for her own personal growth.  It’s a stage for this pianist (and piano teacher) to play for a crowd; it’s a path to scholarships for this college student; it’s a platform for her to share Shayna’s story and encourage others to help pediatric hospital patients.

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“I truly believe that EVERY woman can gain so many incredible things from this organization, and Miss Nebraska stands to represent every woman in the state regardless of career, beliefs, appearance or education,” said Alyssa.  “As the All-American daughter of a former Marine and the 1981 Miss Iowa Dairy Princess, my upbringing led me to big dreams, big accomplishments and making big differences in the lives of everyone I meet.”

Alyssa Howell isn’t just an advocate for Miss America or for Children’s Miracle Network, she shows what strong, smart, talented women can accomplish when inspired by something as powerful as a little girl’s smile.  Just a guess, but I’m betting the feeling is mutual, and that Shayna’s grin will light up the entire North Platte High Auditorium in just three weeks.. as her princess, Miss Douglas County, competes to become the next Miss Nebraska.

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(Photo courtesy Studio FBJ)

To find out more about Miss Douglas County 2015 Alyssa Howell’s Miracle Bags Program, and to contact her for appearances and events, email alyssahowellva@gmail.com or click here to visit her Facebook page.

For more information on the Miss Omaha/Douglas County Pageant, click here to visit their website, here to visit them on Facebook, and here to follow on Twitter.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Executive Director Marianne Grubaugh at 402-330-8033 or by email at missomahapageant@yahoo.com.

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The Miss Nebraska Pageant will take place June 3-6, 2015 in North Platte.  Click here to visit the organization’s website, to visit the pageant on Facebook, to follow the pageant on Twitter, and to follow the pageant on Instagram.

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PREVIOUS.. Miss Heartland 2015 Steffani Jiroux

NEXT.. Miss State Fair 2015 Marie Allison

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