Thursday, April 10, 2014

So Long, Farewell ...

Well, my year as Mrs. Kansas United States 2013 is over. I can't believe it! I had such a great time in St. Joseph with my boo Kristy Kelley, Mrs. Missouri United States 2013, and the nine Kansas contestants last weekend; it was a wonderful way to close out what has been a truly amazing year. So today, I wanted to share a quick summary of the weekend, congratulate the new titleholders and share the farewell from the 2014 program book with you. It's pretty long, so be prepared, but read on!

I arrived in St. Joseph the afternoon of Saturday, April 5 after getting a mini facial, shellac manicure and pedicure from the fabulous and talented staff at one of our newest sponsors, Luxury Nail Lounge in Overland Park. I was so pampered all morning and it was amazing!

Kristy and I greeted the contestants as they arrived, and orientation started at 2 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Riverfront before we handed out little gifts to all the contestants in each of our states. Then, all the contestants had a photo shoot, and I joined my parents (who came all we way from Texas to see me which I am so thankful for) and my husband, Alex, for dinner at one of my favorite places in St. Joseph, Bad Art Bistro.

Saturday night after dinner we rehearsed with our choreographer Celia Shea Thompson, who was actually Mrs. Kansas United States 2012 and crowned me last year, and I got to rock my custom KU jersey by Sideline Chic from Aly Klinzing! So cute! If you scroll down you can see a picture of it. Luckily there wasn't much dancing for Kristy and I to learn ... ! Anyone who knows me knows that the less dancing I have to do, the better. Seriously.

Sunday morning, Kristy and I helped setup for personal interviews before waiting with the contestants outside the ballroom (where the judging was taking place) to chat with them while they waited ... and drank lots and lots of coffee! After interviews were over, I stopped to see my parents again and then went to the Historic Missouri Theatre, where the show was going to be, to start onstage rehearsals and setup my dressing room. That's when it hit me, though; being at the theatre and seeing the 2014 sashes, crowns and awards backstage made everything suddenly so real. What was happening?!

Aly Klinzing, Miss Kansas Teen USA 2013, arrived Sunday afternoon to help with the pageant, and I was so glad to see her! If you scroll down you can see a picture of the two of us after crowning; I obviously had just cried! We finished rehearsals and then got ready for the show mid-afternoon, and Kristy and I were strangely nervous, more nervous than we'd ever been before. We still haven't exactly figured out why. But the house lights dimmed a little before 7 p.m., and we took our places on stage. Time for the pageant to begin!

After opening number, Kristy and I went out on stage and got to chat with the amazing emcee Jennifer Vannatta-Fisher (Miss Kansas 1998) about our year before the ladies came out in their swimsuits. After the swimsuit competition, the ladies came back out in their evening gowns and Kristy and I received the sweetest gift from our director, John Vannatta; framed pictures of the first run of the 2014 program books signed by all of the contestants. Such a lovely keepsake! Scroll down for a picture of the program book cover.

Following a brief intermission, Jennifer then announced the three finalists in each state, and they answered their onstage questions before taking their final walk before the judges. Our final farewells were played (which we recorded earlier in the day), and Kristy and I took our final walks onstage together. I was so emotional! I started crying and couldn't keep it together. Then, we handed out awards and crowned our successors. A truly amazing weekend that was over far too soon!

Congratulations to your Mrs. Kansas United States 2014, Kristie Bowen, who is also from Lawrence and is a huge KU fan! I wish her all the best in her year of service, and know she will represent this state wonderfully and enjoy every minute of her reign. And congratulations to your new Mrs. Missouri United States 2014, Mallory Landry, from St. Louis! Two very special ladies. Here's a word-for-word copy of my official farewell letter from the program book:


This year has been absolutely amazing! I cannot adequately express in words how truly meaningful and completely life changing it has been to serve as your Mrs. Kansas United States 2013. From the minute the crown was placed on my head last March, I have embarked on an incredible journey, and I honestly can’t believe the time has come to pass on the crown!

