Tag Archive | Rachel Foehlinger

ROAR

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.

11424461_1667335490165038_1732359934618830364_n

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.

22396_871139626281329_3462163964733806682_n 1424493_871830892878869_6377259748978629830_n 10641085_871746456220646_6933829812333264095_n 11169402_874429055952386_4704679366055369864_n 11350476_871113499617275_6486011756191348337_n 11377217_871139919614633_1478749432335656428_n 11402909_872023272859631_6571225368431080310_o 11406594_872562942805664_8859651553213680121_n 11407319_874429195952372_1211355176790995046_n 11536110_874428362619122_2394524877527121349_n

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’?

11425078_817246344997512_713591516705215789_n

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?

10465261_10153363761894717_2260100376109127566_o

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.

11406539_905672729478438_1216888943444887985_n

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.

11406163_10202980350468496_2149197652179894276_o

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!

18617_10202980382909307_821612036163868962_n

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)

11312670_10153363719524717_235579917640736749_o

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)

11391354_736720879806500_1334970181652682476_n

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!)

11415466_845070792225462_4715499471754087924_o

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.

enhanced-buzz-29413-1378495673-3

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.

11417774_10153363788699717_8412475752011061570_o

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!

1907543_905687206143657_8262410826092817313_n

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!

11393336_10153363788604717_7910429993041322666_o

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!

11312784_10153363756944717_1347043052005932044_o

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.

BLOWN AWAY.

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to the other young woman who wrapped up this weekend in North Platte with a state title..

11391321_706034459519932_7737170789847360990_n

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!)..

11401569_894956907227271_5136888123483408894_n

..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!!)

11337079_10204281192531938_6223047804027148537_o

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!

11401031_847419771979783_6935144355842316472_n

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..

11427246_473277716168989_1997538885131275466_n

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.

11391770_1588698231400445_2737169950825112891_n

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.

11430274_473278932835534_4847251336903548559_n

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.

CGxl43RUIAAeJ48

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!)

11130398_784217616105_8809027466563427599_o

#MNOT2015.  Trending.

***

What a terrific, empowering week of incredible women and the people who support them.

14370_10153389106457442_1405902180609126356_n  11350596_10155648181705072_5453830911084697279_n 11390214_871831592878799_7220766397161898872_n 11390269_473277769502317_7521392733432612489_n 1521734_654873567947978_8042578823242700993_n 11391113_10204532537456338_9024392395364646660_n 11391412_871831712878787_506003047851296077_n 11391535_1155331577825913_5638123017206844563_n 11406806_880200825351734_3424976498725734520_n CGx6qeBUgAArn0M

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..

11393003_871831689545456_9214018070855425117_n

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.

Blown Away

Yeah.  Blown away.  ME.

I attended the preliminary rounds of competition of the Miss Nebraska pageant last weekend.  After talking to all of the contestants over the last few months to write features for this blog, I felt like I knew some of them!  And those that I do know personally are incredible, OUTSTANDING young women.  I wanted to see all of their hard work in person!

HOLY. CRAP.

These women are just phenomenal.  Talented. Gorgeous. Intelligent. Hard working. DRIVEN.  To see all of that wrapped together in one production was kind of mind-boggling.  AND ABSOLUTELY INSPIRING.

For those of you who have been following my series on this year’s contestants, THANK YOU, and here is a recap of what happened at Miss Nebraska 2014.. both the real awards, and the Brandi Petersen Unofficial Superfan Awards.

Megan wins 2

Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson

Megan Swanson, representing Miss Douglas County, won the crown of Miss Nebraska 2014.  (Thanks to Corbey R. Dorsey/Pixel Creation Workshop for the photo!)  I LOVE this moment, because it shows jubilation, celebration and unity, and also gives a glimpse into Megan’s personality.  Megan worked so hard over the last few months, on her talent, her physical and mental self, and on her platform, Total Body Wellness.  One of my favorite things about her is that in the videos she has posted from visits to schools and kids, Megan gets on their level–they are goofy, they have fun, they LAUGH.  She’s not an untouchable figure talking to children, she’s AMONG them, talking WITH them.  Other photos and videos show abandon, a free spirit, LIFE.  You see all of that in this image.. and her connection to family, celebrating this amazing moment if only through their eyes. I can only imagine how very proud her mom, sister and rest of her family must be right now–they were her biggest supporters in the crowd and no doubt in real life.

