Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Carolyn's Journey to Miss Missouri

If I'm being completely honest, no one was more surprised than me when one of my best friends in college turned out to be a pageant girl. Everything I knew about pageants made me hate them. I thought they degraded women; made them stand up straight, cake their face in makeup, and speak thoughts that weren't theirs. But after watching my friend compete for the crown of Miss Missouri State our freshman year, I realized I couldn't be more wrong.

Meet Carolyn (middle), a 21-year-old sweatpant wearing, Walmart cake eating, Elementary Education major at Missouri State University. Originally from Enid, Oklahoma, Carolyn came to Missouri State to pursue her undergraduate degree 
and twirl with the Pride Marching Band. Pageantry was the furthest thing from her mind. 

Since winning the Miss Missouri State pageant her freshman year and Miss Midland Empire last January, she now holds the title of Miss Pony Express since September. She has competed in countless other pageants, and is advancing to compete for the Miss Missouri crown in June. We are so excited for her, and are so thankful she was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule as a full-time student, feature twirler, and pageant girl to let us get to know her a little better.

Carolyn 101
Name: Carolyn Nicole Koepping
Age: 21
College: Missouri State University
Major: Elementary Education
Extra Curricular's/Hobbies: Baton Twirling, Baking, and Bowling
Volunteer Projects: hosting fundraisers for the Children's Miracle Network and the "Dream to Achieve" event in support of her platform
Charities She Supports: Children's Miracle Network, Boys and Girls Club of America

Our Interview with Carolyn

What inspired you to participate in pageantry? 
"Well, twirling is actually my main passion, and twirling leads itself into pageantry. So many twirlers who take private lessons are often involved in the pageant world, but ultimately, the Miss America organization is unique in that it allows women to showcase their talents. Originally, pageants were another outlet for me to twirl, but since then has allowed me to grow in so many other ways that I decided to continue."

How long have you done pageantry, and when did you decide to pursue it seriously? 
"I participated in my first pageant when I was 15. That was the Miss Oklahoma Outstanding Teen pageant, but I really started pursuing it seriously after I won the Miss Missouri State pageant my freshman year of college."

What types of lessons and training do you go through to prepare for pageants? 
"Oh goodness. Obviously talent practice is a huge part of it and I take twirling lessons outside of my individual practice. I also spend countless hours at the gym and working with nutritionists on how to live a healthy lifestyle when preparing for the infamous swimsuit competitions. But what you see as a pageant audience member is not what goes on in a pageant. The most important training for me personally is the private interview, which is where you go into a room with no other competitors, and you get ten minutes of questions. The judges can ask you whatever they want, so a lot of pageant prep time is mock interviews, working on speaking better, and creating answers where I can truly get my passions and beliefs across effectively."

When you win a beauty pageant, what do you gain aside from the crown and title? 
"The Miss America organization is one of the strongest scholarship providers in the nation, so I get thousands of dollars off my college tuition for each pageant I win. I am so thankful to have a hobby that gives back to me and to the community."

What is your platform, and why are you so passionate about it? 
"My platform is entitled Dream It, Work It, Do It, and I am so excited to promote it because it's my life. When I was five years old, it was my dream to become a feature twirler. I suppose you could say I was a quite aspirational five year old! I never gave up on it. It's hard for me to see this generation who is so entitled and thinks they don't have to work for anything. The reason I want the Miss Missouri crown so passionately is so that I can visit more schools and share my passion with young children so that they learn to put forth the work and effort required to follow their dreams."

What is the relevance of beauty pageants in today's society?
"This is actually a big debate right now. So many people say it isn't relevant at all, but so many aspects are. Interviews prepare me for job interviews, talent is crucial because everyone has something unique to show, and the health aspect is so important to anyone in pursuit of living a healthy life. And the evening gown portion? What girl doesn't want to wear a pretty dress and walk around in it? Pageantry can instill a confidence in so many women that is crucial to their beauty, and that's why it's so important."

Some people firmly believe that pageantry negatively impacts young women in many ways. What is your general response to these common opinions? 
"There isn't a lot I can say to change opinions, but I would just tell them my personal experience. Pageantry has helped me grow so much in my confidence. I never saw myself modeling a swimsuit on stage! And twirling on stage requires so much more than it does on a field or in a gym. I feel like I can talk to anyone. In pageantry, you are there to be a role model and spokesperson for whatever state or organization you represent, and that's why I'm pursuing the crown for Miss Missouri."

Outside of the pageant world, what is your life like? 
"I'm a normal college kid! I go to class, I'm the feature twirler for the Pride Marching Band at Missouri State, and on my favorite days (known as "cheat days"), I am a serious Chili's enthusiast with an obsession for Walmart cake. Spending time out with friends and family is always great, but getting to be at home without my makeup on is my favorite."

What advice do you have for other girls who are interested in / currently competing in pageantry? 
"Perseverance is key. So many girls get so discouraged after not winning a few pageants, but it's so important to remember that it's five people's opinions in one day. I have to remind myself that all the time. You have to do it because you have a passion for the mission and community service, not because you want the crown and title." 

Carolyn has expressed multiple thanks to the Miss America organization for the preparation it provides her for her future career as an educator. She loves having the opportunity to enter schools, speak, and gain the resources and connections necessary to provide a stepping stone to her life as a teacher. We would also like to thank Meadows Images for allowing us to use and redistribute their publicity photos.

Want to learn more about Carolyn's journey as she competes for the Miss Missouri Crown? 
Visit her facebook page at Miss Pony Express 2016 - Carolyn Koepping. Best of luck to her and the others! 

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