Our interview this month is with Anne. She is our 2016 Miss Dowagiac! With much laughter we enjoyed the interview we had with her about her experience in the Miss Dowagiac pageant and being this year’s Miss Dowagiac.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: I’m 18 years old. I graduated high school. I have two older brothers, a mom, and a dad who are happily married. I’m a musician. I’m the youngest, obviously, which is awesome. My favorite color is blue.
Q: What activities have you been involved in throughout high school?
A: I have been involved in choir first and foremost because that’s my favorite. I was in band when I was in middle school. I was in Interact Club, Student Senate, National Honor Society my junior and senior year, Chieftain Heart and played soccer and volleyball. And musicals! I was in musicals! I’ve gone to Africa and Peru and South Dakota on missions trips. I was involved in youth group, and I’m on the worship team at our church, Sister Lakes Community Church.
Q: What is the reason you decided to participate in Miss Dowagiac?
A: Hmmm… well, like I told the newspaper dude when he asked me the next day, I said that there wasn’t ever really a doubt that I wouldn’t go out for it. Just because I’ve lived here my whole life, I’ve always attended the pageants and so it was always something that I wanted to do. Just my love for the community. I thought I might have a chance. Turns out I was right.
Q: And you’ve know quite a few, not just Miss Dowagiacs, but Miss Eau Claire too…
A: A lot of people from our church were community queens. We would always go watch them be in the parades. I think when Katie won it, that’s when I got really excited because at the time I was hanging out with her a lot. My mom was a part of her whole thing; she helped Katie out a lot. I think that’s also what inspired me.
Q: What was your impression of the pageant, the other contestants and the possible outcome as practices progressed?
A: It’s definitely a little bit of an adventure in itself because first of all, all your friends are going out for it, and so it’s kind of like you know there’s only going to be one winner. For me it wasn’t like a competition necessarily. But some of the other girls felt that way. They’d be upset if they didn’t win. That’s how it’s been in the past, but I think that our class was really supportive of each other. I got really lucky that we haven’t had any really negative comments, which is totally a huge blessing. It makes the whole thing more enjoyable. But practices were definitely interesting because at first it was just like you didn’t really know what you were getting yourself into. They were like you have to be a girl and be on time, have your hair and makeup done. And we were always texting like what is everyone wearing dresses or what? Everyone was always confused and we didn’t know what to wear. But there was good camaraderie amongst the girls. I think I had good girls that went out for it. There wasn’t too much drama, if any at all.
Q: Did you believe that you would actually have a chance to win?
A: I was a little skeptical because I’m obviously not the prettiest and they say it’s not a beauty pageant but… So I thought that I was up there as far as personality, the community service thing, being involved. I thought I had good things on my plate. But I wasn’t the only one. But I thought I was in the top five maybe. I definitely didn’t expect to win, especially when it got down to the end there. I thought I was a goner.
Q: Did you have any expectations beforehand of what being Miss Dowagiac would be like?
A: I don’t know because for me it was like I didn’t know… I got a lot of stuff, a lot of gifts from the city. I didn’t know all that came with it and so I wasn’t really expecting to get all that, which was nice obviously. I really could have been fine with just the title. I could have been fine without the gifts and stuff just getting to go out into the community and do the other things is nice.
Q: How about what you have to do as Miss Dowagiac. Did you know what was required of you? Did they let you know that as you went out for Miss Dowagiac?
A: I always saw Tori out at things so I knew all the city things that I would have to do that. There’s been things added on throughout the year that I don’t think they did last year. Also, the other thing is that our directors got switched so it’s sort of been a weird year for me because we’re kind of like the guinea pigs for new things. And there’s stuff that they did last year that they haven’t done this year. So it’s been a little adventure in itself. There’s a lot of stuff that we do especially in summer time. There was a period there where we didn’t do anything. But as summer goes on we have something like every week. If there was something that I had to tell girls, I don’t want to scare them away, but just so they know, you’re going to have to spend some money. I don’t know if it’s really expected of you, but I’ve been really blessed because I’ve gotten a lot of dresses for cheap or for free.
Q: How is the year going in comparison to what you thought Miss Dowagiac would be like?
