On April 2, with a crown on her head and a sash on her shoulder, Emma Haselhuhn drove from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, back to Des Moines. She had just been crowned Miss Heartland at the last Miss Iowa preliminary pageant.
The Drake student will compete at the Miss Iowa pageant in June.
“It was a gratifying moment to know that all my hard work, all the mornings I woke up early to go to the gym and when I would practice my walk and interview questions, it wasn’t all in vain,” Haselhuhn said. “Even if I hadn’t won, I wouldn’t have thought of it as being in vain because I’ve learned so much about myself as a person and about other women of the world.”
The first-year public relations major competed at six different preliminary pageants as part of the Miss America Organization scholarship program in the hopes of wearing a crown. Her next competition will be the Miss Iowa pageant in June.
In pageants past, Haselhuhn earned two top five places, best talent and best personal interview to add to her list of accomplishments. However, a crown evaded her until the last possible moment.
The pageant held in Cedar Rapids was the sweep pageant where the last four titles were awarded before titleholders go on to Miss Iowa. Haselhuhn was awarded the last crown during the ceremony.
“It’s always really dramatic when they do crowning,” Haslehuhn said. “I thought to myself, ‘Emma, if you don’t get this, you’ve grown so much.’ I felt like I’d worked hard and had put everything I can out on the stage for these judges to see.”
Haselhuhn’s most loyal supporters have been her parents, Mark and Carolyn. The couple from Eddyville, Iowa, has been there to watch their daughter grow and succeed throughout the pageant circuit.
“Whatever she does, I try to support her,” Mark said. “I was kind of surprised when she told me she wanted to do (pageants). Whatever Emma decides to do, she gets it done.”
Even though several pageants did not turn out how Haselhuhn hoped, Mark said he was never disappointed in his daughter.
“I was never upset (when she didn’t place first) because whatever she’d done I was never ashamed of it,” he said. “She’d done her best, and that’s all I ever ask.”
A new addition to the audience in Cedar Rapids was Haselhuhn’s boyfriend Cort McElmury, a marketing major at Drake. The pageant was an opportunity for him to see Haselhuhn do something she is passionate about.
“She loves doing pageants, so I really wanted to be able to see her do one of the things that she loves to do,” McElmury said.
McElmury said he was perhaps almost as nervous as Haselhuhn when the crowning took place.
“Before they called her name, honestly, I was so super nervous,” he said. “She really wanted that so badly. When (they finally announced her name), I screamed internally. She was so excited. I loved seeing that.”
With her parents, family and friends at every single pageant, Haselhuhn always knew why she was competing.
“It’s comforting to look up into the crowd, and I could see my dad and my grandma, my mom and my boyfriend looking at me and smiling,” Haselhuhn said. “That’s why I do it at the end of the day. I get to share my passions and my joys and my sorrows and my talent with all these people. It’s bringing happiness and good to the world. That’s what the Miss America Organization’s all about.”
Beyond being a contest about physical beauty, judges were looking at the competitors’ resumes, talent and platform to determine the most outstanding woman.
Haselhuhn’s platform throughout the preliminary pageant circuit was Everybody Wins Iowa, a program designed to promote literacy to children. Now as she looks ahead to Miss Iowa, Haselhuhn has a different, yet similar, platform in mind.
In partnering with Everybody Wins! Iowa, she is looking to start her own foundation to educate elementary school children on the importance of literacy and help them become better readers.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be called yet (or) exactly where we’re going to go with it,” Haselhuhn said, “but it’s going to happen. It’s cooking in my head right now. I’m really excited to start that and get it geared up into more elementary schools.”
Haselhuhn said she wants to accomplish the most good with this project before the Miss Iowa pageant.
Sixteen young women will compete at the Miss Iowa pageant, which will be held from June 9 to 11 in Davenport, Iowa.