Amanda Soltero hasn’t competed in many pageants, but the few she has been in have been successful experiences.
She proved that Sunday by taking the crown of Miss Nebraska USA 2014 at the Rose Theater in Omaha.
“It’s surreal,” Soltero, 22, said of besting a field of more than 20 competitors.
It was one of only a few pageants for Soltero, a Columbus High School graduate and senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. With her victory in the competition, Soltero, the daughter of Saul and Sharon Soltero of Columbus, will now represent Nebraska at the 2014 Miss USA Pageant. The winner of that stage will move on to the Miss Universe Pageant as the representative of the United States.
Soltero’s first pageant was as a contestant in the 2010 Miss Nebraska Teen USA, which she won. She then competed in the National Miss Teen USA.
“I haven’t done a pageant since because I’ve been in school, but I knew I wanted to do this at some point,” Soltero said of the Miss Nebraska USA pageant.
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Pageant competition has been in the Soltero family as her mom is a former Mrs. Nebraska winner. After some gentle nudging by her mom, Soltero decided to give pageantry a shot.
“It is a different experience, and it is something not that many people are willing to do because you have to be out there in a swimsuit, and you are being judged,” Soltero said.
Aside from the swimsuit, Soltero and the other contestants were also judged for evening wear and a question-and-answer session. She was asked questions such as if she could go to lunch with anyone, who would it be, and who would she have named as person of the year.
Preparation for the more revealing portion of pageants takes a lot of work paying attention to diet and physical fitness, which Soltero said was a challenge to incorporate into her college schedule.
“You have to be comfortable with who you are,” Soltero said of being on stage under the scrutiny of judges.
Pageants have provided her not only with confidence, but skills such as public speaking. Participation also had a more personal effect on her life. Because of the many interviews she has conducted, Soltero changed her major from elementary education to broadcasting.
Winning a crown also provides opportunities to be involved with charitable organizations. Soltero said she spent much of the past year volunteering with Sammy's Superheroes, a Columbus nonprofit that raises awareness and funding for childhood cancer.
“The crown gives you credibility,” she said.
The date and location of the Miss USA Pageant are yet to be determined, but it will be televised. The pageant, along with Miss Nebraska Teen and Miss Universe, is owned by Donald Trump and NBC Universal.