Tag Archive | tosha skinner

Cap And (Evening) Gown

We are deep into graduation season!! My dayplanner is jam-packed with party invites, cards for graduates, and gift cards. Every spare spot on my calendar is covered in scribbles with names, dates and places.  I’m really not that popular.. just have lots of awesome cousins and my husband is blessed to coach some great graduating seniors. (Go Mustangs!)

High school came easy to me.  I kept my head down, got good grades, and stayed CRAZY busy. (Emphasis on the crazy.)  College was a completely different ball game.  I flatter myself to think I’m pretty smart; doesn’t matter at that next level.  You WORK for what you want.  At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I experienced my first all-nighter (several of them) studying and completing projects.  I spent lots of quality alone time in the basement of UNL’s Pound Hall cramming for finals all day.  To this day, I still have nightmares about getting notices from university officials that there was an error and I’m short a few science credits.  In reality, the day came when I donned a cap and gown and walked across the stage, feeling TRULY accomplished and proud of what I’d achieved, a college degree.

Imagine the pride you’d feel, and that of your parents, if you were the FIRST in your family to experience all of this; that is what fuels this young woman.

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MISS CHADRON 2015 TOSHA SKINNER

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“In August, I will be the first college graduate in my family,” said Tosha, a senior Management major, minoring in Marketing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  “I could not have done [this] without the support of my parents and the Miss America System!”

I first met Tosha last year when she was competing for Miss Nebraska as Miss Sugar Valley.  (Click here to see her 2014 profile!)  She was EXTREMELY busy then, and still is today as a member of Delta Delta Delta (previously serving as Vice-President of Public Relations), President of Students for St. Jude, a family representative for Dance Marathon (raising money for Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center), and a member of Phi Beta Lambda.

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Still, Tosha made time between classes, studying, volunteering and activities to be part of our KETV Chronicle special showcasing the Miss Nebraska Class of 2014.  She was down-to-earth, conversational and well spoken. (CLICK HERE to see for yourself!)  While arguably all of those contestants and the women competing this year want to show their inner beauty, Tosha also wants to affect change on outer beauty, or at least how we all define it.

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“I am very fortunate to be able to promote my platform, ‘BEAUTY: Redefining the Ideal’, which focuses on the importance of a healthy body image,” said Tosha.  “My goal is to never have someone struggle the way I have struggled all my life.”

Reading this caught me off guard for a moment, to think there was such sadness hiding behind this gorgeous smile. Little did I know, Tosha says her battle with depression began around the same time we met last Spring, leading to the first stages of an eating disorder.

“At the time I was preparing for Miss Nebraska, which is a terrible combination,” Tosha told me recently.  “Lucky for me, my platform gave me an outlet to learn more about body image disorder and it helped with the recovery process.”

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Tosha with Miss Kearney Crane Festival 2015 Allison Tietjen and Miss Gering 2015 Kaylee Carlberg & Tosha with Allison and Miss Kearney Crane Festival’s Outstanding Teen Merrilee Prill

Tosha, a vocal supporter of the Miss America Organization, has also been active in all facets of the program, including raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network and earning her Duke of Edinburg Award by trading her crown for camping gear and a fishing pole.

“I can truly say I am a better person today because of competing in the Miss America system,” said Tosha.  “I feel that as young women especially, it is hard to find your voice, and the Miss America system has given me mine.  It gives all of us opportunities to work towards things we are passionate about and tell our stories to others.”

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Tosha on Facebook:  “These are the moments that make it all worth it. I remember being that little girl and wanting one day to be exactly like the “princesses”. I hope I can inspire at least one little girl, the way they inspired me.#misschadron #mao

Tosha’s story: role model, fighter, trail blazer.

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We all take different paths in life. Every now and then, those roads converge at places like graduation.  In just months, Tosha Skinner will stand side by side with thousands of other UNL students receiving their diplomas, but no story is quite like hers.  Similarly, when this beauty walks across the Miss Nebraska stage, she may be next to 12 other incredible young women, yet they’ll all be independent and unique.

Neither journey is easy, and in the end, neither marks the end of the road.  They call graduation ceremonies ‘commencement’ for a reason.. these moments mark the beginning of new paths, and new journeys out into the world.  Tosha Skinner is keeping her eyes open for two signs, hopefully marking her one new journey; the college graduate embarking on her new adventure as Miss Nebraska.

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Follow Miss Chadron 2015 Tosha Skinner

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

and contact her for appearances and events on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and 

on her blog: ‘BEAUTY: Redefining The Ideal’.

