Tag Archive | miss iowa

We Are Nebraska

Who is Miss Nebraska?

I’m not just asking who is the current Miss Nebraska, but who is this person who travels the state wearing a crown and sash?  Who is the woman who goes on TV every year and represents all of us at Miss America?  Is there even one all encompassing definition of this person we call Miss Nebraska?

Click here and see the incredible compilation of Miss Nebraskas through the years.

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Miss Nebraska 1962 Mary Lee Jepsen was the first to crack the Top 10 at Miss America, twirling three fire batons; she went on to earn four college degrees, two of them Masters’ and one of them a Post-Masters, focusing on psychology and family counseling.

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Miss Nebraska 2002 Krista Knicely survived a horrific attack and assault before she was crowned; she used her time as Miss Douglas County and then Miss Nebraska to bravely share her story and inspire other victims of sexual assault attempts or attacks across the country.

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Miss Nebraska 2006 Molly McGrath traveled 30,000 across the state talking about financial literacy and economic education, has worked with both the Federal Reserve and in the private sector on multi-million dollar projects.

Such different stories during and after their time as Miss Nebraska, yet they all share a common bond, along with this young woman.

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MISS NEBRASKA 2014 MEGAN SWANSON

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I’m a tall girl with an even bigger heart,” Megan told me recently.  “The job of Miss Nebraska is so much more than what you look like, but rather is about the utterance of your heart by the words you speak and the message you believe in.”

THIS Miss Nebraska isn’t kidding about being tall, she’s 6 feet without heels.  That kind of altitude is common place in the Swanson household, but just short of legendary everywhere else.

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Megan eye to eye with her family.. and *slightly* taller than her pageant sister, Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen

Megan wants people to remember more than that; she wants to be seen as the best possible candidate for serving her state.  That has been her intention from the beginning; click here to read my first interview with Megan during her time as Miss Douglas County.

“Nebraska is my home, my love, and my heart,” said Megan.  “It’s land, it’s people, it’s message, it’s feel.  While passionate about the nation, I believe this year I was supposed to make a visible impact on the state of Nebraska, and I believe I did so.  This year as Miss Nebraska, I put over 25,000 miles on my Miss Nebraska car, spoke to over 10,000 students alone, and really believe our residents would associate my name and platform in about 2 seconds.  THAT was what my goal was: for people to think Megan Swanson, Miss Nebraska 2014, and think: ‘Oh, yeah!  She’s genuine, she cares about people in a real way (not for show, not because she has to), and she’s a fitness/health/wellness buff.  Total Body Wellness: Spirit, Soul, and Body is her platform, AND she’s really tall!”

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“I’ve spent many a surprising time with tears slowly falling down my face at the testimonies from this year,” said Megan.  “You see, to me.. it was never about ‘my message’, despite being 328479384% passionate about it.  It’s about the people, your audience.  Why go into a school, auditorium, arena, business luncheon, or conference and speak about the same topic over and over that has no way of relating to people?  I made it my mission to write the framework and research the heck out of all facets of my program, and then make sure I became an expert in each area.”

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Megan has also shared each facet of her program on social media.  Using Miss Nebraska 2014 Facebook page (now nearing 1,350 followers), and Instagram (with more than 4,500 followers) Megan posts scripture, diet and workout tips and simply inspiring thoughts, along with a steady stream of photos showcasing her ‘days in the life’ of Miss Nebraska.

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‘{BE ENCOURAGED!} I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself. (Ephesians 1:16-23 NLT)’

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‘Mar 7, 2014 | {4 hours of sleep} + [5 games (hours) of reffereeing 5th grade boys bball at 8:30am] + {1 small nap} + [my amazing cousins engagement party] = In Bed By 10:45pm and Miss Night Owl is now Miss Sleepy Nebraska 2014.’

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‘Day 9 is all about Abs, Abs, Abs!!! And are made in the kitchen folks! Your hormones and adrenal glands also have a lot to do with storage of fat around your middle section- here are a few quick bullet points to help! As always, if you have questions feel free to DM me!’

Megan has also secured sponsorships during her year as Miss Nebraska with private companies including Deep South Pout clothing, Envy Tans By Tammy, Max Muscle, Meal Solutions, and Smart Girl Style.  More so, she’s expanded and further solidified Miss Nebraska’s reach; in politics, visiting the state legislature, meeting Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, and singing the national anthem before a major Republican party event this spring.