A: It’s going well. I’m having a lot of fun. It definitely also makes it more enjoyable that Brittany, who’s my best friend, is my first runner-up. So that was sweet that we have the time together since she’s going away to college. We weren’t the greatest friends with Dimaan but I think we’re having some good bonding times. So it’s been cool to get to know her a little bit better. The only downside is that they’re not complaining but communication is not the greatest between directors and us. So a lot of times we don’t know stuff so that part is just frustrating for the people. Where I’m like it’s not that big of a deal, the other girls are like this is so stupid, they should do this, they should do that. So I try to be like it’s not the end of the world. I just got an email a couple weeks ago about the next pageant so I’m so sad it’s almost over. So I’m really just trying to enjoy the moments.
Q: What have you been busy with since becoming Miss Dowagiac?
A: Yesterday, we just took our professional portraits with Scott Rose. He’s awesome! So that was a lot of fun. We did individuals and then we did group ones. Those were inside. And then we came downtown, and we changed our gowns into different ones. We walked around town and took a bunch of pictures. So that was a lot of fun. Scott Rose is awesome. He’s so funny. I never realized how funny he was. We’ve had parades. We just had Summer In The City where we got dunked in the dunk tank. That was fun. This Saturday we have Steve’s Run, and this Sunday we have a little thing at the Cass County Fair. We have two more parades in August.
Q: How has Miss Dowagiac changed your life?
A: I didn’t used to wear a lot of makeup. But you have to look presentable, so before the pageant I just started wearing a little bit of makeup to get used to it. So then during one of our practices we had a makeup consultation where they taught you what to do. I had a thing at the Mane Attraction where they showed me ways to do my hair and ways to do my makeup. If I was to say what changed me, definitely I take more time to think about what I look like. Which is not necessarily a bad thing because usually I just throw on jeans and a tee shirt and put my hair up and I don’t really take time for myself. Not that I’m so caught up in what I look like on the outside but just that I look presentable. It shows I have respect for myself. So I think that’s the biggest way it’s probably changed me. I’m trying to be more fashionable. Which are things I need to learn because I’m a girl. It really has also humbled me because the night of the pageant I just didn’t think, I was like aw I’m done, but then the crown was put on my head. It’s been great. One thing that stuck out to me was that one guy came up to me and said how in my bio, which I didn’t really notice because I didn’t read the other girls’ bios, I read them after the fact. But he said my bio was not about me and more about the community and stuff. I wasn’t trying to make it like that but I guess that’s just what he had noticed. I think it is true that some of the other girls just wanted to be Miss Dowagiac for themselves more so.
Q: You already mentioned Brittany and Dimaan. Brittany is 1st runner up and Dimaan is 2nd runner up and Miss Congeniality. Could you tell us something you enjoy about having each of them on your court.
A: Brittany, I didn’t vote for her for Miss Congeniality, but she’s sort of been like a Miss Congeniality at some times , at some moments, it has really just made me see how great of a best friend I really have. The other day while we were getting our pictures taken she could just tell, it’s like we’re married or something, I was looking in the mirror and I could think she could just tell something on the side of my hair or something and she was like, “What? What’s wrong?” And I was like “I don’t know.” And she was like “You look fine, you look beautiful.” She’s always doing stuff like that. So I think it has just brought us closer as friends. And Dimaan is just hilarious. She’s just always late, for one. So that’s always a trick but whenever she’s there she just lightens the mood or she’s got this hilarious laugh so she makes me laugh. But I’ve also gotten to get a little bit closer to her too which is cool. We just had choir together so we were probably just more acquaintances rather than like friends. So it’s brought us closer together because we’re with each other all the time.
Q: Has the title changed people’s perspective of you or how they treat you?
A: I think a lot of people when it got down to it they thought I wasn’t going to get it. They were happy that I got it. But a few people told me they didn’t think I would and I was like yeah neither did I. For some people I think it was sort of like a reality check. I think for some people it changed their perspective on the pageant even and the judges. And they’re like wow a quality person sort of won, is what some people have told me, which is good for the pageant. Like Mr. C, he didn’t really like the pageant. Just the three girls that were chosen, he’s like it’s a really good three people that were chosen. A lot of my close friends don’t treat me differently, but probably more people talk to me, to be honest actually. Just because I’m like a public figure, a lot more people have read in the newspaper about me and stuff so sometimes people will be like oh, you’re Miss Dowagiac. And they’ll say I really like this about you. They’ll be people I don’t even know so it’s kind of cool just to know that people are watching, people are reading, you ‘ve got to be careful sometimes. Not that I would do anything stupid or whatever, but just to keep that in mind.
Q: Have you found it a challenge adding this honor to your already busy schedule and still make time for your walk with God?
