Every year as part of the Miss America organization, one USD student is crowned as Miss USD. This year, Anna Bonnstetter, a junior strategic communications major, won the title.
Bonnstetter said her first time ever competing in a pageant was last year during the Miss USD pageant.
“I’ve always been interested in pageants; I’ve always wanted to try it,” Bonnstetter said. “I actually did Miss USD last year for the first time, and I met a lot of cool people that I would never have met if I didn’t do the pageant because people do it through all different schools.”
This Miss USD pageant is considered a local pageant within the Miss America organization. Winners of the local pageants in South Dakota will then compete in the Miss South Dakota pageant on May 30 – June 1.
“I’m excited to represent USD at Miss South Dakota and get the opportunity to go to events for USD and promote the pageant,” Bonnstetter said.
Carrie Wintle, current Miss South Dakota and organizer of the Miss USD pageant, said they had nine contestants in the Miss USD pageant this year. Four of those contestants won a title. Miss USD was one of them, and they also gave Miss Missouri Valley to Sylvie Larson, Miss Clay County to Baylee Dittman and Miss Missouri Valley Outstanding Teen to Kate Dailey.
In order to compete in a local Miss America pageant, candidates must fill out paperwork that help the judges get to know them. Candidates must also raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network.
“The Miss America organization also partners with the Children’s Miracle Network so in order to compete at local competitions, you have to raise a little bit of money for Children’s Miracle Network,” Wintle said.
Bonnstetter said she had to raise $100 to compete for Miss USD. She said she will have to raise more money for the Children’s Miracle Network so she can compete in Miss South Dakota.
“That’s kind of like your entry fee, but it’s donated to the Children’s Miracle Network,” Bonnstetter said. “Which I think is kind of cool, because Dakotathon is such a big deal here at USD and that all goes to the Children’s Miracle Network.”
Bonnstetter said everyone in the pageants also gets to choose a platform to focus on.
“My platform is pet adoption,” Bonnstetter said. “So, adopt don’t shop, you know.”
As for Bonnstetter’s responsibilities as Miss USD, Wintle said she’ll have to help organize next year’s Miss USD pageant, compete in the Miss South Dakota pageant and just be an overall ambassador for USD.
“I hope to learn more about the community and the needs of community and the opportunities that USD has with volunteer events,” Bonnstetter said. “Just get involved with more events on campus that may be happening. I think that it will be fun for me to see how much I can do with the title, how much I can help with it.”
One thing that both Bonnstetter and Wintle want people to understand about Miss America is that it’s a scholarship pageant.
“I want people to understand that it’s not a beauty pageant,” Bonnstetter said. “Every time I say that I feel like in Miss Congeniality that pageant lady is like, ‘it’s a scholarship pageant.’ She says that and that’s what I think when I say that, but it’s really about the opportunity to promote something that you’re passionate about.”
Every year the University of South Dakota Foundation gives a $1,000 scholarship to Miss USD.
Bonnstetter said to be in a pageant, all you need is something you’re passionate about and confidence.
“I want people to understand that if they do have something they’re really passionate about and they think pageants would be cool, that’s really all you need,” Bonnstetter said. “You don’t have to be some beauty queen, you’re not judged on how you look, it’s judged on how you present yourself. If you have confidence, and I think that it is a huge confidence boost.”