At the national Mrs. United States competition in Las Vegas last summer, I proudly represented Kansas as a Top 12 Finalist and made memories that will last a lifetime. It was incredible to meet so many other titleholders who were also focused on affecting the lives of others in a positive way and inspiring change. A truly unforgettable experience!

I made a number of meaningful appearances, too. From walking with the other 12 Vanbros titleholders at the Kansas City CureSearch Walk to raise money for children’s cancer research, to participating in the Models for Miracles Fashion Show benefitting Children’s Miracle Network, the past year has continued to prove to me what I already knew: how fulfilling it can be to help others.

There are so many people I need to thank for their help in making my year so amazing; it really does take a village, as they say!

To my husband Alex: My life has never been the same since we met. With your unwavering support, I have achieved more than I ever thought possible. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us, ‘cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul, I can tell you there’s no place we couldn’t go. Love you, bee.

To Mom and Dad: Your never-ending support and encouragement made me the woman I am today. The sacrifices you have made so I can succeed, not only in pageants but in life, have not gone unnoticed. I love you so very much!

To Sarah: Sispix, you always keep me laughing and are the most hilarious sister ever. I will never stop admiring your individuality and intelligence; you are the best!

To Fred and Kristie: You welcomed me with open arms back in 2007 when I first met you and had just started dating your son, and you have continued to serve as my second family to this day. Thank you for treating me like your fourth child and for standing behind Alex and I in everything we do together.

To Karla and Dana: I am grateful for the support you’ve given me in everything I’ve done since I met and married your brother (even running my first half marathon). I know how fortunate I am to have sisters-in-law like you and I’ll always proudly be your Alpha Pup!

To John and Jason: You are, simply put, the best directors ever. I cannot put into words the appreciation I have for the amount of time and energy you have both spent on making me a better wife, daughter, career woman, sister and the best Mrs. Kansas United States 2013 I could be. I will never forget this year and will never forget how much you both did to make it one of the best of my life. I love you both! 

To Janet: Momma J, you keep me on the straight and narrow! Anytime of the day that I had a question you were always quick to respond. Thank you for all your hard work, and I know you work so hard!

To Jennifer Vannatta-Fisher: For many years now I’ve heard you yell, “I’m a tiger and I’m going to whip the world!” Never before did it mean what it means now. Your positivity, warm nature and constant encouragement kept me coming back to compete. I’m proud to be part of the Vanbros family!

To Karen Elliott, Ross’ Foundation and Warriors for Ross: The loss of your grandson Ross is truly heartbreaking, and the honesty with which you share your story has changed my view on life; never again will I take my health for granted. Thank you for allowing me to be part of Ross’ Foundation and Warriors for Ross, your passion for helping others in an effort to carry on your grandson’s memory if truly inspiring and means so much to so many. 

To Kristy Kelley: I cannot imagine this year without you as my sister queen from Missouri! You are hilarious, you are honest, you are caring and you are always yourself. Thank you for making me laugh and for sharing with me stories about your lovely family. Love you, boo!

To Amanda, Janet and Lori: No one has better sister queens than I do. Though we are from all different walks of life, are all different ages and have wildly different lives, we are all united by our passion for service and self-improvement. You are all amazing ladies and I am blessed to have met and shared this experience with you!

To Aly Klinzing, Miss Kansas Teen USA 2013: This year was made so much more special because I had you as my little sister queen! You are an exceptional, motivated young woman and I have so many fond memories of our appearances together. I know you will do great things! In fact, you already have.

To Courtney Courter and Lisa Forbes: As my former coaches, you taught me to value myself and encouraged me to constantly improve. You helped me stand taller and speak more eloquently; thank you for everything!

To Kelsey Roberts: Thank you for your patience as I always demand very particular things from you, and for listening to everything I rambled off in your stylist chair for so many years!

To Emily Kuhlman: I am so glad I got to know you a little better this year, Mrs. Kansas Mommy! Your devotion to philanthropy, your two daughters and your husband have inspired me more than you will ever know.  

