Thursday, November 28, 2013

I'm Thankful For ...

Happy Thanksgiving! I can't believe we only have a little more than a month left in 2013. While I watch the first of two football games on television (seriously love holiday games), I thought I'd take a minute to write about the many things I'm thankful for today ... and everyday!

I'm thankful for my family. My parents and sister are so supportive of me that I really don't know what I'd do without them! They remind me everyday what unconditional love really is and have been by my side for my entire life. Such sweethearts! Just want to make them proud. I added a picture of my parents and I at my rehearsal dinner below - they're so darn cute!

I'm thankful for the Vanbros team and especially my excellent director, John Vannatta. I don't take for granted the fact that John and his brother Jason have more than 25 years experience in the pageant industry and are positive and encouraging forces who would do anything for their queens. Love you guys!

I'm thankful for my sister queens. One of the most meaningful aspects of pageantry to me has been the close relationships I've forged with the four other titleholders from Missouri, Tennessee, Texas and the current Mrs. United States who I've been fortunate enough to take my journey with so far this year. Kristy, AmandaJanet and Lori you are all wonderful! I posted a few pictures of us below.

I'm thankful for my sponsors. You know they say it takes a village ... and that's so true! There's absolutely no way I would have had such great success at the national Mrs. United States Pageant this summer if it wasn't for the talented group of professionals who helped me be the best me I could be. I'm not only a better, more polished contestant but also a more mature and self-confident person. Great people who want the best for me - make sure that you check out the list to the right.

I'm thankful for the opportunities I've been given as a result of my title. I truly believe that once you win, your year is less about yourself and more about others. The people I've met at appearances, and the things I've been able to do since winning last March, have really enriched my life and made me a better person. No doubt about it!

Finally, I'm thankful for my friends and my fab husband, Alex. They keep me grounded and help me keep things in perspective ... and always keep me laughing! Great people. And Alex is (obviously) really special; a very supportive, lighthearted and calm person. A perfect balance for me! There's a picture of the two of us at our wedding below.

That's about it for today. I hope you have a wonderful Holiday season, regardless of what you celebrate or who you celebrate with. Enjoy your Thanksgiving! And take a few minutes to think about who and what you're thankful for ... which I'm sure is plenty!

All the best,

RYK

Me with my Mom and Dad at my rehearsal dinner last year.
From left to right my 2013 sister queens (minus Lori); Janet, me, Kristy and Amanda
Me with Kristy and Amanda at the Stratosphere in July.
Me and Kristy goofing around at the Miss Missouri and Miss Missouri Teen USA Pageant
Alex and I at our wedding last year!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Kansas Travels

I'm going to start this blog almost the same way I started my October blog: I can't believe how fast this year is flying by ... it's already November?! Seriously.

I hope everyone is enjoying their fall; it is certainly brisk and rainy here in Lawrence, but beautiful as the leaves finally change color on the campus of the University of Kansas as winter quickly nears. Since I've had a little down time lately, I thought I'd fill you in on my recent travels throughout this lovely state!

After a very busy September, both at work and making appearances, a quiet October was a welcome change! My husband and I were able to clear our calendars and take a few short weekend trips to different small towns and explore the beauty and eccentricity of north central Kansas. It was a lot of fun and we met quite a few interesting Kansans along our journey!

The second weekend of October we took a trip out to Wamego and Manhattan, just north of the beautiful Flint Hills. We stopped by downtown Wamego, which was cute and quaint but busy, and then headed onto Manhattan, the other large college town (home to Kansas State University) down the highway from my home of Lawrence! Just outside Manhattan sits the Konza Prairie, a native tallgrass prairie, which was absolutely beautiful. The people in each town were friendly and welcoming, the rolling hills of the prairie were breathtaking. It was the perfect way to unwind from a really crazy September.

Then we decided to head a little further into the Flint Hills and check out Council Grove and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve the next weekend. Council Grove was a tiny little town, but was so full of history. After walking through a park near downtown and looking at a few of the historical sites, we drove south to the National Preserve and were able to walk around for about an hour before the sun went down. It was really quite amazing, rolling hills for as far as the eye can see! Make sure you scroll down to see a few of the photos we took during our travels.

After coming home from these trips and having a few weeks to reflect, I am reminded of how unique the state of Kansas is. I think it's important as a titleholder to get to experience as much of the state you represent as possible so you can personify your state in a way, particularily the special and often resilient spirit of the residents. Even though I've only lived in Kansas for 10 years, I've really grown to love this state and am so fortunate I am to be able to represent such a naturally beautiful place that has such an interesting history and such lovely residents. I couldn't resist adding a picture of my crown and sash below -- go Kansas!

Well, November's shaping up to be a busy month! Next weekend I'm heading to St. Charles to watch the 2014 Miss Missouri USA Pageant! While I'm there I'll be able to reunite with my sister queen Kristy Kelley, Mrs. Missouri United States, for the first time since rooming with her in July at nationals. Then, when I'm back in Kansas I'm meeting with a few 2014 pageant contestants. Can't even wait!

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy what's left of your fall!

All the best,

RYK

Exploring the Flint Hills outside Council Grove
The Konza Prairie just south of Manhattan.




Sunday, October 6, 2013

September to Remember

I can't believe how fast this year is flying by ... it's already October?! September, which also happened to be Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Leukemia Awareness Month and the first official month of fall, was quite busy for me, so read on for all the details!

