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More than looks: Tabor student to compete for Miss Kansas

Managing editor

It takes a lot of guts to stand in front of a roomful of people in a bathing suit.

“It’s more than looks,” said Mandelyn “Mandi” Phillips, a Tabor College freshman.

The freshman class president won the Miss Quivera title Feb. 1, and will compete June 1-6 for the Miss Kansas title.

The Halstead teen has been competing in pageants since she was 7 years old.

“I was shy as a child and my parents thought this would bring me out of it,” Phillips said.

She fell in love with pageantry and knew she always wanted to be Miss America.

Besides the honorary title and recognition that comes with it, the Miss America pageant is the largest scholarship program in the U.S., with more than $45 million available annually.

And that is what the co-ed ingénue really is interested in — obtaining her education.

Currently Phillips is a chemistry major with a minor in business administration. Following graduation, she plans to attend pharmacy school.

She became acquainted with Tabor College when she visited last summer.

“I had a friend who attends Tabor and she invited me to come to the campus,” Phillips said.

Wanting to play collegiate volleyball, Phillips met volleyball team members and the coach, and fell in love with the school.

“This was the first school I looked at and I believed I was being called here,” she said.

So, why does she do beauty pageants?

The experiences she has had as a child beauty contestant and her current aspirations are assets she will be able to draw on as an adult.

Confidence and poise under-pressure will assist her throughout her career.

“Having this confidence will help me when I go on job interviews,” Phillips said.

Since the daughter of Will and Deb Phillips of Halstead was crowned Miss Quivera two months ago, she has been busy preparing for the next step. With mentor Lisa Heun of Halstead by her side, Phillips is applying for the Miss Kansas pageant.

“Lisa and I meet once a week to go through paperwork and decide on a wardrobe,” Phillips said.

This is Heun’s first time mentoring a contestant but her best friend was Miss Kansas and her sister also was involved in the program.

Fees to compete in local pageants are $100. The state competition is $250.

And then there’s clothes.

Contestants could spend up to $4,000 per dress but Phillips plays it smart by wearing gowns and swimming suits she previously has worn or some she may borrow.

The mentor and her student also practice the interview process which is an important aspect of the competition.

It’s more than physical beauty and physical poise.

“It’s how well a contestant can handle herself,” Phillips said.

The competition

Most people are familiar with the Miss Kansas competition because it is similar to the Miss America program.

Contestants are judged on talent, evening gown, interview, and overall poise and beauty.

Phillip’s talent is singing, and she will sing, “A Change in Me,” from The Beauty and the Beast.

Voice lessons have been a part of her formidable years and she continues to be active by singing in the Tabor College choir.

To compete in Pratt, Phillips will have to seek sponsors for her “salute” page in the pageant program. She also is seeking sponsorships to help defray expenses the week she is in Pratt for the competition.

When the competition takes place, there will be one chaperone per contestant, appointed by the pageant, to assist with wardrobe changes.

Otherwise, Phillips is responsible for her hair and makeup.

Each contestant has to have a platform or a relevant issue about which she cares deeply. Phillips’ platform is “Healthy kids, healthy lives: Prevention of childhood obesity.”

“I want to promote awareness to parents and children,” she said. “If kids can be active just an hour every day, obesity would be significantly reduced.”

Phillips suggested parents and day-care providers make exercise fun for children.

She noted that this generation of elders is living to be in their 90s. If this generation of children do not change their habits, these children will grow up to be obese adults with heart problems, diabetes, and other ailments associated with unhealthy lifestyles. The costs to treat adult obesity continue to climb, making health insurance more expensive.

“This future generation may die at 40 (years of age) because of obesity,” Phillips said. “It ultimately starts with parents.”

Of course, she wants to win the competition this summer but knows she has a lot yet to learn.

“I see this as a learning experience,” Phillips said. “If I don’t win this year, it’s O.K. I’ll try again next year.”

Contestants must provide community service work that is logged from April to April, year to year. Phillips already is doing her community service work for next year’s competition.

The winner of the Miss Kansas competition will compete in the Miss America pageant in January.

For Phillips, it is more than beauty and poise.

“It is how I present myself and how well I communicate,” she said. “I’ve learned to have confidence and not be afraid to talk to people.”

Yes, standing in front of roomful of people in a bathing suit does takes guts but more than that it takes grace and an appreciation of working toward a goal, all of which this young woman possesses.

Last modified April 15, 2009

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