Megan won a Preliminary Talent Award for her incredible rendition of ‘You Raise Me Up,’ and she tied for 2nd place for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award, given in honor of an awesome guy, Bobby Foehlinger.  Add it all up–Megan Swanson takes home approximately $11,000 in scholarship moneyLearn more about Megan by checking out my post about her a few weeks before the pageant took place.  You can also read the KETV article about Megan and my interview with her in her first days as Miss Nebraska.

court

The 2014 Miss Nebraska Top 5

I look at each of these women, and remember thinking while watching prelims ANY of them could win (and a few others!!!)  THAT is how strong the competition was this year. (Thanks to Field Director Darrell Drullinger and the Miss Nebraska Scholarship Organization for the picture!)

Starting from the left, Alyssa Howell finished 4th Runner Up.  Alyssa’s piano performance was one of my favorite talents–INCREDIBLY strong and commanded attention from start to finish.  I don’t think this young woman stopped smiling the entire time she was in North Platte; a lesson to all of us, no matter if you are on stage, in an interview, or talking to someone on the street, a smile and positive attitude will make you memorable.  Alyssa certainly is!

Rachel Foehlinger finished 2nd Runner Up.  WHAT A WEEKEND for this incredibly talented young woman.  Rachel’s talent, twirling a baton(s) at ridiculous speeds to Proud Mary, made me forget to breathe, and apparently everyone else, too; she won both Preliminary and Overall Talent awards.  Acrobatics, dance, three batons at once, all while smiling and energizing the crowd–IT WAS AMAZING.  Rachel also won the Overall Interview Award, and was a finalist for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award.

Megan Swanson, Miss Nebraska 2014.  I like to sing.  I’m not the best.. or even great.. but I think I have a good ear for what IS good (and I’m pretty nit-picky about it!).  MEGAN IS GOOD.  Scratch that–SHE’S GREAT.  From her first notes, Megan captured the audience.  Her talent isn’t just well practiced (which as a Christian recording artist and music major, I’m SURE she’s practiced quite a bit!), it’s a gift that’s been fine tuned into an art.  Megan told me after Miss Nebraska she wants to win awards for talent at Miss America; I truly think she can do it.

Aleah Peters finished 1st Runner Up.  My overall thoughts about Aleah: DAAAAAANG. I don’t know if Aleah left the studio or gym in the months leading up to Miss Nebraska.  She is a model of health and fitness and her stage presence was literally, jaw dropping, winning her the Overall Swimsuit Award.  Another young woman who never stopped smiling, or shining brightly, on that stage.  Just AMAZING.

Allison Tietjen finished 3rd Runner Up.  She’s only 18.  SHE IS 18 YEARS OLD.  And she knocked the socks off of everyone in the crowd at Miss Nebraska.  Allison also had an exceptional talent, playing what seemed to be a very difficult piano piece, along with musical accompaniment, which I can only imagine adds substantial difficulty–you lose your place or tempo once, you’re in trouble for the remaining performance.  I literally said, ‘WOW’, out loud when she finished during the preliminary competition.

Other Miss Nebraska Award Winners..

3 service awards

(Thanks again to Darrell Drullinger & the Miss Nebraska Organization for the photo!)

Again, starting on the left, Megan Dimmitt received several awards in North Platte, including 2nd place for the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award, the Miss America Community Service Award, the non-finalist Interview Award and the Miracle Maker Award.  Over the course of her year as Miss High Plains, Megan has raised more than $10,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals.  10-GRAND that will go straight to hospitals and the kids they care for, like Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha. Absolutely AMAZING.

Next to Megan is Mindy Schreiber, who also received several awards at Miss Nebraska.  Mindy won the Miss Nebraska Community Service Award for her work with mentoring and the Teammates Organization over the last several years, as well as the Miss America Scholar Award and Miss Congeniality.  Smart, caring and dedicated to service.  INCREDIBLE.

Lianna

(Thanks to Joe Bohac & Colour Artistry for the photo!)