On September 14, I stopped by Heroes & Halos in Eudora with Miss Kansas Teen USA Aly Klinzing. It was such a wonderful event where children and families affected by childhood cancer could have a carefree day of fun away from the hospital. The two of us were stationed at the ring toss booth playing with kids and their siblings all morning, and it was adorable! The kids were such good sports, and it was heartwarming to see them forget about their worries (as much as they could) for just a few hours. So much fun!

Then, on September 19, I drove out to Loch Lloyd to attend the A Chance for Children Patron's Party. Mrs. Kansas United States 2010, and Mrs. Kansas Mommy, Emily Kuhlman, invited me and it was one of my favorite events! The proceeds from the sale of tickets, the silent auction and raffle, which totaled over $3,000, benefitted KU Kids Healing Place at the University of Kansas Medical Center, which cares for children with chronic and life-limiting diagnoses. I had the chance to chat with quite a few inspiring and accomplished ladies, many of whom were fellow University of Kansas alumnae! A truly lovely evening.

Finally, on September 22 I joined Miss Kansas Teen USA Aly Klinzing again, along with Violet from Great Wolf Lodge, to visit children at the University of Kansas Hospital's Pediatric Critical Care Unit. We brought projects to work on and things to color, and spent a few hours with children stricken by cancer and other devastating illnesses and their families. I was honored and humbled to spend time with these strong children and their supportive and determined families. It was truly moving! The staff at the University of Kansas Hospital are special and skilled people; thank you, Aly, for asking me to join you! After leaving I was inspired, and also deeply grateful that I have never had to fight to get healthy, or fight for my life, like these children. Never again will I take my health, or the health of my loved ones, for granted.

I was able to wear my beautiful blue and orange Warriors for Ross sash to all of the September events I attended, to continue to raise awareness of children's cancer so we can help find a cure! Thank you, Vanbros, for my special sash! Check out all the pictures below to see how each appearance went.

Want me to stop by your event, fundraiser or school, or judge your pageant? Just email me at mrsksus2013@gmail.com; I'd love to! Want to check out additional pictures and follow even more of my journey as Mrs. Kansas United States 2013? Make sure to like my official Facebook page and follow me on Twitter @RealMrsKSUS!

Three appearances, two trips, two weddings and three events at work later, October has arrived. I love the fall because of football, cool weather, and the start of state preliminary pageants for Miss USA! Looking forward to a fabulous fall, and I hope you enjoy every minute of your fabulous fall, too!

All the best,

RYK

Working the ring toss with Miss Kansas Teen USA at Heroes & Halos Sept. 14. 
With Mrs. Kansas United States 2010 Emily Kuhlman at the A Chance for Children Patron's Party Sept. 19.

With Violet from Great Wolf Lodge and Miss Kansas Teen USA at KU Med Center on Sept. 22. 

Making a necklace at KU Med Center with patients, Violet and Miss Kansas Teen USA.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Post-Nationals Contemplation

Now that it's been a little over a month since the national Mrs. United States competition, and I have been back to my more routine day-to-day life (if there is such a thing!) for a while, I've had time to truly reflect on the experience. That said, I have to say I am humbled, proud and very satisfied with how everything went! I thought today I would reflect on what I took away from the competition, share a few additional pictures with you, and let you know what I've been up to since Las Vegas

Since returning to Kansas, I've gone on a (fabulous and rather long) vacation to Cape Cod, traveled to both Minneapolis and Buffalo for weddings, and have been back to work for the start of another busy fall semester at the University of Kansas. Throughout that time, I saw family, was reunited with my close college friends, and spent some quality time with my husband, Alex, which reminded me of how truly fortunate I am -- as if competing at a national pageant and representing the great state of Kansas wasn't enough! I am truly blessed.

The success I've achieved in pageants and in life would not be possible if it weren't for all of the amazing people I have supporting me, and who have helped make me the person I am today. Looking out from under the bright stage lights at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas during nationals and seeing my family and friends smiling back at me, cheering me on, meant so much. There are few things more meaningful and inspiring! I no longer take that unconditional love for granted, and was able to finish a Top 12 Finalist, which I am so very proud of.

I am also reminded that pageantry is a wonderful way to improve yourself, to serve your community, and that it gives you the means to positively affect the lives of others. There may be (plenty of) high heels, sparkly dresses, crowns and big hair, but beneath all of that there are strong, confident, independent and caring women who are able to make a difference. Everyone I stood onstage with at Mrs. United States demonstrated all of those qualities; really, such an experience! I think John Baker described this the best when he said a "... 'pageant girl,' if there is such a thing, is not just one kind of girl, but rather someone who combines everything she already is with all that she strives to become!"

Want to see some of the photos from Las Vegas? I posted a Facebook album from the official photographer Terry Wright, and have also posted quite a few below, so make sure to check them out. I know I've said this before, and will likely say this again, but I really am grateful to be your Mrs. Kansas United States 2013!

As I wrap up today, don't forget that September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Next weekend I'm heading to Eudora for Heroes and Halos, where families with children affected by cancer will have a fun-filled and care-free day on the farm. I'm really looking forward to it!

Hope you all had a great Labor Day, and you're enjoying the start of fall ... and football! Go Jayhawks and go Cowboys! So glad football is back, I just love it. Enjoy your week!

