In the realm of jewelry, the Miss America crown is undoubtedly one of the most coveted pieces of glitz and glamour. Since 1921, the Miss America Organization has provided over $45 million in scholarships for women seeking higher education at the undergraduate and postgraduate level.
For those unfamiliar with the system, the Miss America journey takes place long before the winter telecast. Contestants are required to win a state preliminary, typically representative of a county or city within their state, before they are invited to compete at the state level. Once a state queen is crowned, she experiences the once-in-a-lifetime chance to vie for the Miss America crown.
Kaitlyn Millner, a 21 year old graduate of University of Illinois-Chicago, is one of these contestants. Millner is a substitute Spanish teacher in a Chicago suburb and originally hails from Mundelein, Illinois. She has competed in the Miss Illinois Scholarship Association for three years, but her background in pageantry is that of a regular pageant pro. “Pageants run in my blood,” she says, “My mom competed for a local pageant when she was 18. Her love for pageants definitely influenced me when I was younger.” Besides competing in MAO, Millner’s resume includes the Lake County Community Pageants system, where she represented Mundelein at the Little, Junior, and Miss levels and received 1st runner up at both the Junior Miss Lake County Fair and Miss Lake County competitions. Most recently, she has won the Miss Northern Suburbs competition and will go on to the Miss Illinois competition for her third time this June.
But balancing her extensive success in pageantry is not always easy. “I typically use the random time in my schedule to prepare, such as in the car,” she said. Millner has found her commute to be a fantastic time to practice her vocal talent and think over pop questions, which she isn’t afraid to answer out loud. “Sounds silly, but when you’re as busy as I am, you use whatever time you have!” Millner also tries to dedicate an entire weekend to pageant prep, including a visit to her coach in southern Illinois.
When it comes to motivation, Millner is most influenced by her platform, a required component in MAO. Her cause, “Mentoring: Investing in Tomorrow’s Future Today,” focuses on the positive impact a mentor can have on children. “My life was greatly influence by a mentor, so I want to make sure other children have the same opportunities I did,” she says. Although she is passionate about all areas of competition, the tall brunette is always focused on the true meaning of her work: “The best part is that we are also able to spread the word on something that is important to us…there is only so much a young woman can do on her own, but [through MAO] I am able to make a much bigger impact on my community and state.”
Perhaps most important, Millner has made her time in pageantry and the Miss America Organization a learning experience. “MAO has made me become a more confident woman.” The many interviews she’s championed have helped her immensely in teaching interviews as she has finished her degree, and she is able to enter into any situation knowing that she is “ready to impress.” While each competition brings its own challenges and hurdles, Kaitlyn Millner looks past the coveted crown and focuses instead on keeping the poise of a queen; “Keeping a positive attitude and knowing that my time will come is the best thing to do.”
Support Kaitlyn in her efforts to continue her journey to Miss America by donating on her behalf to the Children’s Miracle Network, the official philanthropy of the Miss America Organization, at her personal fundraising page here.