For more information about the Miss Chadron pageant, click here to visit their Facebook page.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Marleta Hastings at 308-432-3847 or Director Renae Noble at 308-432-5129.  You can also email misscnwdirectors@gmail.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 Nebraska State Fair 2015 Marie Allison

NEXT.. Miss Gering’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Emma Keifer

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

Home Of The Brave

Our national anthem is arguably, one of the toughest songs for an artist to perform.  So much range, pressure to make it your own without offending traditionalists, and most of the time, acapella.  Easy to veer off the rails, tough to swerve back on.

Lately, Miss America veterans have been REPRESENTING the stars and stripes.

Both Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson and Miss South Dakota 2008 Alex Hoffman (now KETV’s morning anchor) were selected as finalists to audition to sing at the College World Series.

CLICK HERE to listen to Megan, who will perform before the 7pm game on June 15.

CLICK HERE to listen to Alex, chosen as an alternate (the same night she’ll be performing the anthem at the Miss South Dakota pageant!)

And if you’re bored (GULP!) CLICK HERE to hear MY rendition before the Nebraska & Creighton baseball game back in April… if there’s an alternate game Saturday June 20th at the CWS, I get to sing, too!

The list continues.. Miss Nebraska 2011 Kayla Batt-Jacox sang in front of thousands at Werner Park this spring before the Nebraska & UNO baseball game.  Miss Omaha 2014 Payton Merritt will sing at TD Ameritrade Park this weekend during the Big East baseball tournament.  Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev sang before the Washington Nationals & Miami Marlins game on May 7th.  We’re everywhere!

And this last weekend, a huge honor for one of this year’s Miss Nebraska contestants, chosen to sing the anthem in front of thousands at her own college graduation from Creighton University.

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MISS NEBRASKA STATE FAIR 2015 MARIE ALLISON

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“Blessed to have been fortunate enough to graduate from Creighton with degrees in Philosophy and Music, summa cum laude, and to have sung the national anthem for the graduating classes of 2015,” Marie posted on Facebook.  “It is humbling to realize the massive investment of time, the support of my wonderful family and friends, and the connections with faculty and fellow scholars that I have made throughout my Creighton experience. I may not be certain of what I desire to be in my future, but I know I am well primed to realize that truth as a process that will happen. Thank you to the people who always believe in me.”

These thoughts, showing appreciation and reflection, mirror the messages Marie sent me recently regarding the Miss America program.

“I never, EVER thought I would be a girl who competed in pageants,” Marie told me recently.  “This decision changed the trajectory of my life dramatically because I learned how pageants challenge you to grow.”

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Marie’s first pageant exposure came through her love of horses; she was a rodeo queen.  She is also a passionate equestrienne, behind the training of two national caliber show horses, and a volunteer at the Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Academy.  Those roles, however, didn’t always put Marie in the spotlight.

“As I am an introvert, appearances were very challenging to me,” said Marie.  “I was pushed outside my comfort zone to become equal to the take of being a good representative of my program.”

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Marie herself had what she calls personal stigmas about pageantry, something she confronted directly when she competed for Miss Colorado last summer.

“I became involved in the Miss America program when I realized I could be impacting real change in my community and earning scholarships to fund my education,” said Marie.  “This program has made me consider what I value deeply, and the issues I feel need to be adequately addressed by our society as a whole.  I have come to profoundly respect my fellow contestants as outstanding individuals and community servants.  They are authentic leaders with humble confidence that lights up the world around them, providing examples that empower all youth and particularly young women.”

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Marie is a true example of that.  She spends time doing crafts with patients at Omaha’s Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, she’s active with Omaha’s Urban Abbey Methodist Church and Coffee Shop, and she’s a volunteer with the Stephens Center for the homeless.  Marie does all of this not because she has to, but driven by her own background.

“I chose my platform (‘Communication: Proactive Prevention’) because I would not have attended college, nor would I be the person I am today if I did not have a strong social network and people believing in me,” said Marie.  “Given my personal experience with socioeconomic stress and homelessness, and how difficult these experiences were, I now that I would not have survived or thrived without the help of the communities I was involved in.  It is my goal to help build meaningful relationships and communities to help others the same way people have helped me to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances.”

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Homeless.  To college.  To singing at her own graduation from Creighton University.

The words of the Star Spangled Banner are etched into every American’s heart and soul.

What so proudly we hailed..

Through the perilous fight..

O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Courage when things are tough.  Standing tall and persevering.  Being a beacon for those who may come after you.

