Many of the 52 contestants in this year’s Miss America pageant want to cure diseases, end bullying, succeed in business or launch careers that will make them famous. But the secret wish of one is to own a pet monkey, another’s career goal is to work with penguins at a zoo exhibit, and a third wants to sit next to Anna Wintour at New York Fashion Week.
One wants to be the first lady of her state, one wants to be a backup dancer for Beyonce, one wants to be a Rockette, and still another wants to meet former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and work at one of his orphanages in the Philippines.
The first miss america contest, 1921 pic.twitter.com/inZ6Rut936
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Then there is the woman hoping to become the first openly lesbian Miss America, and a contestant who can rattle off the names of all the US presidents in chronological order in under 20 seconds.
Each contestant has an impressive background of accomplishment and ambition. With the preliminary competition set to begin September 6 and end with the September 11 nationally televised finale, a look at some lesser-known aspects of their stories.
MISS KANSAS Kendall Ellen Schoenekase
Schoenekase was the victim of a car accident involving a driver who was texting, and is a registered nurse who often treats patients injured in similar accidents. She has made it her life’s mission “to put an end to this preventable epidemic.” She advocated for the implementation of legislation for uniform penalties for texting and driving in her state.
MISS MICHIGAN Arianna Quan
Quan was born in China and came to America at age 14. She lists her defining experience as “the moment I stepped off the plane in America from Beijing and saw a blue sky for the first time in my life.” She is the first Asian-born Miss Michigan and naturalised citizen to win that state’s title. Her platform is “Being American: Immigration Citizenship Education.”
MISS MISSOURI Erin O’Flaherty
O’Flaherty, is the first openly lesbian contestant to win a state title in the Miss America pageant. Her platform is suicide prevention, an issue she says is particularly important with young gay people.
“People should understand that my year as Miss Missouri and hopefully as Miss America will not be solely about the fact that I’m gay,” she said. “While I honour the LGBT community and I am proud to be part of it, I have goals that have nothing to do with my sexuality. I encourage people to understand that this is who I am but it’s not all that I am.”
MISS CALIFORNIA Jessa Carmac
Carmac dreams of travelling the world, sampling cuisine from each corner of the globe. Her secret wish “is to have a pet monkey.”
MISS ARIZONA Katelyn Niemiec
Niemiec is known in her family as “The Cookie Monster”; her favourite way to spend the day is “baking cookies and then forcing myself to give them to people so I don’t eat them all.”
MISS ARKANSAS Savvy Janine Shields
Shields is an art major who wants to help people make better food choices. Her secret dream is to be a backup dancer for Beyonce.
MISS FLORIDA Courtney Sexton
Sexton encourages young people to volunteer to help others. She wants to work with penguins at a zoological exhibit.
MISS DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA Cierra Jackson
Jackson never missed a day of school from the first day of kindergarten through high school graduation. She worked as a communications intern in the Obama White House and hopes for a career in music.
MISS OHIO Alice Magoto
Magoto has a three-pronged goal: to become an anchor on Good Morning America, to become a world famous cake decorator, and to win the American Ninja Warrior competition.
MISS NEW MEXICO Stephanie Michelle Chavez
Chavez can name all 44 US presidents in chronological order in under 20 seconds.
MISS SOUTH DAKOTA Julia Caroline Olson
Olson says her dad told her she had “lost puppy syndrome,” always wanting to help someone in trouble. Her dream is to meet former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow and travel to the Philippines to serve at one of his orphanages.
MISS TEXAS Caroline Carothers
Carothers hopes to one day be the first lady of the Lone Star State. A baton twirler, she wants to change students’ attitudes about math by taking a more positive view of the subject.
MISS WISCONSIN Courtney Pelot
Pelot wants to promote literacy. Her secret wish is to sit next to Vogue editor Anna Wintour at New York Fashion Week.
MISS NEBRASKA Aleah Peters
Peters chose preventing cyber-bullying as her platform. Her secret wish is to be a Radio City Music Hall Rockette dancer.