To Celia Shea Thompson: You left me with some pretty big (and cute) high heels to fill! You made such a positive mark on the pageant world and the Vanbros family in your year as a titleholder, and the thoughtful gifts you gave to all the contestants last year further proved that you always think of others before yourself. You are a great example of what a titleholder should be.

To Valerie Hayes: Your honesty and expertise were critical factors in my success as a contestant at every level. I truly appreciate your devotion to making me a better person.

To Rachel Saunders Imdieke: Not only do I admire you as a photographer, I admire you as a doting mother and a small business owner. You are one impressive and driven lady! Thanks for giving me some of my favorite pictures ever, and for showing me that you really can have it all.

To the rest of my amazing sponsors: There’s not enough room in this program book for me to share the deep gratitude I have for you! You went above and beyond to prepare me for the national competition. I am forever indebted to Watercolors High Fashion, Tony Bowls, Dr. Ross S. Headley, Linda Loveless and Arbonne, Allyce at Allyce King Swim, the sensational stylist Bryan Wood, the best walking and modeling coach ever Kim Forsythe, Ashley and Danielle at Sassy Chic, and Aquillia Vang, Mrs. United States 2012, of Makeup by Q. With all of you behind me I knew I was as prepared as possible when I got to Las Vegas. Go Kansas!

To Mrs. Kansas United States 2014: Congratulations! I know you will enjoy every minute of your year (and what a crazy year it will be, I’m sure) and will be amazed at how you grow and change. Never quit and never settle and I know you will do amazing things!

So, as I pass on my crown tonight, I stand before you honored and humbled. I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been afforded this past year and look forward to whatever the future brings, because I know it will be bright.

All the best,

RYK
Forever and always, your Mrs. Kansas United States 2013


This is the last blog post I will write on my Mrs. Kansas United States 2013 page; soon I will be launching a new, personal blog that I'm really excited about! Stay tuned to Twitter (my information is below) for more on that.

A special shout-out to my besties, Jess and Scott Dickson, for coming up to St. Joseph all the way from Kansas City to see me last weekend. It meant so much to me! And, to my husband Alex who was by my side the entire way (you can see a few pictures of us over the weekend below).

Anyway, that's about if for me today! Make sure to follow my personal account on Twitter @RachelKarwas for all the latest on what I'll be doing as I return to my life as an event planner, wife and diehard KU basketball fan following my reign. Now the real adventure begins!

All the best,

RYK

Loving our Sideline Chic jerseys from Aly Klinzing at rehearsals on Saturday. 

Me and my boo, Kristy, goofing around at rehearsals on Saturday! 
The marquee at the Historic Missouri Theatre on Sunday night.  
A rather teary-eyed picture of me with Aly Klinzing, Miss Kansas Teen USA 2013, after crowning.  
The best man ever, my husband Alex, with me throughout the weekend. Love ya, bee! 
The amazing 2014 program book covers, courtesy of Jason Vannatta of Vanbros.  
Me with the 2014 winner, Kristie Bowen (center). In the words of Mrs. Kansas Mommy, the 2010 winner, Emily Jean Kuhlman (far right): "Kansas represent!"

Friday, April 4, 2014

The End is Near

The end is near. The end of what? The end of my reign as your Mrs. Kansas United States 2013. And when is the end? Technically Sunday, but it starts tomorrow. Tomorrow. This post is admittedly a bit disjointed, stream-of-consiousness, so be prepared!

I write this blog with mixed emotions. It's a very bittersweet time for me. On one hand, I feel like I'm ready to crown my successor, but, on the other hand, I would be happy (as any titleholder would be) to never have to give it up!

This year has been so amazing! I can't adequately describe to you how grateful I am for all the wonderful experiences I've been afforded and how much I've changed as a sister, daughter, career woman and wife. From the boot camps over the summer with all five fabulous Vanbros teen titleholders and my lovely sister queens from Missouri, Tennessee and Texas, to nationals at the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower in Las Vegas, to all the meaningful and fun appearances I've made, I wouldn't trade this year for anything! 

