Personal branding is the first step to creating a seamless and consistent foundation upon which to share one’s story and mission with judges. “Branding, for an individual, is the way you want to be identified and how you would like to be perceived,” said Allison Kreiger Walsh of McKenna Walsh Coaching and Professional Management, Miss Florida 2006. “It is what makes you stand out from the rest and celebrates the uniqueness within each of us.”
Once you figure out the common thread you’d like to weave throughout your competition, Allison recommends going public. Create a website or blog on which you could share your story, your beliefs, and your platform. Also, make it known to media sources that you are available for interviews. “It will immediately add credibility to your brand,” Allison said. “If people see you as the expert, they will look to you as an important source of information, whether it be for your personal brand or in business.”
Narrow Your Areas of Interest
In their effort to be well-rounded, many young women today have a hard time narrowing down their areas of interest. While it is important to be relatable on many levels as a Miss America contestant, Allison warns against hindering personal development by having too many irons in the fire: “I always say you don't want to be a Jack of all trades and a master at none.” Instead, dig deep to find who you really are, and refine that to achieve consistency. “Your brand can make all the sense in the world to you,” she said, “but if you are not projecting it properly, it will get lost.”
Live Your Brand
Jennifer McKenna, Allison’s partner at McKenna Walsh Coaching and Miss Virginia 2002, says it is because she incorporates her brand into every aspects of life, from pageantry to family to business, that she is more recognizable. It could also help an individual stay focused on who and what she truly is. “It allows you to develop a strong sense of self so that you can clearly and articulately describe not only who you are, but also portray that same message through your actions and affiliations,” Jennifer said.
Focusing on your brand will not limit your potential, but help to advance your opportunities, Allison said. “When I really focused my branding efforts in a certain area, so many doors opened. I had managed to create a strong brand for myself that was recognizable in the arena that I wanted to be involved in.”
Read more about branding and McKenna Walsh Coaching in the December/January 2012-13 issue of fourpoints!
Written by: Erika Rose is fourpoints magazine's staff writer.
fourpoints magazine is excited to announce that our February issue will have a special theme: The Men of Miss America. This edition will highlight the work and dedication of male volunteers, executive directors, dads, mentors, and friends. We've talked with several people already who have expressed their gratitude for the men that have helped them along their pageant journey.
Click here to submit Crown Watch photos for this issue!
This week, I interviewed Miss Michigan Haley Williams. Haley was named the Quality of Life Award winner during the 2014 Miss America competition week for her platform, "Through a Child’s Eyes: Conquering Childhood Grief." When she was four years old, Haley's father died, and consequently she spent much of her childhood dealing with the grief that came with her loss. Haley's story of rebuilding her life and confidence through grief management is a perfect reflection for our Men of Miss America cover story. Even though her father isn't physically with her, Haley credits this man's influence to her platform success. Her life events inspired her work with other children experiencing loss.
But Haley is also doing some inspiring of her own. While the cover story is typically a place to highlight a contestant's successes in the four points of the crown, Haley requested her article be a little different. Before our interview, she wrote in an e-mail to me, "I am so touched to be recognized by your publication, however I am requesting to use this opportunity to focus deeper on the purpose of my platform and the needed societal awareness for the cause itself rather than my own success, actions, and accolades in regards to my efforts."
I hope that readers of the February issue will be as moved by Haley as I was. In seeking to share hope with grieving families instead of highlighting her own winning qualities, Haley reveals her true selflessness.
Don't miss out on the February issue! Click here to subscribe now!
Written by: Erika Rose is fourpoints magazine's staff writer. Photo: Allen Dye
Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler recently shared the impact of her father going to prison when she was a teenager with the Osborne Association, a nonprofit organization that serves more than seven thousand currently and formerly incarcerated individuals and their families each year, to give a voice to the 2.7 million children in the United States. with a parent in prison. The Osborne Association honored Laura with the Thomas Mott Osborne Medal at this record-breaking fundraising event, which hosted seven hundred attendees. Miss America helped the organization double their audience that night.
