It’s difficult to think of any Badgers of royal descent, but Courtney Pelot ’16 is about as regal as they come. Need proof? Take a look at her right ring finger, which is adorned with a giant crown — the Miss America crown, to be exact. In September 2016, Pelot represented the state of Wisconsin in the Miss America 2017 pageant. Before that, while earning her undergraduate degree, she won the Miss Green Bay Area title.
What inspired you to get involved in the Miss Wisconsin program?
I always had an interest in doing a pageant, but I also had a fear of public speaking that kept me from ever entering. … Toward the end of my freshman year at the UW, I realized that all but one of my scholarships were one-year scholarships. I needed to figure out a way to pay for the rest of my schooling. I had been following the Miss America organization closely and knew that [it] offered [scholarships] to women on the local, state, and national levels. I immediately began researching which pageants I qualified for and [signed] up for my very first local pageant. In the end, my goal of … paying for my schooling panned out for me.
Was it difficult to juggle your schoolwork with pageant preparation?
Juggling schoolwork and pageant prep definitely prepared me to be Miss Wisconsin, as I learned to organize and prioritize — lessons I’ll always be grateful for. I was careful in my senior year to create a class schedule that left me a four-day weekend so that I could go home for Miss Green Bay Area appearances and Miss Wisconsin preparations.
What kind of preparation is involved leading up to the big day?
I made preparing for a pageant a lifestyle. I incorporated interview and talent practice into my daily routine. I had notebooks of interview topics and bullet points that I brought along with me everywhere. … I slipped on my stage heels daily when I was walking around my kitchen. I read theSkimm [daily newsletter] first thing in the morning every day and scheduled times to watch the news so I could stay up-to-date on current events. While I was at the UW, I selected courses that would provide me with the opportunity to study the topics that I wanted to be studying to prepare for Miss Wisconsin.
What was one of your favorite classes or professors at UW–Madison?
My absolute favorite professor is one I had during my last semester at the UW: Ron Machoian for Topics in Global Security: Revolution and Insurgency. He was extremely supportive of my endeavor to become Miss Wisconsin and would often let me talk about my platform or upcoming events in class, which was integral to helping me get used to speaking extemporaneously about those topics. … The most interesting science course I took was all about the study of GPS, and Vampires in Literature and Film was one of my all-around favorites.
How do you think that your education at the UW has influenced your work as Miss Wisconsin?
The education I received at the UW was so diverse, unique, and tailored to me. I know I wouldn’t have had this incredible experience anywhere else. My education helped shape me into the intelligent, well-spoken woman who is confident in her beliefs and opinions that I am today and prepared me to do the job of Miss Wisconsin to the best of my abilities.
How do you think your UW degree and your title will inspire what you do next?
My UW degree and title of Miss Wisconsin are definitely inspiring my next move. I’ve grown to love this state more than ever, so I plan on remaining in Wisconsin. I want to be able to give back and continue living the life of service that the UW and the Miss America organization have instilled in me.