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Megan has also appeared on television news across the state, participated in radio interviews, and has taken part in numerous fundraisers and events across the state, often with hundreds or thousands in attendance.  She’ll perform for one of her biggest crowds yet in just weeks, singing the national anthem for 30,000+ at the College World Series.  Click here to listen to her audition!

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CLICK HERE TO SEE KETV’S STORY WITH MEGAN, SEPTEMBER 2014

CLICK HERE TO READ MY FEATURE ON MEGAN & MISS IOWA ALY OLSON BEFORE MISS AMERICA

CLICK HERE TO READ ONE OF MEGAN’S FIRST INTERVIEWS, WITH KETV, AFTER WINNING MISS NEBRASKA

Still, Megan wanted more.  She told me several times leading up to Miss America she intended to win; her experience was no doubt memorable, but not all positive. An unflattering camera angle of Megan, seated behind ABC’s Miss America host, made national headlines.  Megan’s post on Facebook shortly after, ‘liked’ more than 400 times, spoke VOLUMES about her character and confidence.

‘Despite all the explosion of media recently- there are apparently pictures of me in a swimsuit even I didn’t even know existed! Hilariously, these show clearly more than the one accidental second caught on national television! Haha. To everyone- I have laughed about this and moved on! I am a strong woman of character, and confident in who I truly am and where I am going! I guess I am also quite definitely a true basketball player at heart and forgot for a second that I wasn’t on the bench ready for coach to tell me to get in the game! (Lesson learned…) obviously- this In no way means I am anything less than a person of extremely high moral standards. If you know me, you know that. Here’s to the future aiming to be the best Miss Nebraska yet! God can turn any situation for good, and hey- I’m excited to see how even this ends up being an outlet for my TRUE message: helping people to love, accept, grow, and transform themselves through the eyes of wellness education from the inside out! Spirit, Soul, and Body! I have even MORE of a reason now to advocate for my cause! #missnebraska#missnebraska14 #lifestyleandfitness #fitness #laugh#teammegan #tbw #wellness #missne

“I choose to BE overcome by a circumstance, or take it by the horns and OWN it, overcome IT myself,” Megan told me.  She remains focused on her positive take-aways from Miss America.

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“It was so amazing to get to sing on the Miss America stage, and it’s a time I’ll never forget,” said Megan.  “I am so blessed to have a network of 52 sisters that I bonded with at Miss America and still talk to literally every, single day.  We’re go-getters, we don’t take no for an answer, and we work for every dream in our hearts.  Watch out, world!  In ten years, we will have conquered wherever we land.  The CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, beautiful, intelligent, confident women broadcasting on television or ESPN, future famous musicians, teachers, educators, Super-Moms, and leaders alike, will be women who competed.”

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How do you measure a year? How do you define Miss Nebraska?

“This job has abundantly transformed my life for the better this year, and most importantly, grown ME as a young woman,” said Megan.  “I’m honored that every, single day, I woke up with the responsibility of being a role model for people of every age, gender, background, status, and walk of life and I don’t take it lightly.  It’s exactly that: a responsibility.  It’s my duty and my job.”

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Megan Swanson’s chapter in the History of Miss Nebraska will end this Saturday night, as she passes her crown on to a woman who was in her place one year ago.  She will return to Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue her Commercial Voice Major.  Megan will continue to write and produce music, and pursue her family ministry through their church and via their new website (click here to check out We Are Swanson).

“Knowing who we are is the foundation of everything we become,” said Megan.  “I believe any role model must first know who they are and where they’re going, or they can’t lead!  I think that’s what makes me different.  My laser focus in on not just speaking for 30 minutes or an hour, but leaving a lasting impact, creating new leaders, helping people change their path and start walking towards the person they were created to be; first recognizing what makes them special, and then operating in those gifts.”

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(Photo courtesy Midwest Photo Pro)

  “When I go to schools, I get to look students in the eyes and genuinely convince them that all things are possible.  All future hopes and wishes are possible,” said Megan.  “Through hard work, trust, a stubborn perseverance and faith, God blossomed this caterpillar into a beautiful, young lady butterfly.  Confident. Strong. Firm in her goals and identity and ready to take on the world.  What’s holding you back?  What excuse are you taking as truth?  Run. Run towards your dream every day.  Because even if you’re at 0, and your goal is at 100, 1 + 1+ 1 eventually = 100.”

Follow Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson

on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram

Click here to read a special profile on Megan and ‘predictions’ for the Class of 2015 from the nationally popular Pageant Junkies!