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May 18, 2015, standing in front of her fellow Creighton University graduates, singing those words.  What a special moment for a young woman who has lived her own version of the Star Spangled Banner.  And the journey for Marie Allison isn’t over yet; next stop, Miss Nebraska.

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Follow Miss Nebraska State Fair Marie Allison and contact her for appearances and events on Facebook.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Chelsey Jungck at 308-382-1710 or by email at cjungck@statefair.org.

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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 Douglas County 2015 Alyssa Howell

NEXT.. Miss Chadron 2015 Tosha Skinner

To read more about the Miss Nebraska 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.

Sleepless Beauty

As a young professional, I counted down minutes until the weekend.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and did back then, too, but reporting is a stressful, non-stop business! Aaaah, the anticipation of sleeping in, lounging around doing nothing, taking naps, and then meeting up with friends at night.  My mid 20’s weekends were just LAZY.. and it was great.  The moment you have a child, that all changes.  Your weekends are still great, but being lazy is NEVER an option.  You are up when your kiddos are, you are lucky to get a bathroom break alone, and despite what feels like around-the-clock cleaning, your house often looks like a burglar ransacked the place and split.

I remember one moment in our newsroom after my first son was born and one of my in-his-20’s coworkers said “I just can’t WAIT for my weekend–I’m SOOOOO tired!”  Truly, I think my head slowly rotated on my neck exorcist-style and I said, “dude.  You don’t KNOW tired.”  I don’t envy my former self–I would NEVER trade this time with my little boys–but I kinda want to shake that pre-2011-Brandi and say ‘get off the couch!! Look how much free time you have!  Go for a run!  Volunteer!  You could have redecorated your entire house, woman!’

All of this makes me that much more impressed with young ladies like the Miss Nebraska contestant you’re about to meet.

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MISS NORTHWEST 2015 LARISSA MCKEAN

(Photo courtesy Jenn Cady Photography)

“I am a full time student and I currently have three jobs,” LaRissa told me recently. “For a woman who loves to sleep, I don’t get much of it!  I am up most mornings at 6:30 and go to bed around 2 every night.”

And LaRissa’s college major is a tough one; she’ll graduate in just weeks from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting, specializing in Public Relations.  She’s already put those studies to use, involved in the Finance Club and serving as the VP of Finance for the Theta Omega chapter of Delta Delta Delta, in addition to work on the Standards Committee, as Recruitment Chair, and as a Rock Chalk Revue Director.

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LaRissa is also extremely active in dance, both for work and pleasure.  She’s part of the pre-professional dance company Art in Motion (AIM), teaches at a dance studio in Lawrence, Kansas, and is a dance instructor for Universal Dance Association.  All of this no doubt requires talent, dedication, and TIME, by my count, practice or instruction nearly every day of LaRissa’s week.  She notes she usually travels once a month for dance competitions, including a trip to New York City to chaperone 17 high school seniors performing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

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“I have been dancing since the age of three and started competing at four,” said LaRissa.  “Performing on stage is second nature to me.  The thrill of throwing every trick you wan to showcase in 90 seconds while smiling and being a source of entertainment is amazing!  I love being able to share my passion with others and putting all my hard work into an adrenaline filled routine!”

LaRissa says the Miss Nebraska pageant was a natural step for her to take to combine everything she cared about: talent, communication and education.

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Miss Northwest 2015 LaRissa McKean with Miss Northwest’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Cherokee Purviance, and LaRissa with Miss Chadron Tosha Skinner and Miss Nebraska 2014 Megan Swanson

“I have known many contestants throughout the years and supported many at events, but I didn’t decide to compete until I saw what an impact pageants [could] have on my life,” said LaRissa.  “Every woman I’ve known in the Miss America Organization system has been driven to succeed and a huge role model to me.  Contestants have the opportunity to grow intellectually while being a leader in their community!  I love being able to impact others and make a difference in my state like the role models did when I was a little girl.”

Being Miss Northwest has also given LaRissa another opportunity to promote a cause she’s already connected to, support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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“St. Jude provides care and treatment for children at no cost to their families,” said LaRissa, who visited the hospital in March.  “They also have top researchers [working to find] cures for cancer every day!”

St. Jude is also LaRissa’s chapter sorority’s philanthropy; she’s volunteered around the KU campus raising funds for St. Jude.  Now, on a more personal level, LaRissa sends letters to friends and family asking for St. Jude donations, she encourages dance teams to write support letters to St. Jude families, and she speaks to groups about St. Jude’s mission.