A: I really actually think that this year I’ve been more in touch with Jesus. Probably because I just went to Pulse Fest recently. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do and I was sort of iffy about going into music just because everyone’s like if you don’t want to be a teacher then you can’t make it. But as I was at Pulse Fest I hadn’t sang in a while because I was in Florida and I just hadn’t been singing. So at Pulse Fest I was singing. The usual people didn’t go so it was just like me and my brother and the Gendrons. So it was just good to get some worship time in, and I was really just like yes music is what I want to do. That’s what I need to do. Because I love music. This is something I could do; be up in Pulse Fest sometime. It sort of just makes me feel better about my career choice. I also try to use Miss Dowagiac, like Brittany and I went to Steak ‘n Shake the other day, and we were just talking about things. It was right after our pictures with Scott Rose. She was having…she didn’t know what to do about this particular situation so I was just trying to relate with her. I was trying to use it as an opportunity and I was like I know this isn’t how it is in your life but for my life why am I so into this but not that much so into God. So I try to be a testimony to both of them as much as I can. I don’t know about Dimaan. I think she’s got a little bit of religious belief in her background but Brittany doesn’t.
Q: What advice do you have for girls that would like to participate in pageants?
A: Beauty pageants I think is definitely a different ball park from what I’ve heard because it’s more like beauty. Whereas this one I think it’s a great opportunity. I’m possibly thinking of doing another one because if I could win, it’s scholarship money for one, which is helping me out a lot with my education. But for me it wasn’t really about that, that’s a bonus. I really just wanted to do it because of Dowagiac because this is where I am from, this is where I grew up so I’m proud to represent my community. Some girls do it for the wrong reasons. They might just do it for all the stuff and the glitz and glam if you want to use that term. Which I would maybe say your heart’s in the wrong place, and I would rethink why you’re going out for Miss Dowagiac or whatever pageant you’d be going out for. I had a great time. It’s been an enjoyable experience and a good experience, and I’m glad I did it. I’m glad my friends went out for it too because Brittany wasn’t going to go out but I think I sort of like prodded her to do so. I think she’s glad I did.
Q: How could girls prepare themselves for the pageant?
A: I was blessed and had a prior queen help me out. She used to go to our church so I knew her, and so she just offered to give me a few tips here and there. Which I said yes. She took me shopping a couple times for dresses and suits for practices and stuff. Not only was it a good bonding time for us just as like a mentor aside from the pageant stuff but also including the pageant stuff she just sort of taught me you want to have poise and be you but at the same time be aware and don’t like fully be you because I’m not as girly girl as I probably should be or ladylike I guess is the term. So that was good and helped me out a lot I think. I don’t know if other girls really had that so they were sort of alone. And I feel like I sort of had experience because Katie and past queens that I have known I talked to them so I made sure I talked to Tori and the other girls on the court last year to sort of give me some pointers or something. So I just asked. So I don’t know if the other girls did that or not. But that is what I did. Even if I didn’t have that person to help me, I think I would have been fine. I guess it just gave me an extra boost of confidence or something just to know that people were behind me.
Q: What was the most important area for you to work on personally when preparing for the pageant?
A: I really worked on when we would have group events not just to overtake but not be hidden amongst everyone. So I put my foot in there. When we would have things in group settings I wanted to be like I’m here but not so much that I’m HERE. So that was an important aspect just letting that balance, that fine line. Also appearance probably… doing my hair, taking better care of myself… that sounds bad. Not that I was trashy or anything but I would just throw my hair up in a ponytail or throw my hair up in a bun like right now or just wear jeans and a tee shirt or sweatpants you know, just wear sweatpants to school. I didn’t wear sweatpants at all my senior year. I was so proud. But if you have respect for yourself, then other people are going to have respect for you. So that wasn’t something I ever really cared about or thought about because I just thought people like me for me. So I’m grateful to those who stuck around. So in that circumstance I changed that a little bit which I think has been good because I’ve become a woman or whatever.
Q: On the other hand, what came easy to you that you didn’t need to prepare for as much?
A: Definitely stage presence. I have stage experience just because of musicals and I used to dance. Also, singing in church, I felt comfortable in front of larger audiences which I think some of the other girls didn’t. I was still nervous, don’t get me wrong, I was really nervous . Probably just more comfortable than some of the other girls which helped. I didn’t really have to prepare for that. Also, it’s probably just part of who I am. I feel pretty confident about myself whereas other girls probably don’t. I think I could just be comfortable in my skin type thing which helps.
Q: What advice can you give to girls to prepare mentally for the pageant results so they don’t act poorly whether they win or lose?
