Lafene employee prepares for state pageant

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For Evelyn Johnson, a day at Lafene Health Center might simply call for scrubs and tennis shoes. While the job requires a bit of poise, as would any, it is far from an amount needed to strut down the hallway in a pair of high heels. Students might inquire about health and diet, but there’s no need for questions on the best way to settle the tensions in the Middle East or which gender should marry which.

But that’s all about to change.

In December, Johnson, Lafene health care assistant, will trade in her work clothes for something a bit more glamorous. Johnson, currently Miss Riley County, is set to compete in the Miss Kansas USA pageant in Wichita.

“I just remember watching stuff on TV, and I kind of always wanted to do it when I was younger,” Johnson said about her choice to compete in the pageant. She also said volunteer work is very important to her, and it is something the pageant organization promotes.

The title of Miss Riley County requires an application process, not competing in a pageant, so for Johnson, Miss Kansas USA will be her first-ever pageant experience.

“I’m really excited and really nervous,” she said. “I’ve never been in front of a lot of people like that. I’m nervous about it.”

For the preliminary part of the competition, Johnson is required to do a personal interview with the judges as well as an evening gown and a swimsuit segment. If she advances to the final, the interview will be conducted onstage.

While Johnson said she is most nervous about having to answer an interview question onstage and on-the-spot, she said her confidence has increased and she is prepared.

“As long as I’m honest, I’ll be fine,” she said.

Johnson said the winner of the pageant will have an opportunity to attend events and work with kids, and the job will involve a great deal of volunteering. She said the opportunity to serve as Miss Kansas USA would be great.

“It would mean a lot,” she said. “I want to do more — volunteer work, meet people, represent my state, show people what I have to offer.”

Involvement in a pageant is no small feat and costs a pretty penny. Johnson has had help from the community to prepare her for the competition. She is sponsored by Dr. Tindall of Tindall Orthodontics, Ekart Automotive Services and Ron Lemon with State Farm Insurance. She is also supported by family and friends, and said one person in her life who has contributed a great deal is her grandmother.

“My grandma from Germany sent me quite a bit; what she gave me helped me out incredibly,” she said. “I’ve also gotten a lot of help from the people I work with. They’re really helpful, and they really give me support.”

With no pageant experience under her belt, Johnson has looked to a friend and fellow Lafene employee to help prepare her for the big day.

“She came to me and we were talking about it, and I said, ‘If you need any pointers I’m more than happy to help,'” said Brooke Ford, administrative assistant at Lafene. “I did (the pageant) in 2006, and she was talking about doing it earlier this year. I decided to give her a little insight of what goes on in pageants. It’s different on TV than in real life. I wanted to help prepare her a little more than I was.”

Johnson said she has been preparing since January, learning the proper way to walk and conduct herself onstage.

“I’ve been watching stuff on YouTube and videos, learning how to walk,” she said. “I normally don’t wear high heels, but I’ve got it down pretty good now.”

A large chunk of her preparation has been focused on physically preparing herself as well.

“Working out has been my life — I don’t overdo it, but I’ve had to definitely work,” she said. “It’s way healthier living, too. I’m not just feeling better but looking physically a lot better and being confident.”

Ford said the one element that will help Johnson excel in the competition is her drive, not only for the competition, but in life as well.

“She’s very ambitious. She is a CNA (certified nursing assistant) right now, but she wants to eventually own her hospice care, and she wants to do geriatrics,” Ford said. “She’s a very passionate person, very hard-working, very punctual. She’s a light in the room, not just as a friend, but as a co-worker, too.”

The Miss Kansas USA pageant is scheduled to take place from Dec. 17 to Dec. 19 at the Wichita Scottish Rite Masonic Center in Wichita. The winner will advance to the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas.

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