When one thinks of pageants, most refer to the comedic “Miss Congeniality” films where hairspray is used on more than your hair and layers of tulle and chiffon make for colorful competition.
Although Sandra Bullock competes in a somewhat realistic pageant, seniors McKensie Garber and Lacey Russ know the life of a pageant contestant takes more than glitz and glamour.
Garber and Russ met at the Miss America Outstanding Teen Pageant in August of 2011. Garber, a Missourian, was competing and Oklahoma-native Russ was set to pass on her title of Miss America’s Outstanding Teen.
Although Garber did not place, she found a three-letter common bond with the former winner – ORU.
Now, after four years of friendship and a break from pageants, Russ and Garber are preparing for their state titles once more.
“Ironically, within two days of each other, we both won local titles and are going to be competing in our respective state pageants,” Russ said. “It just sort of happened overnight. We are both really excited for it, and we both hope to win our state titles.”
Both Russ and Garber got involved in pageants when they were teenagers competing in their state competitions. The best friends had very similar pageant experiences, each finally winning their state’s teen pageant titles in back-to-back years on the fourth try.
“I had kept in touch with Lacey about the whole person scholarship,” said Garber. “It seems seriously stereotypical for us to be best friends because we were both involved in pageants and that’s how we met, but our relationship doesn’t have a lot to do with pageantry. It’s more about how we get along really well, and we enjoy being around each other. We balance each other really well.”
“I wouldn’t be the person I am without the Miss America Organization and the program, and everything it has done in my life,” Garber said. “It has bled out into all areas of my life and made me the confident, well-rounded individual that I am today.”
Now Russ and Garber both plan to graduate and win their state titles. Russ will go on to achieve her MBA. Garber hopes to go into writing and entertainment with the hopes of being an author, screenwriter and actress. They are each reminded of the impact pageants had on their lives.
After winning Miss Oklahoma and Miss Missouri, Russ and Garber hope to share a stage together at the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City. Whatever happens, they both said they will always carry lessons learned from the Miss America Organization and their education at ORU.
“As a little girl, I thought the idea of a pageant just sounded fun. Looking back now, I believe that was a God-given passion,” said Russ. “Pageants aren’t for everyone, but for me they click. Something in me was just made for it. He [God] really is faithful to complete what he starts in you.”