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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 Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen 2014 Morgan Holen

THANK YOU, SINCERELY, FOR FOLLOWING THIS YEAR’S SERIES ON THE 2015 MISS NEBRASKA AND MISS NEBRASKA’S OUTSTANDING TEEN CONTESTANTS!

GOOD LUCK, LADIES!!!

Click here for my recap of the 2015 Miss Nebraska & Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen Pageant

To read more about the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014, click on 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.

Madame Butterfly

Think back to where you were in 2012.. what you did, the places you traveled, the person who were. My husband and I took a long awaited trip to Hawaii… as parents of ONE, not two.  I can’t imagine life without my two little boys.. and can hardly remember a time before I was a momma of two, even though it was just a few years ago.

Now, imagine how much your life changed between when you were, say, 17 years old.. and 20 years old.  The music you sang along with in the car.. the stages in life those songs represented. For this young woman, those ages and times could arguably be represented by two records, two Miss Nebraska pageants, and two very different points in her life.

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MISS SANDHILLS 2015 KATE LYNNE DUNCAN

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“The last time I competed at Miss Nebraska was in 2012 as Miss Scottsbluff.  I was only eligible for the Miss division because I graduated from Gering High School less than one month before Miss Nebraska, I was only 17 at the time,” Kate  told me recently.  “I am absolutely elated to have the opportunity to compete on the Miss Nebraska stage again!  Three years later, I’ve experienced a lot of personal growth.”

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2012 to 2015, sister queens Jessica Littlejohn and Kate Lynne Duncan

That maturation is what inspires Kate’s platform of service: ‘True Beauty: It Shines From The Inside.’  She’s promoting the DOVE Beauty Project, in addition to her own message to women to see their own beauty as others do.

“[Reveal] your attitude, outlook, confidence, intelligence and passion,” said Kate.  “It is all too easy to be absorbed in the body shaming negativity seen in the media.  Young women often feel inadequate if they fail to fit the picture-perfect, highly photo-shopped and airbrushed mold.  I strive to inspire young women to inspire and create a world where beauty is a source of self-confidence, not anxiety.”

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As Miss Sandhills, Kate created a self-esteem workshop, including varied activities for elementary, middle and high school students.  Schools are familiar environments for Kate; she’s studying K-12 Music Education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney focusing on vocal music and a 7-12 English endorsement.  She’s also a Resident Assistant on campus, is active with the Loper Activities Program Counsel, the collegiate chapter of the National Association for Music Educators and the Alpha Omicron Pi sorority.

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“I would have not been able to afford my first year at UNK wthout the scholarships I received from competing in the 2012 Miss Nebraska pageant,” said Kate.  “With the funds I have received from competing, I will pay off my only student loan this fall and graduate in May 2017 debt free.”

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Kate has also spent the last three years perfecting her passion, music.

“With three years of private vocal study under my belt, my voice has grown tremendously since the last time I competed on the Miss Nebraska stage,” said Kate.  “This June I will be performing Carrie Underwood’s ‘Something In The Water’.  She has a powerhouse voice and I’m definitely up for the challenge.  The first time I heard that song it gave me goosebumps and I knew I had to sing it.”

And arguably, a fitting choice.  The song is all about evolution within faith, growth in spirit and as a person.  Kate Lynne Duncan, 2015.  Flashback to 2012 when she sang Blessings by Laura Story.  From a promising high school graduate testing the waters of independence, to a driven woman achieving her academic goals as a leader among her peers.  Two songs, two stages, transformation.  Kate Lynne Duncan is a butterfly, ready to return to North Platte and poised to reveal HER inner beauty.

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Follow Miss Sandhills 2015 Kate Lynne Duncan

and contact her about appearances and events on Twitter, on Instagram and on Facebook.  Click here to read Kate Lynne’s blog A Whole Latte Love.  

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Shardel Nelson at 308-760-7266 or by email at shardel@bbc.net.

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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 Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen

NEXT.. **SPECIAL FEATURE** Miss Iowa 2014 Aly Olson

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

Behind The Crown

 It all comes down to this.. Miss America.

Last spring I profiled each of the young women competing for the title of Miss Nebraska.  From 19, there is now one.

Multiply those 19 state contestants (in many cases, double or triple that number) times the number of states in America, plus Washington DC and US territories.  From thousands of young ladies who competed in preliminary competitions this year, there are now only 53 vying to become Miss America.

