2018 Miss Kansas USA Candidate Jenna Donovan On The Importance Of Women Supporting Women

One of the things Jenna Donovan finds most inspiring is women openly supporting and lifting each other up. With so many obstacles on the road to gender equality, we don't need to create another one by getting in our own way  — despite the stereotype of pageant girls and the nasty habit of trying to pit us against each other. 

It’s time to raise awareness around initiatives women are taking to help their female counterparts achieve their goals and feel empowered. The concept of women helping other women benefits both parties, while demonstrating just how powerful a force females can be when they support one another. 

Jenna thinks that integrity, grace, and kindness are the qualities of a true queen, one who supports other women and does not tear others down to get ahead - "If you strive to live your life as if you already are a queen, if you exude beauty from your heart and soul- others will see that. Others will respect it. That is what will carry you far in life, more than a beautiful face or a perfect body ever could. Even if  you don't win a crown of your own- you will know your worth, and you will know you are already a queen because you have the heart of one."

I had the opportunity to interview the gorgeous Jenna on her preparation for the upcoming Miss Kansas USA Pageant. Did you know ? Kansas did not place at Miss USA until 1973, the third-to-last state to make their first placement. From then, no delegate from Kansas made the cut until 1991, when Kelli McCarty won the crown. McCarty's win makes Wichita, Kansas the only state to host one Miss USA and Miss Teen USA to win in their home state.

In 1992, the state joined the Vanbros group, which led to a surge in placements in the 1990s and early 2000s. This included two first runners-up, one second runner-up, one third runner-up, and one fourth runner-up, among others. All but three of Kansas's ten placements have been runners-up.

What inspired you to walk on the course of beauty pageants? 

I entered my first pageant when I was at a low point in life- I'd faced some major setbacks, and every door I tried was closed to me. However, instead of feeling defeated, I used the opportunity to examine what I really wanted out of life, what my passions are, and what opportunities were still open to me. I have always loved performing, public speaking, and I feel most at home in a gown. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I went for it- I applied for the Miss Kansas USA pageant, and competed for the first time ever at 26 years old. 

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Photo by Justin Lister Photography

What do you expect to gain by competing in pageantry? 

Pageantry has given me direction and a stronger sense of self. The competition itself may be one weekend, but the preparation for it is constant. Having a goal like competing in a pageant puts so many other decisions into perspective- you sacrifice a lot in the short term, which helps you develop discipline. I have found new passions through pageantry, and I've developed new friendships with women who have similar hopes, dreams, and experiences. 

Tell me something about yourself and your work. What do you actually do, and have done in the past? 

I have had a fairly diverse career! I worked in bridal and formal wear for 8 years- I was a bridal consultant like on "Say Yes to the Dress". I also had the opportunity to go to the Chicago Bridal Market as a buyer for the boutique that I worked at, and I competed as a designer in a local charity fashion show. I left the bridal world for aviation- my first "big" job was with Textron Aviation, working on their NASCAR sponsorship. I went from an incredibly feminine world to an incredibly masculine world- but I enjoyed every minute of it! I went to many NASCAR races around the country, and I even had access to the pits. While it was a wonderful job, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to compete in pageants since I was working and traveling so much. I currently work as an aircraft insurance broker for Air Capital Insurance. I insure a number of air racers, aerobatic performers, warbirds, and jets- I've learned more about aviation in this job than ever before, and I've really found a passion for it. I even hope to earn my pilot's license before my 30th birthday!

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Photo by Justin Lister Photography

Many misses have said that their dream since a child was to participate in a pageant as prestigious as Miss World (or Miss Universe). It this your case ? And if so, why ?

 I wouldn't say that it was a consistent dream for me growing up- I would watch the major pageants with my mom when I was a child, and I would marvel at their gowns. It was more of a daydream for me than a real goal- not something I ever thought would really happen in my life. It's definitely more of a goal that has crystalized in my adulthood than in my childhood. 

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Social media seem to play a major role in pageantry nowadays. Do you think this is advantageous to you? Why or why not? 

Absolutely! Social media allows a queen to be accessible in a way that they never were before. Before social media, my road to the crown would have been much more isolated, confined to close friends and family. With social media, I have friends and followers from all over the country- even in different parts of the world- who are cheering me on and encouraging me in my journey! In the past, a winner would be crowned and you may not hear that much from her after that moment. Now, I can see all of the initiatives that Miss USA and Miss Universe are engaged in, see their unique personalities, and witness the difference they are making in the world. 

Did you face any moment of disappointment with yourself during the pageant journey, and how did you overcome it?

 I make no secret of how I have struggled with my relationship to my body. I'm much more "Kardashian-esque" (as I like to say) than most pageant competitors, and you really don't see that. There are times that I doubt myself because I don't conform to the standard, no matter how hard I train in the gym. I may look at my fellow competitors and wish I was more like them. But I have to remind myself that I am unique and beautiful in my own way, that what I bring to the stage is different, and that my identity is more than my face and my body. I am strong, healthy, and happy in mind and body. I want to be an example of body positivity, of advancing pageantry into a new era. I will hold my head high and remember who I am. I will do my best and put the rest in God's hands. I can't say that I had one singular moment where I overcame my self-doubt- it's daily progress. Some days are better than others! I try to be as honest as possible in this regard- I hope other women see me and recognize that we all carry similar struggles. But despite it all, we can still be courageous and recognize our own beauty, unapologetically. 

We’ve all seen the stereotypical portrayals of pageant contestants, a la Miss Congeniality, spreading peace, love and beauty throughout the world. How do you think you'll make a difference ? 

If I win the crown, I hope that my triumph will be an inspiration to others. I have been at the bottom- I've struggled with depression in the past, and I've faced serious personal and professional crises. There were times I felt like giving up. If I were to win, I would tell everyone I meet that life is worth living. Don't give up just because you're going through a difficult time in life. As Winston Churchill said, "If you're going through hell, keep going"- I want to be a beacon of hope to others. If I can face dark times and come out stronger than ever before, so can they. Life is beautiful, and you never know what may be just around the corner. The possibilities are truly endless. 


Thanks to the beautiful Jenna for the interview. Pageants News wishes you all the very best for Miss Kansas USA pageant.