The dress fits perfectly, she's in great shape, she's practiced walking in her heels and conducting interviews, but 18-year-old Samantha Foulk is still a bundle of nerves as she begins to compete today in the Miss Kansas USA Pageant.
The Kansas University freshman from Olathe has been looking forward to this weekend for months, while also studying for school and finals.
"It's all exciting," she said. "I think I'm kind of caught up in the excitement of the first year of college and the pageant."
Sixty contestants filed Friday into the Lawrence Holidome to begin their weekend in Lawrence, where they will show judges why they should be named Miss Kansas Teen USA or Miss Kansas USA. They will be judged in three categories: evening gown and swimming suit competitions and personal interviews. Judges will narrow the field Sunday to 10 or 15 semi-finalists before selecting five finalists. Those finalists will be asked questions on stage Sunday, and the final winners will be selected and crowned.
"It's the interview that I'm the most nervous about," Foulk said. "I think the personal interview is what separates the confident from the arrogant."
Confidence, discipline and self-motivation are the keys to success in the pageant, Foulk said. She's also learned that those qualities are helpful in her academic life, especially with the temptations of college life surrounding her.
"It's been a constant motivation to remember who I am," she said. "As cheesy as that sounds, there's honestly no other way to put it."
Jennifer Fisher, co-director of Vanbros and Associates Inc. that produces the pageant, and a 1998 Miss Kansas, said the pageant is a self-improvement program.
"When you set a goal and you spend time working toward that goal and preparing for that goal, regardless of the actual outcome of the pageant - whether you win or you're second runner-up or you're in the top 15 or not - you benefit from that. You benefit from that overall preparation process."
The contestants met their roommates for the weekend and met the current Miss Kansas, Cara Gorges, and it made Foulk even more excited.
"It's just going to be overall a great experience," Foulk said. "It already has, just getting ready for it. Even if I don't win, I don't think I'd regret this at all."