All the best,

RYK


Chatting with Mrs. West Virginia and my roommate Mrs. Missouri at registration on Saturday, July 27.
Photo courtesy of Terry Wright Photography
At breakfast on Sunday, July 28 with Mrs. Missouri and Mrs. Tennessee; go Vanbros!
Over 100 stories above the Las Vegas Strip at the Stratosphere Observation Deck
After my personal interview on Monday, July 29 in the VIP Suite at the Stratosphere.
My contestant introduction on finals night, Wednesday, July 31. "Rachel Karwas, KANSAS!"
Photo courtesy of Terry Wright Photography.
I made Top 12! Answering my onstage question during finals with our host, Jay Joseph.
Photo courtesy of Terry Wright Photography.
In my custom-made Allyce King swimsuit during finals.
Photo courtesy of Terry Wright Photography.
And in my Tony Bowls evening gown from Watercolors High Fashion.
Photo courtesy of Terry Wright Photography.
After the parade of gowns with Aquillia Q Vang, Mrs. United States 2012.
Photo courtesy of Terry Wright Photography.
Again, the contestants onstage, with Mrs. United States 2012, Q, in the middle!
Photo courtesy of Terry Wright Photography.
With my husband, Alex, after finals at the Level 107 Lounge on the (you guessed it) 107th floor of the Stratosphere
And, finally, I squeezed in a little gambling the morning of Thursday, August 1 before I caught my flight back to Kansas. I won a total of $11 with the help of my husband at the Stratosphere Casino!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

National Competition in Las Vegas!

I can't even believe it is already August - and that the national 2013 Mrs. United States Pageant is already over! I had such an amazing time in Las Vegas. Just amazing. Are you ready for all the details? If so, read on.

I arrived in Las Vegas Saturday, July 27 and set out for the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower for registration. I received my welcome packet, turned in a few forms, met the 46 other contestants and the national director Isabella Illacqua, and was reunited with my sister queens, Mrs. Tennessee United States Amanda Uggla, Mrs. Texas United States Janet Randolph, Mrs. Missouri United States Kristy Kelley (my roommate for the week) and Mrs. United States 2012 Aquillia "Q" Vang. Before leaving, we all picked up each other's state gifts and then got ready for the evening's events. We had dinner before heading to the theatre to watch Frankie Moreno. So much fun! He was great, and we got a sneak peek of the stage we would walk across ourselves later in the week.

Sunday, July 28 we donned our official contestant t-shirts, a special gift from Q, and rehearsed pretty much all day with our fabulous choreographer Natalie Carson before heading to the observation deck...107 stories above the famous Las Vegas Strip! The view was amazing. I was about to ride the Big Shot, which catapults you from the center of the Stratosphere Tower straight up before dropping you down, but there was a storm rolling in making the winds too high. Guess I'll have to wait until next time!

On Monday, July 29, we went to the Level 8 Pool for our swimsuit photo shoot bright and early in the morning, then rehearsed most of the day before being dismissed to prepare for personal interviews, which went from 6 p.m. to nearly midnight! The judges, Dr. Jeffrey Roth, Jennifer Lier, Rebecca Prephan, Stephanie Hill and Paula Lawrence, were wonderful to talk to. A great group of people.

Then, on Tuesday, July 30 we were finally able to practice onstage! We rehearsed all day and then did a full show run-through with lights, music and host Jay Joseph before heading back to our rooms to prepare for the preliminary competition. At 7:30 p.m., the house lights were dimmed and the 47 contestants left it all on the stage as we performed our opening number, contestant introductions, swimsuit and evening gown. I was proud of my performance in my opening number dress from the lovely ladies at Sassy Chic, my amazing custom Allyce King Designs swimsuit and my Tony Bowls gown from Watercolors High Fashion, but I'd have to wait another day to see if I advanced.

Finally, Wednesday, July 31 arrived! We had a few final rehearsals in the theatre that morning and early in the afternoon, and then left to prepare for the final competition, which kicked off at 3 p.m. The 47 contestants were narrowed to a group of Top 12...and I'm proud to say I was one of those finalists! I worked so hard and was thrilled and humbled to be able to represent myself, my husband, my family and the state of Kansas as a Top 12 Finalist still vying for the national title. I competed in swimsuit and evening gown again, and then came back out onstage with everyone to hear who received the special Fitness (Mrs. Texas), Congeniality (Mrs. Vermont) and Photogenic (Mrs. Alaska) awards before they narrowed it to the Top Five and then crowned the new winner! I was disappointed I didn't place in the Top Five, but still so proud I was a Finalist! Go Kansas!

Congratulations to one of the most genuine, caring and calm women ever, Janet Randolph who is your new Mrs. United States 2013! She will be an amazing titleholder, and I'm fortunate to call the former Mrs. Texas United States a sister queen and, more importantly, a friend.

As I reflect on my journey to, and at, nationals as Mrs. Kansas United States, there are many I would like to thank. First, a very special thank you to Mrs. United States 2012, Aquillia "Q" Vang, who worked hard to make our 2013 pageant a truly unforgettable experience and who I was blessed to get to know as a fellow Vanbros titleholder since winning my state title in March 2013. Q, you are great!

I'd also like to thank my director John Vannatta for preparing me and my sister queens as much as possible prior to nationals, and for being one of the most positive forces in my life. John, I feel I can do anything with your support.