“Children of incarcerated parents are an invisible population, and tragically there is no one agency responsible for their welfare,” stated Laura in her platform statement after her crowning as Miss Wisconsin in 2011. “During that time, I experienced emotions of isolation and anger due to the vast publicity this situation was given in my home town. Because of this experience, it has become my mission in life to help children overcome this adversity while understanding they are not alone and must never give up on themselves.”
Laura spoke at the June breakfast hosted by the Osborne Association, an 80-year-old nonprofit organization that has pioneered programs that empower individuals with current or previous involvement in the criminal justice system to lead positive, healthy, and productive lives, and to deepen connections to their families and communities. For the last thirty years, Osborne has also led a movement to address the well-being of the children and family members who are left behind after a loved one is incarcerated. Click here for more information.
Hello fourpoints readers!
Sorry I missed you last week—I’m gearing up for my own state pageant (Miss Washington) taking place July 6-7. Keep your fingers crossed!
For this week’s blog, I'd like to share a little bit more about my platform.
Joining Forces: Taking Action to Serve America’s Military Families is a national initiative started by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, and one that I fully support. My dedication to our nation’s military and their families began when I was Miss Spokane’s Outstanding Teen 2009. At a military luncheon in conjunction with our Armed Forces Torchlight Parade, I had the privilege of dining with military spouses, service members, and their children. Listening to their compelling stories of how they get through deployments and how difficult it can be for them made me realize something: no one fully understands that when these servicemen and women go to war, their families go with them. One percent of Americans may be fighting for our freedoms, but we need one hundred percent of Americans supporting them and their families back home.
I really do believe that my platform chose me. I have no personal ties to the military—no parents, siblings, or close relatives currently serving. I just have an extremely big heart for men and women in uniform and for all they have done for me. When I sat at that table with those military families, I was answering the call to give my support and provide opportunities to them that they have earned—and I expect nothing less of other citizens of this nation.
My platform is about patriotism: loving the men and women who continually fight everyday so that we can go to bed knowing that we are free and safe. By mobilizing all sectors of society to “Join Forces” and provide support to service members’ families, we can put them at ease knowing that their children, spouses, and other relatives are well taken care of back home.
Joining Forces is the reason why I compete within the Miss America Organization. I have heard it said that with my title I have a crown-shaped megaphone—this crown and this sash command attention, and when I wear them, I know people will listen. And to show that I am truly dedicated to this effort of Joining Forces, try this one on for size: I willingly put myself at the heart of the intense physical training our nation’s brilliant Army Officers receive. Three times a week, I am property of Gonzaga University’s Army ROTC Bulldog Battalion—one of the top ROTC programs in the nation. Forming up at 0550 and ending at 0700, I am pushed to my limit during each session: and I expect nothing else. Upon joining the program, I stressed to Lieutenant Colonel Gregory Jacobsen and Captain Kathryn Shaw that I did not want them to go easy on me—they were to grade me as they would the other cadets. If I didn’t pass the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), then I shouldn’t get an A. But by the end of the year, I can officially say I am Army Strong—I passed! I very much look forward to my continued participation with the battalion—Bulldogs, lead the way! HOOAH!
I could go on for hours about my platform and why I love it so much—and this is exactly the way that every contestant within this organization should feel about her own platform. Lending support to our troops and their families has not come without hardships: recently, our battalion said goodbye to one of our own, 1LT Mat Fazzari. There have been stories from veterans and military spouses that have made my heart ache and tears fall. But with each hardship, the fire only burns hotter—the need to “Join Forces” for our troops and their families is something that everyone within this nation should feel compelled to do. As a titleholder within the Miss America Organization, it is something that I vow to do, and will continually do for the rest of my life.
Photo: Cameron Glass Photography
Last week, Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler received the Courage Award from the Care Plus Foundation for her platform work in advocating for children of incarcerated parents. She received the award at the Care Plus Foundation's annual Courage Awards in Garfield, New Jersey.
The foundation, in its fourteenth year, honors and celebrates individuals, groups, and corporations that work on behalf of others who face the daily and lifelong challenges of mental illness and substance abuse. Other honorees in attendance at the event include David L. Ganz, Bergen Country Freeholder, and HOMECorp of Montclair, New Jersey.
