Vanderhei prepares for Miss America pageant
By Kris Leonhardt
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Lincoln High School graduate, Tianna Vanderhei, is preparing to hit the stage for the 2018 Miss America competition
Tianna is the current Miss Wisconsin. She qualified by winning the Violet Wood pageant earlier this year and was crowned Miss Wisconsin 2018 in Oshkosh in June – her sixth time in the competition.
“My very first competition was my senior year of high school, in the fall of 2010,” Vanderhei recalls. “I was just eligible to compete in the Miss America organization, as a senior. I always knew I would compete in that pageant. (The) Rapids (program) has been around for a long time and to me growing up, I watched so many women compete that it was almost a rite of passage.
“I have been dancing since I was little… and I just wanted an outlet to perform. At that point in time, that was my extent and frame of reference of the program. Little did I know the longevity it would have in my life or how it would rope me in down the road, but I competed and I was third runner up in Miss Wisconsin Rapids that year.
I went on to compete in a local that winter and it was an open pageant, so there were a lot of women that held titles, that had competed before and I felt like a small fish in a very large ocean. But, the experience is something that you can’t take for granted. I reflect now, and I think about each learning opportunity. It took me four attempts to win my first local title.”
As Miss Wisconsin, Vanderhei will represent the state in the Miss America competition on Sept. 9, but preparing started with her first pageant. Participation in the event began Aug. 28, as she headed to Atlantic City.
Vanderhei flew into Philadelphia, where a security met her to help her with luggage.
“Some girls, I’ve heard had upwards of eight suitcases,” she said. “I have three… I have one that is just competition wardrobe. We are supposed to label that all with our state initials and that goes straight to Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. Then, I have two for the hotel, and my carry on – which had my crown, sash, and parade outfit in it that I’ve worked hours on – crystaling and putting together.”
The security team then shuttled the contestants to Atlantic City. The event is kept social until Aug. 30 & 31, when the production company begins filming. Private interviews begin Sept. 4.
Vanderhei’s family will join her Sept. 5, when preliminary competition begins with on-stage interviews. Evening gown competition is held Sept. 6 and talent competition is Sept. 7. The 51 ladies – from the 50 states and District of Columbia – will rehearse all day Sept. 8 and participate in the “Show Us Your Shoes” parade. Sept. 9 is the main event, with a closed dress rehearsal in full wardrobe.
Tianna will be competing for $500,000 in scholarship funds, and a place alongside other successful Wisconsin women, such as Terry Meeuwsen and Laura Kaeppeler , crowned Miss America in 1973 and 2012 respectively. As well as, first runners up: Mary Alice Fox, 1960; Joan Mary Engh, 1963; and Judy Hieke, 1974.
“You have to work hard at something,” Vanderhei said. “You might not always get it right the first time, but it’s a journey about embracing your weaknesses and learning from that, exuding your strengths, learning from people who come before you, and ultimately timing – God’s timing is everything. Things will happen when they are supposed to; you just have to have that faith and keep pushing through any obstacle that is in your way.”
Sixty family and friends will be traveling to Atlantic City to cheer Tianna on. The competition will be broadcast Sept. 9 on ABC. Follow Tianna on her Facebook page or send an encouraging message to: Miss Wisconsin – Tianna Vanderhei, Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, 2301 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, NJ, 08401
More on Tianna in the next edition of BeYOUtiful magazine.