Lianna Prill received the non-finalist Talent Award, and it was truly special.  Lianna played piano to music.. then SANG to music.. all in the same performance.  Again–I can’t imagine how difficult it is to play piano along with background accompaniment.. adding singing to the mix makes my head spin thinking, let alone performing!  And Lianna NAILED it, wowing the crowd with her rendition of ‘All By Myself’.  Great job from a terrific young lady!

***

NOW, the awards that don’t come with scholarship money or plaques… but the history making honor of being noted on my blog!!!

<<no applause… not even crickets.. tumbleweed rolls past me as I type this…>>

Whatevs.  Thanks for reading 🙂

THE KERRI STRUG AWARD FOR BEING BOSS

Remember Kerri Strug, and this historic Olympic moment?

kerri strug

Strug needs a 9.5 on vault to secure gold for the United States Women’s Gymnastics Team at the 1996 Atlanta Games.  She falls on her first vault, badly injuring her ankle.  She performs her second vault as literally, millions of Americans hold their breath watching, and lands it on ONE FOOT, scoring a 9.7 before crumbling to the ground in pain.  GOLD.  THAT, folks, is BOSS. (No, seriously, real word… Merriam Webster defines it as ‘great or excellent’.)

Kim

Cue Kimberly Brennan, Miss Metro.  After a wonderful night of preliminary competition Thursday, Kimberly had arguably one of the worst days of her life Friday.  During rehearsal, a baton hit her in the eye.  As if that wasn’t bruising enough (literally), Kimberly was overcome by symptoms of gallstones; she spent much of the day in the hospital, sick and in pain.  Still, Friday night at 7pm sharp, Kimberly was on the Miss Nebraska stage, smiling and competing, as if she felt PERFECT.  If you didn’t have ‘insider information’ as to what happened, you wouldn’t have had any idea.  And with that, she became a Top 10 finalist. AMAZING.  I gave her a hug after Friday’s night of competition.  She had to be exhausted, but she was still smiling.

KIMBERLY BRENNAN IS TOTALLY BOSS.  Kim, I BOW DOWN TO YOU.  You are MAGNIFICENT!

***

THE CHARLIZE THERON DROP DEAD GORGEOUS AWARD(s)

One of my favorite parts about Miss Nebraska (and pageants in general…) the gowns.  OH, THE GOWNS!  So this award is named for the earth’s most gorgeous human being, Charlize Theron.  Yup.  This year, I have three favorites (photos copyright of Brown Harano Photography). 

 Megan

Megan Dimmit, Miss High Plains.. STUNNING.  Her gown was just so different than what anyone else had and reflected incredible poise and maturity.  Knowing Megan and the work she’s done, this is WAS SO fitting for her and absolutely perfect 🙂

chrissy

Chrissy Townsend, Miss Lake McConaughy.. at Miss Nebraska, as is usually the case at Miss America and Miss USA, there are so many gorgeous white and black gowns.  Chrissy, with her amazing green gown, totally stood out in a great way.  LOVED IT–loved it even more up close.  Chrissy was also named a Top 10 finalist–loved her!

Rachel

Rachel Foehlinger, Miss River City.  I DIE.  Rachel just FLOATED in this dress.. it just sparkled, and so did she.  LOVED!!

***

THE JILLIAN MICHAELS AWARD FOR BEING ABLE TO CRUSH THINGS

Jillian Michaels is arguably the most in-shape woman on the planet.

JILLIAN

At least, that’s what I thought.. until I saw Aleah Peters, Miss State Fair, at this year’s Miss Nebraska pageant.

aleah

(Thanks to Joe Bohac and Colour Artistry for the photo!)

I don’t have words.  Just stop what you are doing and stare at this photo for a few minutes.

…..

I am still IN COMPLETE AWE.  Aleah literally made people in the audience gasp (in a good way!!) She showed everyone there and everyone watching from afar that this part of the competition isn’t about being the skinniest or starving yourself.  It’s about dedication to becoming the best physical form of yourself you can possibly be through nutrition and fitness.

HOLY. CRAP.

Aleah, there is a special prize for winning this award on my blog.  You have to follow me around for the next few months and motivate ME to get into this kind of condition.  Or come to the Newsplex with me, and every time I head for the Reeses in the vending machine, just say ‘Brandi…’ and pose like this.