Thank you to all of my sponsors for their support of the Vanbros ladies: Allyce King Swim, Linda Loveless and Arbonne, Hairstylist Bryan Wood, Kim Forsythe, Makeup by Q, Sassy Chic, Rachel Imdieke Photography/Simply Joyful Photography, Valerie Hayes and Watercolors High Fashion.

And, finally, thank you to my family and especially my husband Alex, who has stood beside me, smiled at me and encouraged me through everything. You mean so much to me, Al; Rock Chalk!

Are you ready for the experience of a lifetime? Make sure to enter the 2014 Mrs. Kansas United States Pageant for your chance to wear the crown and represent the married women of this lovely state at nationals next year! Feel free to email me at mrsksus2013@gmail.com with any questions you have, or check out www.mrskansasunitedstates.com for more.

I think that's (finally) about it - promise I'll post additional pictures as soon as I can upon returning from my much-needed vacation to Cape Cod. Have a wonderful August!

All the best,

RYK

At our swimsuit photo shoot at Level 8 Pool Monday morning.
Me with Mrs. Iowa United States, Katie Spielmann!

All the contestants in our opening number formation on Wed., July 31.

Th crowning moment! Congrats, Janet! Photo courtesy of Terry Wright Photography.

The Top 12 Finalists at Mrs. United States 2013!

Me and my husband, Alex. Rock Chalk!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Allyce King Model Search & Fashion Show

I'm back at work again after traveling to St. Louis then welcoming my family to Kansas for the Fourth of July - and I must say I enjoyed my long weekend despite my constantly busy schedule! Hope you all had an excellent holiday, too, and you're ready to hear all about my trip to attend the Allyce King Model Search and Bridal Elegance Fashion Show on June 29!

I was excited to go to St. Louis not only to meet Allyce King, who custom-designed my competition suit for nationals in a few weeks, but to check out the latest fashions from Bridal Elegance and also visit my in-laws. All great reasons for a short trip to Missouri!

The full weekend of events, which included the nationwide model search, a Pageantology workshop with Shandi Finnessey and Susie Castillo, a pageant panel, trunk shows from Allyce King Swim and Bridal Elegance, and of course the fashion show I participated in with a handful of other current and former titleholders, was held at the lovely Chase Park Plaza Hotel. It was an amazing backdrop - a truly beautiful hotel!

We arrived Saturday morning for fittings and got to peruse the racks of clothing that the ladies of Bridal Elegance had brought along from their shop outside Chicago. It was tough picking out just two dresses to wear in the fashion show! I spent the rest of the morning getting ready and catching up with current Mrs. United States, Aquillia Vang, Miss Kansas Teen USA Aly Klinzing and Mrs. Missouri United States, Kristy Kelley. Then it was time for the fashion show! Scroll down for a few pictures from the event.

A few familiar faces were there modeling with me - a few former Miss Kansas USAs, Miss Kansas Teen USAs, Miss Missouri Teen USAs and the current Miss Missouri USA, Ellie Holtman, among many other beautiful ladies. We each modeled two Allyce King Swim bathing suits and two dresses from Bridal Elegance. I wore a lovely, brand-new MacDuggal pageant gown and a cute pink cocktail dress in addition to my two suits by Allyce. It was great! Can't wait to get my competition suit in the coming days. If you missed this audition, don't worry because Allyce is heading to a handful of other cities throughout the U.S. this summer and fall. This weekend she's in Nashville, but make sure to click here to stay on top of future model search dates.

Then it was back to Lawrence for a very short work week before welcoming my family to town for the Fourth of July! It was a much needed, and much appreciated, long weekend.

This weekend we have our last Vanbros boot camp in Kansas City before nationals! I'm looking forward to meeting Mrs. Texas United States, Janet Randolph, for the first time and seeing the other Miss Teen USA titleholders and my Mrs. United States sister queens from Tennessee and Missouri as well. I can't even believe how quickly nationals are approaching. My wardrobe is set, I'm hitting the gym more than ever, I'm preparing my state gifts and the signs for my family to hold up in the crowd at the Stratosphere, and I had my last great session with Valerie Hayes to prepare for interview ... I simply can't wait to head to Las Vegas to compete!

Have a wonderful Thursday and Friday, and also a wonderful weekend!

All the best,

RYK

My husband, Alex, and I after the show. He's great!
Me with Allyce King and Mrs. Missouri United States, Kristy Kelley.
Me with Mrs. United States Aquillia Vang and Kristy. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Boot Camp and (Many) Other Happenings!

I can't even believe it is almost July! This month has been so incredibly busy, I sincerely apologize for not having written a blog since the first week of June! Hope everyone's summers are going well and if you are experiencing weather like we are here in Kansas, you are surviving the crazy, humid heat! I thought today I would update you with what I've been up to since my last post.

I recently spent a busy weekend in Kansas City at pageant boot camp with two of my three Mrs. sister queens and four of the five Teen USA titleholders. I got to meet Amanda Uggla, Mrs. Tennessee United States, for the first time and was reunited with Kristy Kelley, Mrs. Missouri United States, for the first time in a few months. Nearly all the Teen USA girls were there, including Jasmine Fuelberth (Nebraska), Graham Turner (Oklahoma), Aly Klinzing (Kansas) and Brenda Smith-Lezama (Missouri), most of whom I hadn't had a chance to speak with much when we first met at the CureSearch Walk in April. I really enjoyed getting to know them better, and am looking forward to following their journey to Miss Teen USA in the Bahamas this August!

