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Pageant quest a path of discovery for Deines

News editor

When Makenzie Deines decided this summer to enter the Miss Kansas Teen USA pageant, she didn’t know the toughest judge she’d face would be herself.

Deines was accepted as a contestant this past summer, and immediately began preparing for the pageant, which was this past weekend in Wichita.

While she tweaked her diet and fitness routines, and kept up on current events, Deines decided the key to performing well was examining her personal traits to become more confident in who she is as a person.

“On stage you have to be confident, own what you’ve got in the interview, and you can’t second guess yourself,” Deines said.

“I took a look at myself and asked, ‘What do I love about myself?’” she said. “It was an awkward question to ask, but I was able to identify my strengths that way. I asked myself ‘What are some weaknesses and how can I better myself?’”

Another boost to her confidence came from the response she got from family, friends, and businesses when she solicited financial support to defray the cost of competing. She entered the pageant as Miss Ramona, so she started in her hometown.

“I knew the people in my community would be happy for me, and they’ve been such a giving community,” Deines said.

Bolstered by local success and armed with a flier created by Jessica Gilbert, Deines branched out to other towns in the county. More businesses donated.

“Individuals decided to give also,” Deines said. “People were sending encouragement through email. I would not have even been competing if those people hadn’t believed in me.”

Deines drew on her faith to complete her preparation, memorizing a verse from the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

“I had that thought in the back of my mind the whole time, I’d done the preparation, and God wanted me to be here. It wasn’t up to the judges, it was up to Him, so I was just going to go up there and be myself.”

Deines and 26 other contestants arrived in Wichita on Friday, and after dinner and a dance, it was time to get to work. A short rehearsal that night was followed by more rehearsals Saturday before preliminary rounds in the evening gown and swimsuit competition.

The contestants had individual interviews with judges early Sunday, and then more practice before the competition resumed that evening.

“It was so much more than I ever expected it to be,” Deines said. “I knew nothing about the pageant life before this. This has been the most high-pressure thing I’ve ever done in my life. I commend the girls who do this.”

With preliminary rounds completed, the competition resumed by narrowing the field to 16 semifinalists.

“This is the only time I was nervous,” Deines admitted. “I really wanted to be a semifinalist. So many people invested in me, and I did not want to let them down.”

Deines made the semis, and after evening gown and swimsuit competition, she advanced to the finals.

“I really was not expecting to be in the top five — but I made it to my favorite part, the interview rounds.”

Each of the finalists answered three questions. Makenzie’s pre-pageant preparation was a perfect match for her final question.

“He asked if I had any regrets,” Deines said. She recalled her answer as if she’d rehearsed it for weeks.

“I’m not sure if this is a trick question, but no I do not. The past is the past for a reason, and without the past we wouldn’t have the opportunity to grow, not to change them but how to grow from them.”

When all the ballots were counted, Deines finished one spot shy of the title, claiming first runner-up. Placing second, Deines had the pageant experience without taking on the duties of the winner.

“If I would’ve been the title holder, I had a lot of plans,” Deines said. “I would have had to sacrifice a lot of things. Now I don’t have to worry about what sacrifices I have to make.”

While Deines will be too old to compete in the teen division next year, she didn’t rule out another pageant on down the road.

“I’d like to graduate first,” she said. “If it’s still something that’s an option, I’d love to give it a shot.”

Last modified Dec. 4, 2014

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