I'm grateful for the support my coworkers at my alma mater, the University of Kansas, my parents, my sister, my extended family, the Karwases, my best friends Scott and Jess, and especially my husband Alex. I could not have done it without them! They've all helped make me who I am today and have kept me grounded and focused throughout the year.

And, obviously, the Vanbros team and all of my amazing sponsors provided so much support and encouragement to me; I felt like I could do anything with them behind me! For a full list of sponsors, check the side bar to the right.  

As I prepare (as best I can) to give up my title, every time I get sad or anxious, I think of the woman who will be crowned Mrs. Kansas United States 2014. And I think of all the amazing experiences she will have over the next year and how that will positively affect her family and her community and, most importantly, herself. I can only imagine how excited each and every contestant making their way to St. Joseph today and tomorrow is, and can't wait to catch up with or meet each one.  

I know I'm leaving out a ton of people in my very short thanks above, but I plan to post my official farewell letter, word-for-word from the program book, sometime this weekend. So make sure you stay tuned! 

Finally, make sure to follow me on Twitter @RealMrsKSUS and on Facebook for pictures and all the details of this weekend in St. Joseph; I'll even be posting live during the pageant from the Historic Missouri Theatre Sunday evening. You won't want to miss it! I posted a picture of some of my favorite appearances from the past year below, too.

Have a great weekend! And thanks for reading. 

All the best, 

RYK

From left to right, top to bottom: With Allyce King and Mrs. Missouri United States in St. Louis; with Miss Kansas Teen USA 2013 Aly Klinzing in Eudora; after judging the 2013 Miss Kansas, Miss Teen Kansas and Ms. Kansas United States Pageant in April; and with Mrs. Missouri United Sates in Kansas City, Kansas. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Empire State of Mind


As anyone who follows me on social media knows, I just ran the NYC Half Marathon through Manhattan this weekend and can’t even wait to tell you all about it! I started typing this yesterday, actually, as I was in the air over Pennsylvania on my way back to Kansas. What does running this race have to do with my year of service as your Mrs. Kansas United States 2013? You'll find out a little later in my post.

I entered the lottery for the NYC Half Marathon after my sisters-in law, Dana and Karla, suggested it following their finishes in the full New York Marathon last October. I’ve always been a runner, I was on the Cross Country team in high school and run six days a week at my local gym to stay healthy, but I’d never considered running such a long distance. And I think 13.1 miles is a pretty long distance! Along came December and, lo and behold, I was accepted in the lottery, officially claimed my spot and started training!

Now, obviously, it’s mid-March. Time to race! My husband and I got to New York, where both of my sisters-in-law live, the Friday before the race and I felt reasonably ready, even if the weather was looking a little chillier than I thought it would be. And, as you would expect, I was fashionably ready for the race thanks to the Barrett's Braids bar at the John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman and my new lululemon clothes! If I'm running in New York City you'd better believe I'm going to look good!

The morning of the race, Sunday, March 16, the three of us took a car from Brooklyn to Central Park South near Grand Army Plaza to warm up and get into our starting groups. A little before 8 a.m., our group was released, I was bib number 18034, and off I went!

I ran north through the middle of Central Park to Central Park North around 110th St., then back through the west side of the park until I exited near Columbus Circle on Seventh Avenue and ran south toward Times Square. It was absolutely mind-blowing to run by all those neon signs through those huge streets that were lined with spectators and typically crowded with cabs and delivery trucks! I then headed to the West Side Highway down 42nd St., and ran through Chelsea, Soho, TriBeCa and Greenwich Village on my way to Lower Manhattan. Then, I ended the race near Battery Park in the Financial District after running through the Battery Park Underpass and by the amazing new One World Trade Center, which is nearly complete.

I have to tell you, immediately after finishing the race, I was totally miserable. Like, totally miserable. I was cold, my feet hurt, I couldn’t find my husband in the huge crowd, I was starving and thirsty. But after I drank my Gatorade, ate some pretzels, found Alex and sat down on the Subway for our trip back to Brooklyn, I had a chance to reflect on the experience and felt so proud at what I’d accomplished. I ran at a good pace, never stopped, and proved to myself once again I can do anything I set my mind to!

