In Passionate Pursuit of Dreams & Crowns
How many little girls all over the nation have watched the Miss America Pageant throughout the years and pictured themselves on that big stage in a beautiful gown, hearing their own name called and having someone place that beautiful jeweled crown on their head!! It’s a dream that one young Carthage woman has been pursuing for months, and she is a third of the way toward achieving it, having won a local pageant as Miss Twin Rivers. The next challenge will be competing for the Miss Texas title on July 1, and of course the new Miss Texas will compete in the Miss America Pageant in September.
Born and raised in Carthage, Kimberly Ferguson graduated from Carthage High School in 2012 and Stephen F. Austin State University in 2015. A twirler in the band in high school, she was also a Twirl-O-Jack at SFA, and twirling is the talent she has selected to compete with in the pageant process. She says, “I knew the pageant winners won great scholarships and that the Miss America organization was the largest provider of scholarships for women in the nation, but I always thought they were limited to college students, so I really hadn’t thought of competing. Then I found out they included ages 17 to 24, so I decided fairly suddenly to give it a try because I could use scholarship money for graduate school. I really never dreamed I would win!”
She began looking for a local pageant to enter, and the closest one she could find was in Texarkana. She discovered there were multiple titles given in that pageant—Miss Texarkana and Miss Twin Rivers, both of whom would compete for Miss Texas, and Miss Texarkana Twin Rivers, who would compete for Miss Arkansas. There was also a teen winner for each of those designations.
Kimberly continues, “There are so many things to learn before competing in a local pageant, and I had no coach, so I contacted Pageant Planet, a subscription service designed to teach the ropes to girls competing in local pageants. It was a great resource. We would skype every week and work on everything I needed to learn. I think the hardest part was learning how to walk properly on the stage. Now that I have won, I have a lot of input from the very knowledgeable Miss Texarkana Miss Twin Rivers Board to help me in competition, but at the time I knew nothing! I came into it for a learning experience, and the next pageant I could enter was already on my calendar because I didn’t consider winning my first time as a possibility!”
The poised and vivacious young woman says she really enjoyed the required interview with the panel of judges and felt good about how it had gone. “I had always heard that a pageant is won or lost in the interview,” she says. “The job of Miss Texas or any title holder is public speaking; she is never seen in a swimsuit again after Miss America. The proof she is equipped for the job is that she can speak well and inspire people. Reporters and others can ask her absolutely anything, so the judges need to know she can speak intelligently and extemporaneously about anything.” She adds that the title holder must also be very adaptable. “I have gone to public appearances all prepared with what I plan to say, and have been asked at the last minute to speak on something else; for example, I might come to a school prepared to talk about goal setting, and they ask me to address bullying. It’s all about adaptability!”
The Miss America organization has a national platform—something they are promoting in a huge way—the Children’s Miracle Network, and Miss America is the primary ambassador for CMN. There is no entrance fee for pageant contestants, but each is required to raise a certain amount of money for the network. Kimberly raised hers by teaching twirling lessons, and she also participated in “Miss America Serves” Day, which included working with all the other winners in the Texarkana Twin Rivers pageant. “We delivered donuts to police officers and firemen in Texarkana, and also went to Water Springs Ranch to visit girls in foster care, letting them wear our crowns, doing their hair and nails, and just spending time with them.”
She explains, “Each contestant also has a personal platform, and I partnered with a non-profit organization, magazineliteracy.org, to try to do something to help with the very low literacy rate in Texas. My goal was to get donations of 5,000 gently used magazines to distribute to East Texas food pantries, homeless shelters, Boys & Girls Clubs and other mentoring programs, nursing and assisted living facilities, mission facilities, and any other places I can find who need reading materials. I have collected about 3,000 so far. I love to get magazines that are kid-friendly or in another language (because a person who is a strong reader in his own language has an easier time becoming a strong reader in English). Both of those are harder to find than the plentiful women’s magazines. I chose this platform so I can hopefully have an impact in my own community.”
Kimberly was hired when she graduated from SFA by Panola College as Recruiting Coordinator and Academic Advisor. A big component of her job is traveling to high schools all over the state, especially to college fairs, and trying to entice students to attend Panola College. “It’s a great Miss Texas preparation,” she says. “Meeting so many strangers and talking to them about absolutely everything is invaluable practice. I could not have done any of this if I weren’t working at Panola. My co-workers have been so supportive. They’ve collected magazines and donated toward ad pages and People’s Choice votes. I’ve had gym access and Friday afternoons free to make appearances; without that time, I don’t know how I would do all of this. I’ve also been very blessed to have a boss who believes that following your dreams is valuable, and encourages me to do so. I believe God’s timing allowed me to be at Panola while attempting to compete for a reason!”
Her public appearances have included every conceivable type of function and fundraising event. Anyone can request a visit from one of the title holders and book them to speak. She has spoken at many schools, trying to incorporate her literacy platform when appropriate, and also focusing on goal setting.
One of the only drawbacks if she did win Miss Texas would be leaving her job, Kimberly says. “Miss Texas, and of course Miss America, is a full-time job. Whoever is chosen lives in Richardson, Texas and makes appearances all over the state, a lot like my recruiting job! The end result is all in God’s hands, and no matter the result, I believe He has far greater things planned for my future than anything I could imagine!”