Dressed in a floor-length, sparkly white gown and shoulder-brushing earrings, contestant Audrey Banach stood poised on the stage, anxiously waiting to hear her name announced.
And then it was.
Banach, senior in communication studies, was crowned Miss Kansas USA 2014 on Dec. 22, 2013 in Wichita. The two-day pageant, sponsored by talent company Vanbros and Associates Inc., considered contestants’ community involvement, social awareness, communication skills and personal presentation. Banach was one of 27 competitors representing different Kansas locations in the pageant.
Banach, originally from Kansas City, Kan., grew up as a military child and moved around frequently with her parents and two siblings. Banach’s younger brother Samuel is a K-State junior in finance, while her older sister Marilyn is a K-State alumna.
“Coming from a military family made me extremely close to my family, but also taught me to be resilient and grow out of my comfort zones,” Banach said.
The idea of participating in pageants is nothing new to Banach; it runs in her family. Her mother, Margie Banach, ran for Miss Iowa USA when she was studying nursing at University of Iowa. Banach said that her mother’s experience was part of her inspiration to participate in the pageant.
“I really went into the pageant thinking ‘I’m young, this is going into my senior year, and I want to do something where I really put my heart into and and also get more involved,'” Banach said.
In preparation for the pageant, Banach worked with Joe Koehle, communications instructor and head coach of the K-State debate team, as well her sorority’s (Alpha Xi Delta) president to hone her public speaking skills.
“Being a communications major, making sure I communicated properly while still being myself [was] the most important things to me,” Banach said.
At the pageant, Banach competed in the swimsuit, evening gown and interview segments. All competitors were given scores based on each segment; 10-15 of the contestants with highest composite scores were named semifinalists. When the five finalists were announced, Banach was the only K-State student still in the running.
Banach said that she did not expect to make it to the top five. In fact, when her name was announced as a finalist, she said she was in total shock.
“I think I was the only one who didn’t make a cute face when they called my name,” Banach said.
Banach’s crowning moment was a positive one.
“She seemed really excited to represent the state of Kansas,” Aquillia Vang, Vanbros and Associates Inc., public relations representative, said.
During the pageant, Banach said she wanted to make sure that she stayed true to who she was.
“My mom always told me, ‘Pretty is as pretty does,’” she said. “It is more attractive to be kind and nice than pretty and not pleasant to be around.”
Banach said she enjoyed the experience and was relieved that it wasn’t like the stereotypical television reality shows about pageants, such as TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras.
“There was no pageant drama going on behind the scenes,” Banach said.
Her favorite part, she said, was getting to know the other contestants. She still talks to them regularly, she said.
According to Banach, competing in a pageant made her realize it’s important to recognize the importance of setting and accomplishing goals and analyzing areas for improvement. Banach said her experience with the pageant also helped her appreciate her own involvement in organizations such as Autism Speaks, Hope Ranch Therapeutic Riding and Wounded Warriors.
“If you do stuff for other people, it’s more rewarding than doing things for yourself,” she said.
Even though she is the new Miss Kansas USA, Banach said she doesn’t prepare for class like she prepped for the competition.
“I still don’t wear makeup to class,” she said. “Coffee, yes, but I’m not waking up early. People probably don’t even recognize me.”
Banach said she encourages others to pursue their ideas and dreams like she did when entering the pageant.
“My dad told me that in life, you have to be able to compete,” she said. “You have to be in the race and you have to be
in the fight.”
Banach will compete in the Miss USA pageant this summer. According to the organization’s official Miss USA website, Banach will be the only Miss USA Kansas from K-State within the last five years.