What made this race memorable for me, exactly? Well, nearly everything! The man in a gorilla suit banging on a cowbell near 47th St. just north of Times Square. The band playing (bad) covers of Blink-182 songs near 43rd St. The ladies standing by the Giuseppe Mazzini statue in Central Park holding signs that said "It's faster to take a cab! You're crazy!" The fact that I got to run it with my sisters-in-law, my husband was there to watch me and cheer me on, and I was running through some of the most iconic (and usually busy) parts of a city that I love. Most of all, though, I committed to running, to challenging myself, and didn’t back down. So happy!

I always enjoy traveling to New York City, too; the sounds, the smells, the streets, the people. So much happening everywhere all the time. It’s truly a lovely, albeit hectic, place where I find quite a bit of inspiration and energy. Whenever I leave I really do feel different; in an empire state of mind, if you will. That’s not to say I like it better than Kansas, though; I mean, there really is no place like home, right? But it’s one of my favorite places to go.

I was excited to write this not only to share my (awesome) experience but also to encourage you to make sure you take risks, step out of your comfort zone and continually challenge yourself throughout your life, like I did in signing up for this race. Never quit and never settle! If I can survive 13.1 miles through windy, chilly Manhattan with 20,000 other runners you can compete in your first pageant, go after that dream job you want or do any of the other seemingly crazy things you’ve contemplated but have never felt ready enough to do. Go get it! Get whatever you want, right now. It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you put your mind to it and find away to get over the fear you have.

Well, that’s about it for today! Thanks for letting me share my story. And because no blog post from me would be complete without a comment on the weather, here you go: it was freezing in New York so I am very excited to be back in the Heartland where it's nearly 60 and sunny!

Finally, I have to once again congratulate my sister-in-law Dana on her (very) recent engagement! And by recent I mean Saturday, the night before the race. It’s so great to have been included in that celebration and I look forward to helping with all the wedding plans and officially welcoming Lindsay to the family (though he’s unofficially, for lack of a better term, been part of it for quite some time)!

Enjoy the rest of your March. There are only 21 days left until I crown my successor! If you're interested in applying there's still time, just visit www.mrskansasunitedstates.com or call Janet Parkes at 913-381-7121.

All the best,

RYK


At the Expo in Manhattan Saturday picking up my bib and tee. 
I survived! Trying to stay warm in my medal and space blanket after the race. 
Yum! I couldn't resist, just like Olympians do on the medal stand. 
With my newly-engaged sister-in-law, Dana, after the race on Sunday. 
Team Karwas! My husband, Alex, me, my sister-in-law Dana and my sister-in-law Karla at Henry Public Sunday night. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Models for Miracles Fashion Show

Hey there! It feels to me like it should be spring on beautiful Mt. Oread here in Lawrence, but it is still so chilly that I can't believe it will literally ever be warm again! Not sure why I start every blog with a comment on the weather, but it appears to have become a theme for me. Anyway, today I'm writing about my recent trip to Wichita for the Models for Miracles Fashion Show; it was so much fun and for such a great cause!

I arrived at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Wichita Airport Sunday morning and waited with the other 200-plus models to get checked in before our quick orientation. We heard a little about the background of the fashion show, how it supported the critical work of Children's Miracle Network Hospitals in their efforts to improve the lives of ill children and their families, and learned of our boutique and room assignments. I was lucky enough to be outfitted by BodyTrends BoutiQue out of Oklahoma City! Such great ladies and the most amazing prom and pageant dresses. Seriously. 

We rehearsed a little, then hit the stage for the first show at 1 p.m., during which I got to wear a beautiful white-and-gold beaded Terani Couture dress, and the second show at 4:30 p.m., where I unveiled a gorgeous lacy pink peplum dress (a personal favorite of mine). I also got to catch up with 2014 contestant, Mrs. Wichita Kristin Wetta, again and was proud to be part of an event that raised over $23,000 for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals! Truly amazing! Check out the pictures below to see how things went. 

