Maddison Lange, who was crowned National American Miss Iowa in April, is looking forward to the national competition this November in California.
The event, which lasts a week, includes trips to Disneyland and Hollywood as well as a Thanksgiving dinner for contestants and their families.
Lange said this pageant appealed to her and her family because of the focus on character development rather than looks. For instance, this pageant does not have a swimsuit competition.
“The Miss USA and the Miss America pageants have the swimsuits, and this one is more like building confidence for girls and their skills, not showing off their looks,” Lange said. “That is a plus, because there is no way I would get up there in a swimsuit.”
Lange competed in the same pageant last year and placed in the top 10. The pageant, in Waterloo, consisted of an interview, formal wear and a personal introduction. The talent portion was optional but was tied to scholarship money. Lange did tap dance, something she has been learning since she was little.
She said the most difficult thing was getting up in front of so many people.
“There were about 81 contestants and five judges, so that is a little nerve-wracking because they are all staring at you,” she said. “But meeting all the girls was really fun.”
Her mother, Dr. Kathleen Lange, said she felt “total shock” when her daughter’s name was called.
“I think you never really think your kid is going to win, and it was pretty cool,” she said.
Lange said she has friended many of the girls from the competition on Facebook, relationships she otherwise would not have made. She has already friended many of the other states’ winners on Facebook to get to know them before the November competition.
Lange, who is going into her senior year at Centerville High School, said she has gained a lot from the pageant process.
“I know my interview skills have definitely increased,” she said. “I’ve gotten a lot more confidence on stage. I am not as nervous in front of people — that has really changed in the past year.”
At the state pageant, 10 percent of each contestant’s final score is bringing school supplies, and whoever is crowned queen gets to decide how to distribute them. In her official capacity, Lange visited Central Elementary in May to donate materials to the school she had attended as a child.
Lange does not need to have a platform for this particular pageant, she said, but when she gets the opportunity she mentions her interest in nutrition to the judges. Growing up with a mother who was a doctor and a grandmother who was a nurse, Lange said, she learned a lot about eating healthy.
“We always think about healthy stuff in our house and I try to eat as healthy as possible,” Lange said.
In April, Lange attended the Iowa Youth Institute of the World Food Prize in Ames with Susan McDanel, who teaches U.S. history and government at CHS. For her project, she studied nutrition issues in Chile and learned that the rates of obesity and diabetes have risen quickly as Chileans adopt a diet similar to Americans’ diet.
In October, Lange will take her research to the World Food Prize’s Norman E. Borlaug International Symposium in Des Moines. She said she is excited because this conference attracts leaders in food security from around the globe.
“We have so many organizations that are focusing on [nutrition] here in the United States, but not a lot are promoting it in Chile, and that’s why I wanted to focus on that,” she said.
Lange also participates in the LEAP Academy, which stands for Leadership, Empowerment, Achievement, Progress, through Indian Hills Community College. The program, which involved three high school juniors from each of the school districts in IHCC’s region, started this past year and is geared toward preparing high school students to be future leaders in their home communities.
Over the summer, the LEAP participants are supposed to plan a service project for their community, and Lange said the Centerville contingent is working on a health-related project.
“I love science,” she said. “I don’t want to be a doctor like my mom, but I want to do something in the health area. Appanoose County is the unhealthiest county in the state of Iowa, so I thought it would be a good idea to try to promote health.”