Each of us possess so many unique characteristics and traits. In different situations, certain qualities tend to come to the forefront while others take a backseat. Since I passed the six-month mark of my year (almost at the seventh!), I’ve been reflecting on what qualities I feel are most important to carry out the title of Miss Wisconsin. While the list could go on and on, I’ve narrowed it down to the six qualities (one for each month I’ve been Miss Wis) I feel are most fundamental to the job. I’ve also collected lists created by the past 10 Miss Wisconsin’s, Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss and our current Miss America 2018, Cara Mund. I’ll be sharing one list every day on Facebook and Instagram so make sure you’re following my Miss Wisconsin accounts. We each created our lists independently, but I find the overlap really interesting. Enjoy!
Selflessness. I cannot emphasize the importance of this one enough. This job is not actually about Miss Wisconsin at all. Yes, there are times it’s glamorous and we are so fortunate to have so many amazing sponsors who make sure Miss Wisconsin looks and feels amazing every day. But the reality of this title is much more humbling. Being Miss Wisconsin is about making every single person you meet feel like the most important person in the world. Whether it’s a student at a title nine elementary school, a veteran in a nursing home, a legislator in the capitol or a child in a children’s hospital, my goal has always been to give every person I meet my undivided attention, to truly try to place myself in their shoes and learn as much of their story as possible. It’s very easy to google search Miss Wisconsin and learn about her background, so I try not to spend time talking about myself, unless someone asks of course. Rather, I believe Miss Wisconsin is a collection of all of the people she meets and interacts with throughout the course of her year. I feel so fortunate to carry with me the stories, wishes and dreams of individuals I have met along the way.
Independence. The majority of the physical part of this job is done alone, namely driving in the Miss Wisconsin car to events and appearances across the state. With no travel companion, Miss Wisconsin has to be an extremely independent, self-sufficient individual who is able to make decisions on the go. Of course, there are family, friends and volunteers to rely on for support, but when you’re on the road practically living out of your car (which is totally fun and worth it for a year, don’t get me wrong), you’re on your own and responsible for making decisions about timing, safety, making tough calls in sticky situations and much more. Independence is also about knowing who you are, what you believe in and not being afraid to try new things. It means being willing to meet new people and experience new experiences, all things you will do every day as Miss Wisconsin.
Understanding. This one is important to me as it directly relates to my platform, Table Talk: Promoting Civil Discourse. I believe understanding and empathy go hand in hand. Being able to empathize with people is one of the most basic forms of humanistic compassion, and much of empathizing comes from really listening to what people have to say. I was amazed at how much I was able to learn simply by really opening my ears and my heart to what people were telling me. Being Miss Wisconsin is about just that: not only setting an example, but learning from others. This title puts you in a unique position. Often times, people will confide in you, share personal stories and voice their thoughts with you. The massive amount of responsibility I felt when I set out on my first few weeks of appearances and had these conversations was almost overwhelming, but so incredibly humbling. As Miss Wisconsin, you are given the opportunity to be a leader, to spread kindness and promote a culture of understanding.
Adaptability. This one was a quality I had learned through ‘show business’ as a dancer and have called on many times as Miss Wisconsin. Occasionally, I have been asked to perform at events where I’m not scheduled to perform and that’s when my closet of a car comes in handy. I usually have a sparkly costume I can pull out on command (perks of having a mom who loves to rhinestone)! Sometimes events don’t necessarily follow the schedule you’re given, or circumstances change, or changes in leadership take place, and that’s where adaptability comes into play. Miss Wisconsin has to be ‘on her toes’, ready to adapt to any type of situation, prepared for everything.
Humility. This one goes a long way during your year as Miss Wisconsin. While it’s importance is without question, humility in leadership is undervalued. It is impossible to be an effective leader without a sense of humility. Remove it from the equation and there is no room for growth…and this job is all about growth! My advice is to focus on filling up people’s lives with happiness, admit your imperfections (it makes you human) and accept ambiguity (we can’t control everything).
Pure of Heart. Last, but certainly not least. This title will test you, push you, mold you, shape you, challenge you and open your eyes to the realities people live in more than you know. The truly well intentioned and pure of heart will find much more fulfillment in this job than those who simply desire ‘the crown.’ Real, genuine compassion for others goes a long way in this position. Compassion for everyone you meet, regardless of who they are, where they come from or where they’re going. As I’ve personally learned this year, everyone you meet is walking his or her own difficult path, most of the time in secret. However, “a kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” Be authentic, speak sincerely, listen thoughtfully and act compassionately. This will make your year as Miss Wisconsin a year that will truly change you.
So, this is my advice based on what I’ve learned so far. I know I will continue to learn and grow even more as I press on through the remaining months of my term. My hope is that all of the young women who will be competing for this coveted title take some time to reflect on what they’ve learned as local titleholders, what qualities they will bring to the job of Miss Wisconsin and how they will leave their own mark during their year of service.
I feel so fortunate to be guided and supported by such a loving group of Forever Miss Wisconsin’s who have each had an impact on my year. I know I can speak for them when I say this job is incredibly important to each of us for many different reasons. Here’s to learning, growing and dreaming big in 2018!
As always, thank you for reading.
Miss Wisconsin 2017