There were quite a few titleholders there, it was great to see so many queens come together for a great cause! Ashten Vincent, Miss Oklahoma's Outstanding Teen, was there as was Miss Kansas' Outstanding Teen Kristen Boxman, Miss Teen Kansas United States Tobie Roberts and Mrs. Kansas All World Beauties Airin Nelson Rinehart. Local Miss Kansas titleholders Callie Hobkirk, Miss Hay Capital 2014, Krystian Fish, Miss Lyon County 2014 and Megan Keller, Miss Wichita's Outstanding Teen 2014, were also there! Simply amazing. 

A huge thank you to all the gracious and patient volunteers and to Mrs. Kansas International, Kim McDowell, for all you did to make this event an amazing success and a fun day! It was truly an honor to have been a part of something like this. I hope I can do it again next year! 

While I was in Wichita, I also had the opportunity to meet and shoot with photographer Ashley Clupny of Ashley Clupny Photography at EJF Studios and it was so much fun! It was great to meet not only Ashley but also her twin sister Amy and Eric Frank of EJF Studios, but also to spend some more time with 2014 contestant Kristin (who also did my hair for the shoot). And, I will admit, I always enjoy my time in front of the camera; photoshoots are really one of my favorite things to do. Thanks, Ashley for the opportunity! You can check out a few of my photos by going to her Facebook page or by scrolling down to the bottom of my blog post.

Earlier in February, I had the opportunity to meet another amazing and promising 2014 contestant, and ordered my gifts for all the ladies competing in April as well. So excited to see everyone, and meet the ladies I've only spoken to over the phone, in just a little over a month! I can't believe how fast this year has flown by. Incredible. And I really can't wait until the pageant, live from the Historic Missouri Theatre in quaint and welcoming St. Joseph, on April 5 and 6, 2014! I can only imagine what the next year has in store for the 2014 winner. 

Have you ever thought about competing? It's not too late! Just visit the Mrs. Kansas United States website or call Janet Parkes at the Vanbros offices at 913-381-7121 to apply for your chance at a $15,000 prize package and the opportunity of a lifetime. I promise, you won't regret it. You'll get to represent the married women of Kansas from July 20 to 25, 2014 at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas

And, to follow along with everything that's happening during my last month as your Mrs. Kansas United States, make sure to follow me on Twitter at @RealMrsKSUS and on Facebook at facebook.com/MrsKansasUS! You can also email me at mrsksus2013@gmail.com if you want me to make any appearances before I crown my successor. 

I'm heading to the Mrs. Kansas America and Mrs. Missouri America Pageants this weekend and get to see my boo Kristy Kelley, Mrs. Missouri United States, as well as fellow Lawrence lady and University of Kansas grad Elizabeth Stephens, and a few other pageant friends who will be there. So excited!  

That's about it. Have a great week! 

All the best, 

RYK

In my Terani Couture gown from BodyTrends BoutiQue

In my favorite pink and lace peplum dress onstage at the Models for Miracles Fashion Show.

With 2014 contestant and friend (and fab hairstylist), Mrs. Wichita, Kristin Wetta.

Shooting with Ashley Clupny Photography at EJF Studios in Wichita. 

One of the photos from Ashley with my crown and sash. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Heart Throbs & Heroes Fashion Show

Well, the weather is quite different then when I wrote my last entry in mid-Jaunary; it's barely above zero and there's a foot of snow on the ground! It may be February (which in my mind means the end of winter) but it is definitely still winter. Like, really. Anyway, today I am writing about the Watercolors High Fashion Heart Throbs & Heroes Fashion Show I walked in a few weeks ago that benefitted St. Luke's Health System at Harrah's North Kansas City Hotel & Casino. It was so much fun!