She’ll be crowned Sunday night on ABC.

Miss America

As a little girl, I’d sit eagerly at my TV, waiting to see MY state–who was Miss Nebraska?  And who was our neighbor, Miss Iowa?

They are both incredible young women who are well-spoken, talented, beautiful and as you’re about to find out, HARD WORKING.

Getting ready for Miss America is NO easy task.

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Photos courtesy of the Miss America Organization

Tuesday night, Miss Nebraska Megan Swanson and Miss Iowa Aly Olson took their first steps onto the Miss America stage in Atlantic City, New Jersey as they began preliminary competition.  It was a moment they’ve been preparing for, intensely, for months.

“I’ve pushed myself harder physically than I ever have,” said Megan, moments before boarding her flight out of Omaha.  “I’m in the best physical shape of my life, and the best spiritual and emotional shape as well.”

Megan professional photo

Thanks to Ashley Frantz and Twisted Lens Photography for the photo!

I’ve been in touch with Megan since she was crowned Miss Douglas County last fall (full disclosure: I’m a volunteer with the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County pageant).  I talked to her the day after she was crowned Miss Nebraska.  I had the honor of hosting her send-off party and fundraiser.

megan and me

Every time I’ve spoken with Megan, her intent has been clear in both her words and actions; she is DETERMINED to win this thing.

“I’m just so thankful to represent the state of Nebraska, my home,” said Megan.  “To go there and win it as Miss America!”

I’ve only known Aly for a few weeks now, first meeting her in a Skype interview for our story, but  I don’t think she EVER STOPS SMILING–she just exudes positive energy!

“I’m just trying to BE Miss Iowa,” Aly told me.  “Representing the whole state, absorbing as many experiences as I can has been the best preparation.”

Miss Iowa

Thanks to the Miss Iowa organization for the photo!

Check out KETV’s story on Miss Nebraska & Miss Iowa ‘Behind the Scenes’!

For the last three months, these young women have been putting in 18 hour days to become the best version of themselves.  They’ve been in the gym nearly everyday.  They’ve spent countless hours rehearsing their talents (both are talented vocalists).  They’ve been up at the crack of dawn to travel across their states for appearances, interviews and fundraisers.

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WHY?!? For a silly pageant?!?!

“Miss America isn’t just about promoting women to be their best,” said Aly.  “It’s really about encouraging every single person to find some lofty goal, whatever that may be, and to tell them to run for it.”

There’s also this ‘little’ matter of scholarships..

“The Miss America Organization is the largest scholarship organization in the world,” said Megan, a student at Belmont University in Tennessee.  “It provides 45-million dollars in scholarships each year.  That’s part of the reason I’m here.”

Aly, a student at the University of Iowa, will graduate with her bachelor’s degree debt-free thanks to the scholarships she’s taken in through her participation in the Miss Iowa program and it’s associated teen program, serving as Miss Iowa’s Outstanding Teen a few years ago.

“MAO has helped me become a better, stronger, more pulled together young woman,” said Aly.

Nebraska has only had one Miss America.  Iowa has NEVER had one.  Both Megan and Aly, hoping to make history this year, are already making names for themselves at Miss America.

Megan was named as one of nine finalists for the Quality of Life Award for community service (here, in blue.. yes, she’s very tall.. 6-foot without heels!)

quality of life

Photo courtesy of the Miss America Organization

Aly received high praise from the Twitterverse during preliminary talent competition this week and was arguably one of the favorites that evening.  (Click here to watch Aly’s performance to win Miss Iowa!)

Aly prelim talent

Photo courtesy of the Miss America Organization

Both know there are pageant ‘cliches’ in the world and many who disagree with young women even taking part in this system.  But both ALSO want you to know how hard they have worked to represent their states to make little girls and everyone else watching at home PROUD.

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You can help Miss Nebraska Megan Swanson and Miss Iowa Aly Olson make the Top 15 at Miss America through the America’s Choice vote!  CLICK THIS LINK to watch videos from all of the contestants and to vote for your favorite.  Voting ends at MIDNIGHT EST TIME THURSDAY NIGHT.

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Miss-Iowa---Aly-Olson

To learn more about Miss Iowa Aly Olson, follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  You can also learn more about the Miss Iowa Pageant via their website.

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To learn more about Miss Nebraska Megan Swanson, follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  You can also learn more about the Miss Nebraska Pageant via their website.