A: It’s going to be hard for me to say because of the results but there was definitely a moment before I got crowned where I was like I need to prepare myself for if this girl next to me gets crowned. So I think that’s why I had such a bad facial expression because I was preparing to just keep smiling, just keep smiling even though this is going to really suck. Then when it was just on my head I was like crying but I go back and I look at the pictures and I look at her face and she really wanted it too so it was just pure disappointment. You wish the results could have been a little bit different, maybe have four girls instead of three. But also just be supportive I think because when we were back in the room and they announced the top five to us that was hard for the other girls who didn’t make it either. There was crying but you just have to be there for each other. Even if I hadn’t won I would like to think that I would have been so supportive of the girls who had won and just know that’s not what God had in store for me I guess and that He had something different in mind.
Q: Do you have any advice on how a girl can remain humble if they win a title? How do you remain humble?
A: I don’t know because for me the few days after was just very humbling. I didn’t feel like this proud person and oh I won. I just felt very humble because I really didn’t think, especially when it just got down to it. I really thought I was not going to get it. I just also felt loved to be honest because I had got in my accident and I didn’t buy my dress and someone had just let me borrow it. And the ladies at the dry cleaning place, they let me borrow her slip or something. It was just like all these little details that I needed. And my hair dresser cancelled on me and so I was like shoot what am I going to do? So my friend’s mom just stepped in and did my hair and my makeup for me. So I was just feeling very blessed all around. So I think it made me just have more of a humble attitude. So I don’t know how to say how to have a humble attitude just because I sort of think it just came to me. But sometimes especially when I put the crown on I’m like oh my gosh I won so it’s hard sometimes to not be like…especially with social media I just want to post a bunch of pictures but all the girls are on my snapchat and my Instagram and they follow me you know so I don’t want to be like rubbing it in their face so I try to be cautious of what I post. I’ll post the pictures but not go overboard to rub it in their face or anything. So I try to remain humble in that aspect. But you can’t let it overtake you because you want to be able to enjoy it. So there’s probably a fine line between, you know what I’m trying to say? At times it’s hard but I take a lot of selfies and I have a lot of pictures but you just won’t see them all. But I also remind myself that I get a slide show at the end of the year so a lot of people will see pictures then. So I take a lot of pictures for that. Probably also my brother Craig. Craig Zebell, he’s the awesomest. Just because he’s my humility hero. He’s always in my mind when I try to be humble. Some other girl on my court. She’s not as humble so I just look at her, and I don’t want to be that. But she’s just not afraid to do whatever she wants. Sometimes it can get annoying. So I just don’t want to be like that.
Q: How supportive is your family of you?
A: They are very, very supportive. Obviously, they were thrilled that I won. I also think that my mom was very humbled by it. They have been very supportive in the aspect of money just because we aren’t the richest people. They’ve had to buy me stuff so I try to pitch in here and there where I can. But just that sacrifice that they have to make. Also, all the time that they’ve donated to work on the float and to go pick up flowers or something or just wake up early to move the float and get there in time for the parade and stuff like that. Just little things here and there. I mean they’re having fun too but my mom’s tired because she has the shop to run and my dad, it’s the summer for him so not as much probably. But definitely my mom I know it takes a toll on her so I’m truly thankful to have supportive parents because I know not everyone is blessed with that. Even Blake, he’s been around so he helps out whenever he can. Craig hasn’t been around so he hasn’t really been involved but he’s been involved because he prays for me and he sends me little messages here and there. And he wishes he could be here. He’s definitely here in spirit. It’s like a family thing. It brings us together a little bit.
Q: Who’s your biggest fan?
A: Jesus. Who’s my biggest fan? Probably my mom. It depends who you ask because people would argue. Because Kelly Burkett… he’s a pretty big fan I feel like. You guys are awesome too. You always come to my things. I don’t know who’s my biggest fan. I’d probably say my mom.
Q: Any final words of wisdom?
A: I think one thing in my life is to have a good support system and belief system, whatever your options are. Having good friends helps too. I think it’s better to have a small group of friends that you’re very close to than a bunch of friends that you’re not because I’ve really just gotten to know Brittany a lot and she’s a really solid person even though she’s not a Christian she still has good values, and I try to, without shoving it down her throat, be like Jesus! It definitely helps to have good solid people around you. So I’d say just surround yourself with love. Be yourself. That’s the other thing. Just be yourself. Don’t try to fake it till you make it.
Anne Zebell. Peace out!