A few weeks before the show, I drove to Watercolors High Fashion in Kansas City to pick out my two looks. It was so hard to decide! There were hundreds of dresses to choose from, all from top brands. I decided on a fabulous MacDuggal pageant gown (my first look) and a Sherri Hill cocktail dress (my second look), and a blue light-up dress as my back up. After leaving, I was really excited for the show.

I arrived bright and early the day of the show and went to the VooDoo Lounge at Harrah's North Kansas City to get my hair and makeup done. After a few hours of hanging out and getting to know the other models, we started rehearsing. And then we rehearsed, and rehearsed ... and rehearsed! There were hundreds of models, a live DJ, the COMPANY MEN, an emcee, and models from St. Luke's (former patients), so it was critical we all knew when we were supposed to walk and with whom.

After rehearsals, the guests were allowed in the ballroom, and all the models were lined up in their first look. I donned my crown and lined up with Megan Johnson, Miss Johnson County and Alexis Rewalt, Miss Kansas United States and former Miss Kansas Teen USA. We hit the stage for our first look, changed, listened to the intermission performance by the COMPANY MEN, and then went out for our second look. Finally, it was the grand finale, after the three queens were introduced and that was a wrap! I was so happy to see my husband, Alex, cheering for me in the crowd and that I got to catch up with friends and family who came to see me. It really was a great day!

There were models of all ages in the show; from elementary-school-aged girls, to ladies like me, to young men who were professional models, to an 80-year-old former model who was lovely inside and out and her husband of 40 years. Just amazing! I am so happy we could all come together to support such a great cause. It was the least I could do to support the patients of St. Luke's Health System. Check out the pictures below to see one of my dresses (the awesome Sherri Hill dress).

I also have to say the staff at Watercolors High Fashion and the volunteers were amazing -- so patient! I can't say enough about the selection and knowledge of the staff at that store, I'm very lucky to have Shelley Wood and Watercolors High Fashion as one of my official sponsors!

Hope your February is going well and that you enjoy Valentine's Day next week!

All the best,

RYK

Backstage after changing into my second look from Sherri Hill.

With Alexis Rewalt, Miss Kansas United States, in the ballroom. 

With my husband, Alex, after the final walk. Glad he could come!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Natalie M. Foundation Fashion Show

Well, hello everyone! I write you, on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, with my windows open and the sun shining in; I can't believe it's so temperate and gorgeous outside! I could really get used to this! Today, I'll be telling you all about the day I spent working and modeling at the Natalie M. Foundation Fashion Show last weekend. Enjoy!

Last Sunday I went to the Overland Park Convention Center to work at the Vanbros table recruiting contestants (check out the picture below) and walk in the fourth-annual Natalie M. Foundation Fashion Show; it was so much fun! Over 500 models from all across Kansas City were on hand to show off the amazing designs of Tony Bowls, who was also in attendance, with three sold out shows throughout the day. I got to catch up with former Miss Kansas USA Lisa Forbes and former Miss Kansas Teen USA Aly Klinzing before walking in the final show of the night in a gorgeous gold Tony Bowls dress from Natalie M. It was great to be there -- did you know that since 2010, the Natalie M. Foundation has raised over $250,000 for education? Such an important cause and a really fun day! If you go to Design and Capture Studios website, you can view the entire gallery from the event, but I hope to have more photos soon!

Next week I'm walking in the Watercolors High Fashion Heart Throbs and Heroes Fashion Show at Harrah's North Kansas City Casino & Hotel benefitting the St. Luke's Women's Heart Center. I can't wait! Not only will there be hundreds of models wearing the latest fashions, there will also be a live performance by the COMPANY MEN -- you know you want to come! You can buy by clicking here, and for all the details visit the Watercolors High Fashion website. Hope to see you there!

Enjoy your long weekend and try to make time to honor the memory of the amazing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by serving your community, not just tomorrow on King Day but always! I try to remember what Dr. King stood for: justice, empowerment, love and peace. So important. Enjoy the rest of your January!

