The 12 women competing in the Miss KU-Lawrence Scholarship Pageant this Saturday will represent a great diversity of beauty and talent, but the contestants all have one thing in common.
"Everyone wants to be Miss America," said Jennifer Hollister, a Kansas University freshman from Netawaka, who is competing in the local pageant.
During a rehearsal held Sunday for the pageant, Hollister and other contestants talked about the experience of striving for the Miss America crown.
In the Miss America Pageant system, winners of local competitions go on to state competition, and the winners of state competitions advance to the Miss America Pageant, which is held in September in Atlantic City.
WOMEN MAY enter the local and state pageants as many as 10 times but may enter the national pageant only once. Prize money must be used for college expenses, and all of this year's Miss KU-Lawrence contestants attend KU. In the past, local high school students planning to attend college have competed as well.
Contestant Lori Minnix, Norman, Okla., who competed in the Miss Kansas pageant last June as Miss Blue River Valley, said, "I don't prepare for Miss KU; I prepare for Miss America.
"The judges want to see how you're going to handle yourself in certain situations because they're trying to prepare you for Miss America. If Miss Kansas wins Miss America, how is she going to act on `Good Morning, America' the next day?"
THE JUDGING is weighted in the following manner talent (as demonstrated through such performances as singing or playing an instrument), 40 percent; a seven-minute private interview with judges, 30 percent; evening gown segment with on-stage interview, 15 percent; and the physical fitness-swimsuit segment, 15 percent.
Rebecca Mikolaj, the reigning Miss Topeka and a contestant in the KU pageant, said the swimsuit segment caused a brief rift between her parents and herself when she entered a local pageant in 1984 while in high school.
"My father said, `No, daughter of mine is getting in a swimsuit on stage," Mikolaj explained.
However, after Mikolaj won a $500 scholarship in that competition, "My parents miraculously changed their minds and said, `If you can pay for your school tuition, that'll be fine,'" Mikolaj said.
SHE SAID she doesn't view the physical fitness-swimsuit part of the contest as demeaning.
"What they're looking for is a well-rounded woman, and being physically fit is part of living a better life and having a higher quality life," Mikolaj said.
Minnix agreed, saying, "I don't think it's too much to ask a woman to be physically fit and to care about her appearance."
Besides, Minnix said, "The heavy weight of the competition comes from your interviewing skills and your talent, which shows a lot about how dedicated you are to whatever it is you're doing, whether you're playing the piano or studying for master's exams."
The Miss KU-Lawrence Scholarship Pageant will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Lawrence High School auditorium, 1901 La. A pre-show will start at 7 p.m.
Tickets are available at the door, from all pageant contestants and at The Dance Gallery, 2500 W. 31st.