Over the weekend we practiced walking, posing and stage presence with one of our sponsors, former Miss Arkansas USA and Mrs. Arkansas United States, the fabulous Kim Forsythe. We also had two intense but extremely helpful mock interviews, as well as a crash course in hair styling and hair care from Nashville stylist extraordinaire (seriously he is amazing), Bryan Wood of Salon Capelli. It was exhausting but absolutely wonderful! It left me with a renewed excitement about nationals, feeling so fortunate to have this time to not only prepare as best I can, but to have a chance to get to know the six other Vanbros girls who were there so much better!

While in Kansas City, I received some new goodies from the team at Vanbros which I absolutely love! My director, John, gave me my custom-designed car magnets, business cards, stationery and an engraved business card holder, as well as a custom Warriors for Ross sash which I can wear to raise awareness of Vanbros' official charity and one of the two non-profit organizations (in addition to CureSearch) that I support to fight children's cancer! There are pictures below if you'd like to check them out. Everything is lovely. Thank you, Jason Vannatta, for designing not only these items but also my program book ad for nationals. You are so talented!

John also booked my flights a few weeks ago so I am off to Las Vegas for nationals exactly a month from today! Registration will be Saturday, July 27, kicking off what is sure to be a busy and exhilarating five days of competition to see who the current titleholder, Aquillia "Q" Vang, crowns Mrs. United States 2013! I am so excited, and so thankful I have a supportive director and three sister queens to share in the experience with. I would love for you to come out to Las Vegas to support me and the great state of Kansas! The pageant will be at the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower and finals are Wednesday, July 31.

On another note, I also met Elizabeth Stephens a few weeks ago during our photo shoot for Kansas Alumni magazine. Elizabeth is the reigning Mrs. Kansas America, who is also a resident of lovely little Lawrence, Kansas and a fellow University of Kansas alumna! Rock Chalk! I'm looking forward to our article in an upcoming issue of the magazine. In my interview, I discussed my preparation for nationals, my connection with the University of Kansas, the causes I support and so much more. So if you're a KU alum, make sure you get your copy of Kansas Alumni in the coming months! Really excited about that. Really, really excited.

I'm heading to St. Louis this weekend to not only visit my in-laws, but also walk in a fashion show showcasing designs by my amazing swimwear sponsor, Allyce King Swim (AKS), as well as pageant dresses from Bridal Elegance and Mac Duggal at the Chase Park Plaza. Can't wait to see the custom suit Allyce made for me to wear at nationals! The fashion show is in conjunction with the Allyce King Swim Model Search, where six lucky ladies will win a $30,000 prize package and become the next faces of AKS, and a fabulous Pageantology Workshop by two former Miss USAs, Shandi Finnessey and Susie Castillo.

Auditions for the model search are taking place all weekend, so make sure you click here to register and select a call time! Interested in attending the Pageantology Workshop? Click here to see if there are spots left. Hope to see you all in St. Louis!

I know that was a very, very long post; I promise not to go for so many weeks without writing again! Have a wonderful Fourth of July holiday and I look forward to letting you know how the trip to St. Louis went!

All the best,

RYK


The goodies Vanbros gifted me with at pageant boot camp last weekend.
Thanks, Jason & John!

My beautiful blue and orange Warrior for Ross sash!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Summertime Pageant Preparations

Summer is in full swing here in Lawrence! Most students have gone home and those who are still around for summer school at KU started their classes yesterday. Such a wonderful time of the year! Warmer weather and longer days, which means more time for me to try to do everything I can to stay involved in the fight against childhood cancer while preparing for nationals at the end of July!

I can finally announce that Mrs. United States 2013 is scheduled for Saturday, July 27 to Thursday, August 1 at the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower in Las Vegas! They haven't released the official schedule yet, but from what I've heard from the reigning Mrs. United States 2012 (and fellow Vanbros lady) Aquillia "Q" Vang, it is shaping up to be a great five days! I do know that registration and state gift exchange is Saturday, July 27; interviews are Monday, July 29; preliminaries are Tuesday, July 30; coronation is Wednesday, July 31; and checkout is Thursday, August 1 with plenty of appearances around Las Vegas, as well as rehearsals, in between. I know it will be a very busy five days, but I can't wait to meet the other ladies competing for the title and take in every minute of what is sure to be an unforgettable experience. I also hope as many of my friends and family can make it as possible so we can all see who the next Mrs. United States will be!

As nationals fast approach, I'm working with Vanbros' talented Jason Vannatta to design my ad for the national program book, while building my competition wardrobe, hitting the gym as often as possible to stay in swimsuit-ready shape, making appearances, and working with the fabulous Valerie Hayes on my interview preparation. So busy, and so thankful for such a wonderful and supportive director, John Vannatta, and such generous and knowledgable sponsors! Check out the photo below to see the lovely autograph cards I received to take to appearances with me. Vanbros is truly the best!

This summer I'm also continuing to learn more about childhood cancer in an effort to get more involved in raising awareness and funds to both find a cure and support the children fighting cancer and their families. Did you know that every day, 36 children are diagnosed with cancer and the average age of diagnosis is six? Through Vanbros' involvement with Ross' Foundation and Warriors for Ross, as I've mentioned before, I was privileged to walk on the Warriors for Ross team at the CureSearch Walk in April. That experience taught me not to take my health, or the health of the children around me, for granted. It also inspired me to use my title to spread the word about ways people all over Kansas and the country can help in this fight.