All the best,

RYK

Holding down the Vanbros table at the Overland Park Convention Center.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year, New Perspective

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a fabulous time celebrating the holidays with their friends and family. While 2013 was a truly unbelievable year, I always relish the opportunity to start anew, set fresh goals and look forward with positivity while remembering all the experiences I had the year before that got me to where I am today. It's with that in mind that I write today: making sure I embrace change while reflecting on the moments and people that made an impact on me in 2013, and recapping a few of my most recent appearances. Read on!

I traveled to St. Louis for the 2014 Miss Missouri and Miss Missouri Teen USA Pageant at Lindenwood University in November. I had a wonderful time seeing my boo, Mrs. Missouri United States Kristy Kelley and a few other titleholders, though it was bittersweet saying goodbye to Ellie Holtman and Brenda Smith-Lezama, my 2013 Vanbros sister queens. I know wonderful things await them as they start a new chapter in their lives! But I know it's difficult to pass on the crown. Congratulations to the 2014 titleholders, Erica Sturdefant (who did a great job helping me prepare for interview this summer at boot camp before nationals) and Samantha Bowers! I added a few pictures of the pageant below.

Then, as 2013 came to an end, I went to Wichita for the 2014 Miss Kansas and Miss Kansas Teen USA Pageant at Maize South High School the weekend before Christmas. I got to catch up with a few friends I hadn't seen in quite some time, which was wonderful, met a 2014 Mrs. Kansas United States contestant, Kristin, and was there as 2013 titleholders Staci Klinginsmith and Aly Klinzing passed on their crowns. I will miss them both, especially Aly, Miss Kansas Teen USA 2013. She was such a sweet girl who made every moment of her year as a titleholder and truly made a difference in the lives of many. I made quite a few appearances with her, and was fortunate to have her as a little sister queen. I know she will go on to do wonderful things. Aly, you are fabulous! There's a picture of us below. Congratulations to the new 2014 Kansas titleholders, Audrey Banach and Claire-Bailey Lee; welcome to the Vanbros family!

Christmas came and went, and then New Years Eve was upon us! I had such a wonderful time ringing in 2014 with my husband, Alex -- check out the picture below -- and our two best friends who just moved back to Kansas City after hiking the Appalachian Trail last year. What an amazing accomplishment! It's adventures and opportunities like that, ones that people think you're crazy to take but that end up being so rewarding and changing your priorities and perspective, that are so easy to pass over and ignore. Don't ever ignore those opportunities! Since being crowned your 2013 Mrs. Kansas United States, I've tried to live in the moment, take chances and continue to step out of my comfort zone. It's definitely changed me as a person and I'm so thankful for the opportunities I've been given and the unique people I've met.

If you're ready for the chance of a lifetime, make sure you visit www.mrskansasunitedstates.com or call (913) 381-7121 to apply and take the first step. You never know, 2014 could be your year! Feel free to email me with any questions you may have at mrsksus2013@gmail.com. No matter how things turn out, I promise you won't regret competing. I promise.

I can't even imagine where this year will take my husband and I, but wherever we go, we're so ready. I'm excited to see who I crown the new Mrs. Kansas United States this April, and look forward to seeing how the "power of the crown," as they say, positively affects the next titleholder as it has so positively affected me. So go out and make 2014 your best year yet! Strive to be better, go farther, do things that scare you and never compromise who you are for others while remembering the experiences of 2013 that helped shape who you are today.

I'll leave you with a quote from the current Miss USA, Erin Brady: "You will have chances you can't even imagine. If you can break away from 2013, you can start a wonderful life in the present moment."

Here's to a truly fab New Year ... cheers!

All the best,

RYK

Kristy, Ellie, Brenda and me at the Miss Missouri USA Pageant in November.
Me with Mrs. Missouri United States Kristy Kelley at Miss Missouri USA.
At the Miss Kansas USA Pageant with 2014 Mrs. Kansas United States contestant Kristin.
With Miss Kansas Teen USA 2013, Aly Klinzing at Miss Kansas USA
Ready to ring in 2014 with my husband and friends in Kansas City! Cheers!