“I was asked to emcee the Miss Alliance’s Outstanding Teen pageant and was able to share my platform with the audience,” said LaRissa.  “It as a pleasure to share what I have been doing and how MAO has helped me pursue my passion in saving children who are suffering from cancer or diseases.”

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Could LaRissa McKean be any busier?!? And she’s not getting a break anytime soon.  Next on her list: Jayhawk graduation, moving back to Omaha (where this proud Millard South graduate was born and raised!), and making final preparations to compete for the title of Miss Nebraska.

Robert Frost once wrote: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”  LaRissa McKean is dancing her way through this journey, and never, it seems, taking a break to rest.

“I am happy to say I do what I love and it never feels like a day of work,” said LaRissa.  “All of these jobs and commitments makes sleep at the bottom of my to-do list.”

 THAT is marathon mentality, and the finish line, the Miss Nebraska pageant, is in Miss Northwest’s sights.

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(Photo courtesy Mindy Armstrong Photography)

Follow Miss Northwest 2015 LaRissa McKean

on Facebook and on Instagram.

To contact LaRissa for appearances and events email larissamckean@gmail.com.

For more information about the Miss Northwest pageant, click here to visit their Facebook page.

For information on becoming a future contestant, contact Director Marleta Hastings at 308-432-3847 or Director Renae Noble at 308-432-5129.  You can also email misscnwdirectors@gmail.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.. **SPECIAL FEATURE** Miss Iowa 2014 Aly Olson

NEXT.. Miss Platte Valley’s Outstanding Teen 2015 Emma Kate Brown

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

A Spoonful of Sugar

For generations, Mary Poppins has been teaching kids everywhere that you can do anything with a positive attitude.  Maybe it’s just cleaning your room, like the Banks’ kids, but with a ‘spoonful of sugar’ you can accomplish it, and with a smile.

Think of today’s featured Miss Nebraska contestant like a 2014 version of Miss Poppins…

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Miss Sugar Valley, Tosha Skinner

The college junior from Hay Springs, Nebraska is trying to make life a little sweeter for people across the state, especially young women and children.  Tosha has dubbed her mission BEAUTY, representing the words Believe, Embrace, Accept, Transform, You.

“I personally have struggled with Body Image Disorder and the numerous side effects most of my life,” Tosha told me recently.  “When people realize they are not alone, it is easier to deal with.  I want to spread the word in order to not only make it known, but also to help people that are suffering from any form of Body Image Disorder.”  Tosha not only speaks at events about her platform, she has also created a blog to share her story and spread awareness.

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Tosha first got involved in the Miss Nebraska system as a Little Sister, a program partnering young girls with the Miss Nebraska contestants.  These kiddos get to dress up and escort their Big Sisters during the competition itself, perform on stage during the pageant, and form friendships with the young women who are so often role models to them.

“It gave me a chance to be up on stage, which is one of my passions,” said Tosha.  “But as I have gotten older, it has helped me grow into the woman I am today.  I attribute pageants to so much; my ability to speak in public, my strong leadership skills and my passion for service are just a few.”

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One of Tosha’s new friends she made as Miss Sugar Valley

Tosha credits the Miss America organization for helping women everywhere find their voices and passions, bettering themselves along the way.

“I love being surrounded by women who are just as passionate and dedicated as I am!” said Tosha.  “And people should care about Miss Nebraska because the women who are competing are our future leaders in our country.  Every woman competing will make a difference, whether it’s through politics, business, philanthropy or anything else they set their mind to.”

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DETERMINED, PERSISTENT, BLESSED

Anyone who thinks beauty queens just walk around waving their hands and smiling all day need only look at Tosha’s daily schedule.  The full-time student is involved in five organizations on campus (holding office in four of them), holds an internship at Talent Plus, Inc, and is paying for college by herself.  Still, she wants more; she wants the job of Miss Nebraska.

“I am ready to take on this job,” said Tosha.  “Being Miss Nebraska is about more than competing at Miss America and appearances, it’s a full-time job.  It will allow me to take the negative stigma away from body image and allow people to understand that everyone’s bodies are different.  But loving yourself inside and out is what it takes.”

And a spoonful of sugar never hurts.

ben ramos photography

Connect with Miss Sugar Valley, Tosha Skinner

on Facebook, Twitter, via her blog, and by email at tskinner_32@hotmail.com

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

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PREVIOUS POST.. Miss Kool-Aid Days Jessica Littlejohn

NEXT POST….  Miss Douglas County Megan Swanson!