To that end, I recently signed up for the Ultimate Hike, where I'll hike 15 to 35 miles on the Ozark Highlands Trail while I help raise money towards finding a cure for children's cancer this winter. I'll keep you posted as I start training. Are you looking for ways to get involved, or do you want to learn more? Check out CureSearch's website or follow their blog. It's really such a worthy cause - think about all the children you could help!

In other news, Sunday marked my one year wedding anniversary, which was so very exciting! How time flies! And I am looking forward to visiting my parents in Dallas next week while I'm there on a business trip. June will be gone before I know it ... then onto July and onto nationals! Hope you are all having a lovely summer, too, and that time is flying just fast enough!

All the best,

RYK

The autograph cards the Vanbros team made me!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Summer Work? And Summer Fun!

It is nearly the end of the spring semester here at the University of Kansas where I work so that means everyone is looking to summer ... and I am no exception! But while for most people (especially the college students here in Lawrence) summer means lazy days and late nights, for me it means being busier than ever preparing for nationals, working and making appearances! I'm happy to be so busy, and even happier that I'm busy doing things like this ...

I had an interview with the local Lawrence paper, the Lawrence Journal-World, last week and the article came out this Monday! I had the opportunity to speak about my work with Warriors for Ross, how I'm preparing for nationals, my pageant experience, and many other things. The article also compares my journey to the crown with another local titleholder, Mrs. Kansas America 2013 Elizabeth Stephens', journey. Two titleholders in one year in Lawrence is exciting in itself! So make sure you check out the article here. And also check out the picture below, which was taken before my interview at the Kansas Union on campus.

We recently received all of our official paperwork for the national Mrs. United States Pageant this summer, which is so exciting! Going through the packet, I can't help but be thrilled and honored to represent the great state of Kansas in Las Vegas, and so fortunate for the wonderful opportunities that have come my way. From judging pageants to attending events in support of the battle against childhood cancer - I've even recently signed with the modeling agency Voicesand in Kansas City, too! Keeping busy this summer ... very, very busy!

Speaking of keeping busy, I have another VIP coaching session with the wonderful Valerie Hayes tomorrow afternoon and I can't wait! She's such a great pageant coach and sponsor, especially when it comes to interview preparation. And as I prepare for our two summer bootcamps where I'll join my Vanbros sister queens in Kansas City to work over three days to prepare for nationals by practicing walking, interviewing, makeup, etc., I'm continuing to hit the gym to stay in competition-ready shape and am putting together my wardrobe for nationals as well.

Don't forget to vote for one of my sister queens, Miss Kansas USA Staci Klinginsmith, to send her to the finals at Miss USA in June! Go Vanbros! Finally, as I wrap up my latest blog, I want to encourage you to have a great summer - whether it be busy or lazy or anything in between!

All the best,

RYK

Before my interview with the Lawrence Journal-World!
Photo courtesy of Nick Krug.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Well, it's May! Time to Look Back + Forward

Hope everyone is well on the first Sunday of May, the day after the Kentucky Derby, which happens to be Cinco de Mayo! As I watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs and listen to a few new jazz records, I thought today I'd write briefly today about the last month and a half since I was crowned, and then what I'm looking forward to between now and nationals. Enjoy!

I can't even believe that it's been a month and a half since I was crowned your new Mrs. Kansas United States! It feels like it was just yesterday, and I have been so fortunate to be so busy in that short amount of time. Between appearances, work, photo shoots and preparation for nationals, it seems like it will be June ... or even July ... before I know it! I love making appearances, so if you'd like me to stop by an event in your city, feel free to email me at mrsksus2013@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

John Vannatta, my director, sent along the dates for our summer "boot camps," which I am really looking forward to! Boot camps are three days in Kansas City packed with walking and modeling practice and interview preparation, among many other things, with all the Vanbros titleholders and our world-class sponsors (see the list to the right) to prepare us for nationals. I can't wait to see Mrs. Missouri United States Kristy Kelley again, and meet my newest sister queens, Mrs. Tennessee United States Amanda Uggla and the new Mrs. Texas United States, who will be crowned yet tonight!

Also, as promised, I wanted to share a few additional photos from my first official photo shoot with Rachel Imdieke of Rachel Imdieke Photography/Simply Joyful Photography. If you scroll down to the bottom of this post, you can check them out. I had such a great time shooting with her, and I thought the pictures really came out great!

I submitted my official biography a few weeks ago for John to include with a headshot from this photo shoot, so hopefully the Mrs. United States website will be updated with everything very soon. I know the reigning Mrs. United States Aquillia "Q" Vang, who also happens to be one of my wonderful sponsors, has been busy working with the national directors to come up with the itinerary for nationals week in Las Vegas this July! I can only imagine all of the fun activities and appearances we have planned in between rehearsals and the competition.

I know I've said this many times before, and I'm sure I'll say it many more times, but I am so lucky to have such supportive people around me! A wonderful director (with quite an eye for style), a loving husband, fabulous sponsors, exceptional sister queens and a family who has always, and will always, stand by me through thick and thin. I can't even tell you how excited I am to represent the great state of Kansas at nationals this summer with all of these people behind me!