Source and photo: MAO Photo: Laura Kaeppeler embraces Samira Chapman, a 13-year-old client of the Care Plus Foundation, after they sang "One Moment in Time" together on stage.
Alexis Wineman is heading to the Miss Montana pageant next week, and while she's there, she'll be sharing her story–one of passion, determination, and optimism. Alexis' platform, "Normal is Just a Dryer Setting–Living with Autism" stems from her own personal journey to overcome obstacles. Read on to get her take on pageants, platforms, and living life to its fullest!
"I chose "Normal is Just a Dryer Setting–Living with Autism" as my platform not just because it is a great cause to support but because I am autistic and live this lifestyle daily. I was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified) when I was in the seventh grade and when they told me I actually felt relieved. All those years when I would wonder what was wrong with me and to finally have the answer was great. But even when I knew what it was I still felt ashamed that I wasn’t like everyone else and I was often picked on because of it. But during the last couple of years I learned that I don’t have to be embarrassed over something that’s a part of who I am. I am a high school graduate who is on her way to college and I refuse to let autism get in my way. I realize that I will have quite a few challenges in my future, but thanks to the support of my family and friends, I learned that it’s not the challenge that defines you, it’s how you overcome it.
"This is my first time participating in the MAO system. When I was a junior in high school I competed and won the local Distinguished Young Woman scholarship and went on to compete at the state program. Although I did not place there, the confidence I gained allowed me to think about stepping further out of my comfort range in the future. I am super excited to be in the Miss Montana scholarship program and every experience I have only provides me with a greater sense of confidence.
"If crowned Miss Montana I plan on spreading the word about autism awareness by visiting schools and families all across the state. I want to tell kids that living on the spectrum does not have to hold them back or get in their way. I’d show them that normality is a myth that they don’t need to strive for. I feel I would also be able to speak with the families of these children and discuss the daily issues and challenges they face. The crown would provide me a “platform” to get people’s attention, but my life experience would provide the credibility behind the message. Autism Spectrum Disorders are only disabling if you let them be, but with a little confidence it becomes an adventure. Even if a giant leap forward requires two steps backward, you still need to be wiling to take the first jump."
Source and photo: Alexis Wineman
Crowned February 25, 2012, Miss Los Angeles County Outstanding Teen 2012, Danamarie McNicholl-Carter, besides being an honor student, a golfer and a triple jump competitor for the Academy of Our Lady of Peace she has been extremely busy working on her platform. McNicholl-Carter has spent the last few years raising money and awareness for the San Diego Adaptive Sports Foundation.
SDASF is an organization that improves the quality of life for children, adults and wounded veterans with physical disabilities through recreation and sports. Volunteering as a wheelchair sports camp counselor she says, this experience changed her life. She helped transfer the little athletes from their wheelchairs into sailboats, and kayaks and different athletic chairs needed for participation in sports such as basketball, volleyball, rugby, tennis and soccer.
“I absolutely loved getting to know the young athletes, and seeing them over come obstacles while enjoying every minute of their amazing camp experience,” Danamarie says.
This organization is not only of importance to Danamarie for its obvious charitable reasons, but for a more personal reason as well. As a child, Danamarie was born with hip dysplasia and very well could have grown up to need a wheelchair herself if her ball and socket joint had not healed correctly. Her work with these children who have overcome so many obstacles has lead her to live her life by Winston Churchill’s words, “The pessimist sees the difficulties in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
She is excited to say through her efforts she sent fifteen children to wheelchair sports camp this past summer on Mission Bay in San Diego. An estimated 6.1 million people in America use a wheel chair. Her plan is to continue to reach out to those people and encourage them to take advantage of these wonderful adaptive sports programs. This is the only camp of its kind in California. Danamarie says her goal is to “continue to use my title to increase donations and to increase more sports camp locations for disabled children, adults and veterans across the United States.”
McNicholl-Carter caught the judge’s attention last summer when she placed fourth-runner up in the 2011 Miss California Outstanding Teen Pageant, she plans to run again this June to give the State crown another shot.
