KALAMAZOO — When Miss Danish Festival 2012 Emily Smith competed in the Miss Michigan Scholarship pageant this summer, she considered the possibility of returning.
That thought became a reality when Smith, now a freshman at Western Michigan University, won the Miss Greater Kalamazoo pageant earlier this month.
The Kalamazoo pageant, open to young women living, working or attending school in Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties, is affiliated with the Miss Michigan and Miss America organizations and is often used by girls as another way to try to qualify, according to co-director Debbie Nelson.
“We have four colleges: WMU, Kalamazoo College, Spring Arbor and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and often draw girls from the schools to compete,” Nelson said. “In the past seven years, we have had only one local girl win. All the rest were from other parts of the state.”
Vying against four other competitors, Smith earned the title and the right to advance to the Miss Michigan pageant.
“I had talked to Debby and (co-director) Kelly Cowgill at the Miss Michigan pageant, and told them I was considering competing,” said Smith, 18, the daughter of Daniel and Mari Smith. “And then this fall, I thought, why not take a shot at it?”
For the Miss Greater Kalamazoo pageant, Smith performed her Italian aria “Covien Partir” which helped her garner two awards at the state pageant.
“Emily’s talent is exceptional, her voice is beautiful” said Nelson. “Even if people don’t care for opera, they can understand the talent she has in doing it. We will change very little in her talent as she prepares for Miss Michigan.”
As Miss Greater Kalamazoo, Smith will represent the organization in various parades and public service opportunities, all while working toward her return to the state pageant.
“As part of the Miss Michigan organization, I will do some fund-raising for the Children’s Miracle Network, and also promote my platform, which is an anti-bullying campaign,” said Smith. “I hope to be able to go to some of the schools and promote it. I hope to make Miss Greater Kalamazoo very visible in the community.”
As directors, Nelson and Cowgill’s job is to groom Miss Greater Kalamazoo for the Muskegon-based state pageant.
“Emily is going to make our job very easy,” said Nelson. “As directors, we know how to help a young woman prepare. She is a very intelligent, caring, fun-loving, talented young woman. She is very strong in interview, but we will help her study current events. If there is anything we could work on more, it would be her stage presence, letting her show her personality on stage more. We never want to change our contestant, but rather help each girl bring out the best in themselves, and work on little things to make improvements to best show their qualities.”
As a recent high school graduate, Smith was one of the youngest competitors and experiencing the Miss Michigan pageant for the first time. She will return with more maturity and ore experience.
“I’ve heard a lot from other girls who have competed several times that after the first time, you are much more relaxed. You know more what to expect,” said Smith. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to go again!”
Correspondent Lori Hansen is a Greenville-area resident.