Have you ever thought about competing in a pageant in Kansas or any other state? If so, I would urge you to check out my website, follow me on Facebook and Twitter or email me at mrsksus2013@gmail.com with any questions you may have. Pageants in general, but especially Mrs. United States state pageants, are great experiences that you can learn so much about yourself from, while meeting wonderful people and having the chance to give back to your communities in a truly meaningful way. In Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas they're always accepting applications and it's never too late, I promise! Join the Vanbros family!

Even though the weather has been absolutely crazy here in Lawrence (crazy even for Kansas), at least we are nearing summer! Well, that's about all for today - have a wonderful week!

All the best,

RYK




Rachel Imdieke is truly talented!



Friday, April 26, 2013

Adventures in Pageant Judging

Hello everyone! Hope you are having a wonderful Friday. It's a bit rainy here in Lawrence, but otherwise a little warm ... almost like spring weather. Almost.

I have been so busy lately and am so grateful for that! Last Saturday I had the privilege of judging the Miss Kansas, Miss Missouri, Miss Nebraska and Miss Oklahoma United States Pageants in Kansas City and I had an absolute blast. There were so many lovely, poised ladies competing ... which obviously made it really hard to pick the winners, too!

I was one of five judges, and we got started early on Saturday at the Overland Park Convention Center with private interviews. There were over 30 ladies competing in all age groups for each state - Junior Teen, Teen, Miss and Ms. I have to say private interview is my favorite part! I really love getting to know all the competitors by talking with them one-on-one.

Then, Saturday night was the live stage show. After the opening number, there was a fun fashion show then swimsuit, evening gown and onstage question. Everyone had to answer a randomly-selected onstage interview question, which I know gives contestants (including myself) a lot of anxiety! But everyone handled it so well. Then, finally, awards were handed out and the winners in each category and each state were crowned!

It was very interesting to judge a pageant as a contestant; a great learning experience! I got to catch up with Miss Kansas Teen USA Aly Klinzing, Mrs. North America Galaxy Kristi Nichols and see a few other old friends at the show as well. Thank you to the directors Lisa Forbes and Celine Ziller for having me as a judge - I really had a great time! The photo below is of me with the Kansas winners; Alexis Rewalt (Miss), Tobie Roberts (Teen), Kahley Schiller (Ms.) and Kiahna Beard (Junior Teen).

Also, check out a sneak peak from my first official photo shoot with one of my talented sponsors, Rachel Imdieke of Rachel Imdieke Photography/Simply Joyful Photography by clicking here! I love the photos so much; Rachel is so good at what she does, and the makeup and hair by the current Mrs. United States, Aquillia "Q" Vang, was flawless. Again, Vanbros has such a great team! So lucky.

Stay tuned for more pictures from, and details on, the photo shoot, and have a wonderful weekend! I'm off to St. Louis with my husband to see the St. Louis Blues' final game of the regular season tomorrow. Let's go Blues! After a crazy few weeks at work and making appearances, a weekend away is just what I need!

All the best,

RYK

Me in the center with all of the Kansas winners!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Appearances, Appearances ... and TGIF again!

Last Sunday I was in Kansas City as a guest judge for the Little Miss/Little Mister Imagination Pageant and it was so much fun! The little competitors were just adorable and I really enjoyed watching them!

It was hard to judge children - I didn't want to be too hard on them - but luckily they were all eager to compete and were so much fun to watch that it ended up being a great experience! They should all be so proud of themselves for what they did. Check out the picture I posted below of me with a little pageant girl and another one of the guest judges, Jennifer Barrios!

Would you like me to make an appearance at your event in Kansas? I'd love to - just email me at mrsksus2013@gmail.com or comment below!

Also, I had my first VIP coaching session with The Pageant Coach Valerie Hayes this week and had a great time talking with her! She is so good at what she does and gave me some great advice. I am getting even more excited for nationals everyday!

Speaking of nationals, I am still not sure of the dates in July or the venue in Las Vegas quite yet, but as soon as I know I will make sure to pass along the information to everyone. I would love to have as many friends and family there to support me as possible - we must represent the Sunflower State!

I also keep forgetting to pass along the link to the photos from the state pageant in St. Joseph about a month ago. Oops! Click here to view contestant headshots from registration as well as all the photos from the live stage production at the lovely Missouri Theatre. Thank you again Rachel Imdieke of Rachel Imdieke Photography/Simply Joyful Photography! Great memories for all the ladies involved.

Another busy weekend is ahead of me as I hit the gym to stay in great shape as the countdown to July continues, and also perfect my wardrobe as well. So hard to do, right?! I have a busy week at work with multiple events going on with May (and the end of KU's semester) just around the corner, too. So fortunate to be so busy, though!

Keep checking back here for all the latest on what I'm up to, and don't forget to follow me on Twitter @RealMrsKSUS and on Facebook.

Hope everyone has a great weekend, and that all those affected by the tragedies in Boston and in West, Texas find healing and peace soon. My heart goes out to those communities ... so sad.

All the best,

RYK

Here I am with one of the other judges and a little pageant girl!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Photo Shoot Reflections

Last weekend was pretty busy ... CureSearch Walk with all the Vanbros ladies then receiveing my competition wardrobe on Saturday, and on Sunday having my first official photo shoot with Rachel Imdieke Photography, which was so much fun!

