Miss Ludington Area reflects on Miss America competition.

September 8, 2016
Photography by Sue Brown

Photography by Sue Brown

By Shelby Soberalski, Miss Ludington Area 2016

My junior year of college I remember flipping through the TV channels looking for something to watch while I worked on homework. I came across the Miss America 2015 pageant as it was about to begin. Not thinking much about it, I tuned in. My roommates were enamored by the beautiful gowns and how gorgeous the contestants were. I was astonished by the talent and poise that these young women possessed. I watched as Kira Kazantsev wowed the crowd with her rendition of the cup song and later on in the night took home the crown. I remember lying in bed that night in awe of what these women were able to accomplish in their lives and only being 24 years of age or younger. As I laid in bed and thought, “That will never be me.”

That was the outsider trying to look in.

Little did I know at that time that in only a year from then, my senior year of college, my life would be transformed when I won the title of Miss Ludington Area 2016. The self-proclaimed farm girl who has a knack for art and design and a passion for autism and mental health acceptance, would get on a similar stage to Kira and do the same exact thing.

Around the same time I decided that I would like to compete for Miss Ludington Area, I heard about Miss America 2016, Betty Cantrell. She popped up in my newsfeed in an article about being 4-H alumni. Just like myself. The more I read and heard about Betty, the more I liked what I saw about the Miss America Organization.

Since its inception in 1921, there have been a long line of distinguished women who have held the title of Miss America and five of them from Michigan. As times changed, so did the pageant. During the 1940s the pageant faced discontinuation because of World War II. It was at this time that Miss America was transformed into a national icon of patriotism and national pride. This new image of Miss America was connected to the war effort and winners during those years sold more war bonds than any other public figure.

During the 1940s the pageant also made its most important stride that forever changed the organization. It became a scholarship pageant. In 1945, only 76,000 women graduated from college. At that time, people didn’t pay much attention to women and what their level of education was. The Miss America Organization appealed to women as an organization that believed in women and their individual success. Sponsoring scholarships changed the pageant dramatically and with time, it has become the nation’s leading provider of educational scholarships for women.

As the decades came and went, each brought something new to the pageant. The invention of television, war, supporting troops, and feminism movement; changing views, the Miss America Pageant has stood the test of time and history.

Each Miss America contestant at the local, state and national level is distinguished by competing in an interview, onstage question, lifestyle and fitness (swimsuit), evening gown and talent; interview and talent being worth the most points.

People that don’t really know me have asked what I sing or dance to for my talent. Every person that asks seems shocked when I tell them that my talent is reading excerpts from my book that I’m writing. Every talent is unique to every contestant. Although some contestants sing or dance, a lot of girls play instruments, twirl batons, do karate, gymnastic routines, and the uniqueness goes on. The organization focuses heavily on empowering each contestant to find their confidence and be authentic.

As an insider looking out, I can reassure you that whoever wins Miss America 2017, will be nothing short of extraordinary. Previous Miss America’s have been everything from teachers to nurses and amazing advocates to AIDS, domestic violence, diabetes, and homeless veterans to name a few.

While each contestant has their own personal platform, they also honor the national platform of Children’s Miracle Network and annually have risen over $13 Million a year and contribute tens of thousands of hours of community service. Miss America is more than just a title, a fancy dress and a glamorous lifestyle. It is a movement to empower young women to achieve their dreams by providing scholarships and assistance while honoring their commitment to helping others.

With each day that passes that I get to hold the title of Miss Ludington Area, my life has been blessed in some way or another. I get to share my platform and tell people that it is ok to be a little different and that it is ok to talk about our personal problems and struggles. I get to smile and laugh with people and help make a difference in my community. Although I am not Miss America myself, I am so fortunate to be a part of such an amazing organization that empowers women to be the best they can be.

To learn more about the Miss America Organization, please visit http://missamerica.org If you are interested in becoming the next Miss Ludington Area, please visit www.missludingtonarea.org  the Miss Ludington Area Facebook page or email missludington@gmail.com  


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