By Emily Hedges – Monticello Times
Twenty finalists waited anxiously on stage at the 2012 Dream Girls USA pageant hoping to hear their name called as High-Point Champion. Monticello sophomore Kayla Kleinsteuber was not one of them.
Not included as a finalist, she had taken a seat in the stands with her family. When the big moment came, she was shocked to hear her own name over the sound system.
“I was so surprised,” she said. “I started crying because I was so happy all of my hard work paid off. My mom was crying too.”
Kleinsteuber, 14, who was inadvertently left off the list of finalists, won the Dream Girls USA pageant’s top honor in St. Louis, Mo. on July 1, earning a six-foot trophy and $5,000 cash prize.
Dream Girls USA is considered a “natural” pageant because they encourage little to no makeup and a high level of volunteer work within the communities. The competition consists of five categories: spokesmodel, formal wear modeling, casual wear modeling, fashion wear modeling, and photogenic. Each contestant is awarded a points total for each category. As high point champion, Kleinsteuber earned the most combined points for all five categories.
More than 300 contestants competed from around the United States, 25 of which were from Minnesota. Kleinsteuber competed against 133 girls in the 13 and up age division.
“Mom let me try it because they just want you to be natural with hardly any makeup,” she said. “There is the expectation for you to be part of your community and volunteer.”
In addition to the top honor, she won an individual award for overall fashion, which she thought was ironic given that when she received the award, her zipper was left half down.
“Quite a few people saw it, but only on one side of the ballroom,” she said. “Another queen came up behind me and zipped it up for me.”
During the spokesmodel portion, contestants were asked to introduce themselves and tell about their future goals and how they make a positive impact in their communities.
Kleinsteuber packages food for the organization Feed My Starving Children through her church. She enjoys art classes, soccer and dance. Her future goal is to earn a master’s degree in art education and become a high school art teacher, a goal that will be partly funded by her prize money.
“My mom’s making me put it towards college,” she said. “But I get a little of it to spend.” She plans to re-do her bedroom and buy a new cell phone.
Although the prize money was nice, the best part of her experience in St. Louis was the camaraderie between the girls. “I liked to meet all the other queens. They are all nice, and from all over the country.”
She also got the chance to do some sightseeing with her mother, brother and sister. “We got to visit the Arch and go to a game in Busch Stadium,” she said.
Back home in Monticello, Kleinsteuber has received a warm reception from family and friends, many of whom helped her raise money for the competitions and travel expenses.
“We sold butter braids and Pampered Chef items to help pay for the competitions,” said Kleinsteuber. “Everyone has been really supportive. I’ve been congratulated a lot. My sister’s friends enjoy trying on my crowns and sashes.”
After her experience with Dream Girls USA, Kleinsteuber hopes to compete in more pageants in the future. “I hope to run for Miss Monticello when I’m older,” she said.