I shot with my sister queen Kristy Kelley and Aquillia Vang, Mrs. United States 2012 (also known as "Q"), was there to do my hair and makeup. I was so lucky to have a fabulous wardrobe and jewelry to shoot in thanks to my amazing director John Vannatta, plus flawless hair and makeup thanks to Q! It was a long day of shooting, starting at 11 a.m. and not ending until around 6 p.m. when all was said and done, but it was so worth it. With Rachel's meticiulous eye for detail, and the way she really puts you at ease, you would have to be crazy not to enjoy every minute! I truly had a blast! And who doesn't love feeling glamorous? It was a really amazing experience.

I know Rachel and John have looked over the photos, but I can't even wait to see them! I know there were some great pictures of Kristy and I in there that will make great headshots for the Mrs. United States website.

I also chose my competition swimsuit from Allyce King Swim, and ordered my Tony Bowls evening gown from Watercolors High Fashion for nationals last weekend as well. It's all becoming so real now! I receieved all of my interview coaching and preparation materials from Valerie Hayes The Pageant Coach and can't wait to start looking over that to prepare as best I can for Las Vegas in July. I can't say enough about the amazing sponsors we have - they really make a difference. Check out all the links to the right to get more on the sponsors; they're the best of the best! Seriously.

Busy day tomorrow, too. I am judging the Little Miss/Little Mister Imagination Pageants in Overland Park and can't wait to see all the brave and confident little children vying for the crowns!

I'll post pictures from the Little Miss and Little Mister Imagination Pageants as soon as I can, but in the meantime, check out more pictures from last weekend's CureSearch Walk, courtesy of Children's Mercy Hospital. I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

All the best,

RYK

A little pic I snapped in between an outfit change at the photo shoot!

Monday, April 8, 2013

CureSearch Walk 2013

I went to my very first official appearance this past weekend, the CureSearch Walk 2013 in Kansas City, and I have to say it was an amazing experience. Karen Elliott, Vanbros' long-time pageant choreographer and the captain of our team Warriors for Ross, said it would be a touching event and she was right!

All 12 of Vanbros' current queens were in attendance from not only the Mrs. United States system but also the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA systems, as were hundreds of families from around Kansas and Missouri. Mrs. United States, Aquillia "Q" Vang, was there as well! Everyone walked to remember and honor children who've lost their fight with cancer and celebrate those who have survived or who are currently in treatment. And all the money raised by each team who walked goes to fund research and clinical trials in an effort to cure cancer and save children. A very worthy cause! Make sure you visit CureSearch's website to learn more.

The Warriors for Ross team walked in memory of Karen's grandson Donald "Ross" Elliott who died in 2011 after being diagnosed with Leukemia. I can't imagine how devastating that must have been for everyone who knew Ross, so I was honored to support Karen, her family and Vanbros' official charity, also named Warriors for Ross.

Even though it was windy and cloudy in the morning when we first arrived to CommunityAmerica Ballpark, the sun came out and it turned into a beautiful day! I also really enjoyed spending time with my sister queen Mrs. Missouri United States Kristy Kelley and meeting the other 10 titleholders! It was a day to remember and was one of the most touching events I've ever been to. So glad I had the opportunity to go.

Check back later to hear all about my first official photo shoot with Rachel Imdieke of Rachel Imdieke Photography/Simply Joyful Photography, to see more pictures from the CureSearch Walk and learn about what else I got to do over this very busy past weekend!

All the best,

RYK

Me and Kristy Kelley, Mrs. Missouri United States, before it got too windy!


Friday, April 5, 2013

TGIF ... and Pageant Reflections!

I have to admit I am very glad its nearly the weekend! After a few hectic weeks I finally have time to write about and reflect on the wonderful experiences that I had at the Mrs. Kansas and Mrs. Missouri United States Pageant in St. Joseph March 23 and 24.

The women who gathered to compete at this pageant were just wonderful! Each one had unique and impressive traits as business owners, mothers and, in general, driven and confident ladies regardless of their age or where they were from. Between the photo shoots, rehearsals and then (finally) the live show we were busy but the weekend was so fun. It was made even better by the fact that I, and my sister queen Kristy Kelley, were crowned as the newest titleholders! The Holiday Inn St. Joseph staff were wonderful, as were the staff of the Historic Missouri Theatre - a truly amazing venue for this pageant. And, of course, the Vanbros & Associates staff put on a great show!

Winning this pageant means so much to me and I'm so honored and humbled to represent the state of Kansas for the next year! Many years of hard work and honing my skills paid off, and I am thrilled to serve my community as your new Mrs. Kansas United States 2013. In fact, I have my first official appearance tomorrow at the CureSearch Walk, which I am really looking forward to. I'm grateful to all the sponsors (see the links in the right-hand column) who so generously support myself and my sister queens, too. We couldn't do it without you!

So stay tuned and check back often as I blog about my journey and post pictures and stories about my many appearances, charity work, photo shoots and my trip to the national pageant in July. And remember to follow me on Twitter @RealMrsKSUS, on Facebook and if you've ever thought about competing yourself make sure to visit the Mrs. Kansas United States website for all the information you need.

Have a wonderful weekend!

All the best,

RYK

Photo courtesy of Rachel Imdieke at Rachel Imdieke Photography/Simply Joyful Photography