***

THE AWARD FOR WHO I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP

Pay no attention to the fact I am 15 years older than this young woman.  Whatevs.

Miss Omaha Payton Merritt, also a Top 10 finalist, made me smile every time she walked out on stage.  She’s STUNNING, she sings with soul, she’s the whole package.  Arguably, her shining moment (and a shining moment for the entire program) came during the onstage question portion of competition during Friday night’s preliminaries.  You’ve probably heard the horror stories, the ‘world peace’ and ‘the Iraq’ moments, that make all of us who volunteer in these programs CRINGE because it is such a poor representation of a group of truly brilliant, young women.  So this moment, answering questions from Miss Nebraska 2013 JaCee Pilkington, was FRIGGIN AWESOME.

payton 2

(Thanks to the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County/Miss River City pageant for the photo!)

Payton didn’t get any ‘softball’ questions; she was asked how she promotes awareness of eating disorders when part of the Miss Nebraska competition is to walk around in a bikini.  She answered, very articulately and without pause, that we all need to find a balance between healthy living and self image.  Her second question was whether the NBA was right to fire Donald Sterling over racist comments made in private.  Again, without hesitation, Payton competently and confidently answered that Sterling had a history of similar statements and that his behavior was not the representation the NBA wanted or needed, so yes, they were within their rights to dismiss him.

Whether you agree with Payton or not in her responses, she answered each question with confidence, poise, reasoning behind her responses and a display that she was not only aware of current issues, but goes beyond to learn more before forming a basis for her opinions.  IT WAS AWESOME.  I wish video of THIS would go viral because THIS WOMAN is a true representation of the intelligence and confidence within these young women.  WAY TO GO, PAYTON!!!

***

This is officially the longest blog post ever.. I leave you with one final award.

THE CAT DEELEY SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE FUTURE CONTESTANT AWARD

I. LOVE. So You Think You Can Dance.  I even blogged about my favorite moments.

Judge me.  Whatevs.

Another young woman was also crowned in North Platte last weekend..

morgan

Morgan Holen is the new Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen! (Thanks to the organization for the photo!)

I didn’t get to see the teen pageant this year, but I am BEYOND THRILLED for this incredible young lady.  From the first time I saw her dance and every time since, she is absolutely CAPTIVATING while she performs.  She lets the music flow through her, and the emotions and stories she shares and tells through her dancing are truly phenomenal.  Morgan is also a hard working, beautiful, kind young woman (and has an INCREDIBLE family behind her every step of the way!!)

Morgan, I am so very proud of you and excited to follow your big year!  And yes, I am counting down the days until you try out for So You Think You Can Dance.

***

To all of you who have been following this series on Miss Nebraska, THANK YOU.  I have thoroughly enjoyed learning and writing about each of these young women, and I flatter myself to hope more people learned about this program and the incredible young ladies who participate.  These are all exceptional people who are making our world a better place.  TO YOU, LADIES, THANK YOU. You make me want to be a better woman, the best version of myself I can possibly be.

Best of luck to you no matter what path you take.  Crown or no crown, you are ALL making our state more beautiful.

River Deep, Mountain High

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….

I competed in the Miss Nebraska pageant.  Many moons and many pounds ago.

I loved performing on stage and speaking about issues and causes I believe in.  I will also never forget the amazing show of support I had from my family, friends and even strangers throughout the two years I competed.

Before Miss Nebraska 2002, a sweet little girl approached me with a neon green poster she had created just for me–it warmed my heart, especially considering her older sister was competing, too.  That little girl’s name was Rachel.

 This year, SHE is competing for the title of Miss Nebraska 2014.

Screen shot 2014-03-14 at 8.23.11 PM

Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger

Rachel has been part of the Miss Nebraska family for more than a decade.  Both of her older sisters, Tina and Tami Foehlinger, competed in the Miss Nebraska pageant in 2001 and 2002 respectively, and Tina went on to represent Nebraska in the Miss America pageant, named as a Top-20 semi-finalist.  Rachel was just 9 at the time.