Source and photo: Danamarie McNicholl-Carter
As a judge, Valerie Hayes has heard contestants make some really bad gaffes during their interview. The worst interview answer she ever heard was given by a stunningly beautiful and talented contestant who impressed the judges with her winning look as soon as she entered the room. However, when asked what made the Miss America Organization special, she said it was the fact that it was owned by Donald Trump and that the winner got to go on to compete in Miss Universe.
Winning the crown is more than beauty and talent alone. You have to develop your content and demonstrate that you're an intelligent woman who can represent the title, Valerie says. Contrary to popular belief, no one votes for an airhead.
Without question, the biggest mistake contestants make while preparing for their interview is under-developing their personal platform. What makes the Miss America Organization a leader is its commitment to community service. As the local, state, and national titleholder, you will be making appearances promoting and marketing your platform, but many contestants spend more time selecting their competition wardrobe than they do strategically planning and developing their platform. You won't be able to get appearances, discuss your marketing plan in the interview room, or compete at the state or national level if you don't correctly develop your platform for your local competition.
You need to sit down at the beginning of your pageant season and really plan out and fully develop your platform. Make sure you have a platform that is unique to you and helps you stand out as a contestant. Don't follow trends when selecting and developing your platform. After all, Miss America is about community leadership, not community, "followship." Really think through how you can make a difference through your platform and what type of appearances people will actually book you for. "Education and awareness" on your topic just isn't enough. Everyone is doing that, so why would you want to do that, too?
Source: Valerie Hayes
DeAnna Jerge, Miss San Miguel County New Mexico, assisted Keep New Mexico Clean & Beautiful with its statewide kick off of “Green Starts Here" on March 8 in Ruidoso, New Mexico. DeAnna’s Platform, “Keep America Beautiful,” and recycling initiatives have gained her recognition on both the state and national level.
DeAnna was crowned on December 3, 2011 after years of service and participation in the Miss America Organization. The previous Miss Roswell (crowned January 29, 2011) placed in the Top 10 in the Miss New Mexico Pageant in June 2011. She has received President Obama’s award for outstanding community service for founding the “Teens Go Green” recycling program in 2010. She met with New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and area legislators to talk about renewable energy and resources. DeAnna recently finished writing a children’s book entitled “EuroDog Saves the Planet” and hands out seed packets to encourage planting among young people. She prides herself on beautification (i.e. recycling). She wants to give the slogan “natural beauty” a whole new meaning to include our natural surroundings.
Throughout the months of March, April, and May, an anticipated twelve hundred Keep America Beautiful affiliates and participating organizations will bring together an estimated 3.8 million volunteers to produce more vibrant, beautiful, cleaner, and safer towns and cities. DeAnna is proud that her platform of environmental stewardship is getting the recognition it so richly deserves.
“Service to the community is the ultimate demonstration that you love where you live,” said Matthew McKenna, president and CEO of Keep America Beautiful. “Participating in the Great American Cleanup can become a foundation for uniting friends, family, neighbors and communities in activities that don’t just make your community aesthetically pleasing, but also make it more effective at overcoming challenges.”
DeAnna, 18, will continue on her path of environmental service while she competes in future Miss America pageants. She is looking forward to the Mis New Mexico Pageant this June. DeAnna is studying public relations and elementary education.
Source and photo: Laurie Jerge
Miss America Laura Kaeppeler is on the road speaking to centers and organizations about her platform–Circles of Support, Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents. Most recently, she attended a YMCA Safe Place Services fundraiser at Mellwood Art and Entertainment Center in Louisville, Kentucky.
Laura spoke to more than 500 guests about her experiences as a teenager with a parent in prison.
"I know what it's like to be one of those children, I know what it's like to walk down that road and in those shoes," Laura said.
But to Laura, organizations like Safe Place Services make a positive impact on children whose parents have been or are still incarcerated, and by participating in their programming, kids can break away from negative stereotypes.
Some clients of Safe Place Services were present to hear Laura speak. Clayton Marshall, who is now 22-years-old, started participating in the Safe Place Services when he was 14-years-old. With a mom in and out of prison for drug charges, he said his involvement in Safe Place helped improve his outlook on life.
Laura spoke March 19 and 20 at Safe Place Services centers, and she met with the Domestic Policy Council in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to discuss her platform.
Sources: MAO, WHAS11 Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana News