|PHOTOGRAPHY BY FADIL BERISHA
How does it feel being Miss Iowa USA 2014?
It feels amazing and very rewarding. Winning the title of Miss Iowa USA 2014 was a huge accomplishment for me, and that day will go down as one of the best days in my life so far. It can be tough at times being the face of such a prestigious title that many girls dream of holding—knowing that you have a lot to prove to yourself and to others who look up to you as a role model. However, each little step towards achieving my goals as Miss Iowa USA has been a reminder of how hard I am working to be the best titleholder and role model I can be. Also, attending appearances as Miss Iowa USA makes all the hard work worth it. Having little girls come up to me with a look in their eyes of pure innocence and joy is a feeling like no other. I am so grateful to be looked up to as a role model to these girls. This title has helped me grow as a person and become more involved in my community. It really is an opportunity of a lifetime and I am so honored to be able to call myself Miss Iowa USA 2014!
Name three things that you value most in life and why.
My family – they are the most important people in my life. I come from a family of seven with three brothers and one sister, each with a different personality and outlook on life. They have helped shape me into the confident person I am today. They are my support system and I don’t know what I would do with out all of their help and guidance.
My education – I have come across many financial struggles while trying to earn my college degree. The challenges I have faced have taught me valuable lessons about hard work and determination. Knowing that I have overcome obstacles in order to better myself with education has made me value it so much more. I also think a lot of a college education has to do with learning about who you are as a person and what your beliefs and identity is.
My health – Health is very important and as a young adult living on a college campus with a college student budget it is hard to stay on track with a healthy lifestyle. However, I have always done my best to stay both physically and mentally fit, as I know this is the best way to live a healthy lifestyle. Some of the things I do are, take multivitamins, physical activities such as cross fit or boot-camp classes, and trying out new healthy recipes.
Tell us something about Iowa that not too many people know.
Iowa Fun Facts:
· Iowa is the only state name that starts with two vowels.
· Iowa State University is the oldest land grant college in the USA.
· Iowa is the only state whose east and west borders are 100% formed by water. Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
· Iowa isn’t just cornfields!! It has a number of amazing cities. Iowa City, IA is listed in the top 25 best places to live as a recent college graduate and Des Moines, IA is the #1 ranked city for business and careers by Forbes.
What pushes your hot button?
1. Burping. I find it extremely repulsive, and if someone I’m with does it in a public place it just makes me want to crawl under a rock and sit in child’s pose.
2. When someone grinds their teeth on their fork when eating. It is my version of nails on a chalkboard. It brings shivers down my spine.
The great Chinese philosopher Confucius said: "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." Do you think that you can find beauty in everything?
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” – Margaret Wolfe Hungerford.
Confucius and Margaret both have very similar views on beauty, and I agree with them both. These quotes seem to hit on the fact that people see iner beauty differently based on how a person treats them – that is, whether they are kind to them or not. Someone’s inner beauty can speak louder than their outer beauty, but I do believe it is possible to find beauty in everything.
What qualities are you looking for in a potential husband?
The qualities I look for most in a potential husband are loyalty and generosity. I would want someone who’s family oriented and loves the thought of having a family of their own to take care of. Of course I would LOVE for him to also be tall, dark, and handsome, but looks really aren’t everything to me. I look for someone who is driven, passionate, spontaneous, genuinely romantic, and loves animals. I want a husband who makes me a better person and who makes me want to be a better person in all aspects of life.
What is your strategy for effectively dealing with the press?
I think there are a number of ways to effectively deal with the press which is why politicians aren’t in the news as much as stars who want the press on them, whether it is good or bad. A strategy I would use is to know the difference between when it is the right time to be in the eye of the press and when it is the right time to stay out of it. If I were dealing with personal matter, I would steer clear of the press, but if I were doing something positive and wanting to share a good message with the public, such as charity work, then I would work with the press in a professional manner.
What is the craziest or most outrageous thing you have done in your life so far?
When I was in high school, my family and I took a trip to the islands of Hawaii. Early one morning, while visiting the island of Maui, we drove up to the top of a volcano with a group of other vacationers to watch the sun rise. The views were spectacular, unlike anything I have ever seen before. After taking in the breathtaking scenes, we road bicycles down the volcano as the sun continued to rise into the day. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done, riding a bicycle down the narrow winding roads of this volcano, but the view and the adrenaline made it worth my while and the experience created a memory I will never forget.
Do you think that the National Security Agency's extensive surveillance program on American citizens might be necessary to protect the U.S. from terrorist attacks, and therefore may be a "necessary evil" of sorts?
I applaud the government for going to such great lengths in order to protect American citizens. However, I believe there are alternative ways the government could go about monitoring and preventing possible terrorist attacks without taking the extreme measure of implementing an extensive surveillance program. People have the right of privacy, and our American government was founded on protecting it. The fourth amendment is a prime example - The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Why do you think some people are very critical of pageants?
To be honest, I used to be critical about pageants. That is before my sister (Miss Illinois USA 2010) showed me the other side of pageantry. Yes, technically it is a beauty pageant, but it really is so much more than that. I think some woman and young girls think pageants are all about how they physically look, which can be very hard on them both mentally and physically when trying to prepare for a pageant. Many people think you have to be a certain size or look like Barbie in order to win a pageant, which isn’t true. I think if more people understood what the main purpose of pageantry was, it could open their eyes up the other side of pageantry. For example, the interview, and getting to know whom these women are deep down as well as what kinds of things they believe in and support. I love being Miss Iowa USA because it has allowed me to become more involved in my community than I already have been. I currently volunteer at the Ronald McDonald house and have been involved with a number of philanthropies on campus such as Girls on the Run and Campfire USA.
Cigarettes and liquor both hurt people. Is there a double standard in that one can be advertised, but not the other?
Yes, I do feel that the legal ability to advertise alcohol but not cigarettes is indeed a double standard. However, there are many products that are proven to be harmful to our health yet they are still heavily advertised. Unfortunately, it is difficult to know the real positive and negative effects of every product, substance, drink, etc on the market, so this will be an ongoing difficult issue to make completely fair across all industries.
Do you support the legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?
Whether or not marijuana is legal in the United States, the realty is that it is easy to obtain, use, and abuse across the country. I believe that regardless of its legality, people have a choice as to whether or not they should participate in using it. If legalized, it is almost certain to stimulate the economy in a positive way through production and taxed sales of the product. However, legalizing the drug will indeed alter some peoples’ decisions to try and/or use it more frequently. Personally, I support the legalization of marijuana, because just as we are warned about the negative impact that cigarettes, alcohol, and even most processed foods and prescribed medications can have on our health if abused, it is up to the American people to make their own choice about using the product.
If you were to come back as a man in the next life, what significant physical traits and personal qualities would you like to have and why?
If I came back as a man in my next life, I would want to come back as the same person. I would have different physical traits and different interests, but I would like to be the same person mentally. It would be interesting to go through life with the same beliefs and goals as I have now, but as a male. As a student earning a degree in business finance, it is challenging to set myself apart for men in the business world. Unfortunately, there is still a huge gender gap in society. The respect and work pay that women receive continues to be secondary to that of a man, and I would like to come back as “me” and see how differently my life could play out as a male.
What one question would you like someone to ask you and what would you respond to this question?
Will you marry me? – I would answer yes if he had majority of the qualities listed in question #6. Oh, and of course, only if he asked my father for his permission first.
Why do you want to be the next Miss USA?
I want to be the next Miss USA because it is something I have a chance of actually achieving, although it was never something I ever thought I could achieve – and that’s pretty neat. I haven’t lived my life trying to change the world, I haven’t received a plethora of sports, music, or academic awards, and I don’t really know what my life has in store for me after college. Yet, that doesn’t mean I don’t constantly set and achieve personal goals for myself. I defied all odds by not only competing for the title of Miss Iowa USA, but winning it on my very first try. Being Miss USA is something I know I can excel at. I love the idea of working all over the country and world on different projects, with unique and famous people, and having an experience that very few women get. I want to be a role model to younger women the way my mom and sister have been to me. This is my opportunity to achieve and experience something really great – and all while wearing that gorgeous crown! After all, what little girl didn’t grow up wanting to be a princess?
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SPECIAL THANKS TO LIBBY WATKINS, ASSISTANT STATE DIRECTOR,, FOR FACILITATING THIS INTERVIEW