“There are no words for the impact this had on me,” Rachel told me in a recent interview.  “Not only was I in awe of what she had accomplished, along with all of the other contestants, I was in love with the organization and everything it stood for.  I looked at those young women on the stage and said to myself I want to be just like them when I get older.”

10287833_10202014022215031_1279926146_o

 Rachel went on to become Miss Nebraska’s Outstanding Teen in 2008.  Her journey continues now as Miss River City, representing the Omaha metro area along with her ‘pageant sisters’ Miss Omaha Payton Merritt and Miss Douglas County Megan Swanson.  Her history with the Miss America organization has made her a passionate advocate for the system and the women who participate in it.

“Never before has there been such a need for genuinely positive role models, which is exactly how I would describe the women I have met through the Miss America Organization,” said Rachel.  “I have already grown so much just by competing that I will be forever thankful to have been involved with this organization, whether I walk away with the crown or not.”

PASSIONATE, STRONG, FUN!

Rachel is no stranger to pressure or to the spotlight.  She is a world champion baton twirler with Sue’s Stepperettes in Ralston, which is owned by her mother, Sue Foehlinger.  Rachel has not only competed and performed since she was old enough to hold a baton, she has watched generations of twirlers train at her family’s studio and around the world.  KETV showcased Sue’s Stepperettes when they celebrated 40 years in May of 2013.  Two other Miss Nebraska contestants, Miss Metro Kim Brennan and Miss State Fair Aleah Peters, are also Stepperettes.

That legacy has earned the Stepperettes notoriety and respect around the world, even drawing local sports guys in to try and learn the art of the baton.  Rachel was on TV again in July of 2011, trying to teach KETV’s Andy Kendeigh how to twirl.. without hurting himself or others 🙂

Rachel made a name for herself several years ago, named as the Featured Twirler for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  She performed every Saturday during football season in front of 80,000 plus football fans, the fourth Foehlinger sibling to twirl for the University of Nebraska.  Omaha World Herald columnist Mike Kelly chronicled their run before Rachel’s last home game in November.

562332_10200594943978962_1924409341_n   1185763_10200608973809699_167566500_n

“I have spent my entire life dedicating myself to the sport that has given me the drive to succeed individually as well as part of a team,” said Rachel.  “I feel blessed beyond belief to be able to share my talent on the Miss Nebraska stage!”

As Miss River City, Rachel is also sharing a personal message, spreading awareness of skin cancer.  Both Rachel’s uncle and cousin died from melanoma.

“Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States.  At the current rate, one person dies from melanoma every hour,” said Rachel.  “I spend every day thinking of ways to get the word out it CAN happen to anyone.”

DSC04943

Rachel says she’s involved in several efforts to raise awareness, including a recently launched campaign called #TheBedIsDead, encouraging people to avoid tanning beds.

(Check out KETV’s stories about why both cancer survivors and doctors fully support the campaignand the impact it’s having on students.)

Rachel is also a student liaison for the Nebraska Skin Cancer Prevention Act, recently passed by the Nebraska Legislature requiring anyone under the age of 16 have parental permission before using a tanning bed.

“My part in both of these campaigns is to spread awareness to youth, high school students and colleges,” said Rachel.  “So many of us have an ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude.  This is a dangerous attitude, because once you get melanoma, you can never turn back.”

DSC04467

It’s truly amazing how life comes full circle.  That 12 years after a sweet little brunette presented me with a poster she made, wishing me luck at Miss Nebraska, I would be BLOGGING about her journey for the same title.  That ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ played when Tina Foehlinger competed for and won Miss Nebraska, and Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger will be competing for the same title in June.

Fate? Who knows.  A dream? Absolutely.  Rachel’s ready to bring the crown back home.. and maybe her own poster made by another sweet, little girl.

IMG_9844

Connect with Miss River City Rachel Foehlinger

on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on the Miss River City website.

Click here for more information on the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County/Miss River City Pageant on Facebook

Click here to follow the Miss Omaha/Miss Douglas County/Miss River City Pageant on Twitter.

***

The Miss Nebraska pageant takes place June 5-7 in North Platte, Nebraska.  For more information, visit the Miss Nebraska website.

***

PREVIOUS POST.. Miss Douglas County Megan Swanson

NEXT POST….  Miss State Fair Aleah Peters!