Students at UAA are walking the halls with royalty. A Biology major with a minor in theatre and currently enrolled at UAA, Stephany Jeffers is Miss Alaska 2008. What started out as a simple scholarship search landed Jeffers the role as Miss Alaska 2008 and a whole new feeling about the meaning of beauty pageants.
Jeffers grew up in Chugiak and graduated from Grace Christian High School in Anchorage. She earned her four-year tuition waiver from the Miss Alaska pageant earning the title Miss Alaska 2008. She describes the beginnings of her endeavor as Miss Alaska unexpected. Her senior year brought an ongoing flow of scholarship applications. Being the youngest child in the family, she was left to find a way to support herself through school.
By graduation in 2003, Jeffers had hopes to attend a west coast Christian college, with a softball team, a biology program, and theatre program. She found Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington, where she was runner-up for Miss Spokane in 2004.
As a senior in high school, Jeffers heard there was an award at state level in the Miss Alaska pageant, where all that had to be done was to turn in a transcript. No matter the placing she would receive in the pageant, there would be an academic award at the end of the competition. She turned in her transcript, participated in the pageant, and earned a thousand dollars for simply participating.
After turning in her transcript with no intention to place, Jeffers placed in the top five in the Miss Alaska pageants competition of 2003. Jeffers explained what being in a pageant meant to her when she first started taking advantage of the scholarship opportunity. “The first two years I didn’t want to win at all.” Jeffers said. However, after three more years of earning a one year tuition waiver from the pageant, she went from just caring about scholarships to actually appreciating what the program was about. “I never wanted to be a beauty queen. I wanted scholarships. So getting past that mental hurdle for me was realizing that I didn’t have to give up anything that I was,” Jeffers said.
There are five stages of competition: personal interview, talent, onstage interview, eveningwear, and swimsuit. Jeffers’ talent is singing a Broadway musical number. Her personal interviews are 13 minutes long and are not broadcasted at nationals.
In her interview, she was questioned on different matters, ranging from the Electoral College system to capital punishment, and she’s sure that when she participates in the Lower 48, she will get a question about Sarah Palin.
The four points of the Miss America crown symbolize Style, Scholarship, Service and Success. “It’s so incredible, this program. They’re not talking about whether or not you have the hippest clothes, or whether or not you’re wearing the best designers, it’s about how you carry yourself,” Jeffers said. For her, it’s more about the heart of the program.
As part of her responsibilities as Miss Alaska, Jeffers is the representative for Children’s Miracle Network, an alliance of hospitals for children. She also must participate in community service and manage finances for the pageant, like setting up fundraisers. “When you go into winning a title, you know there’s not just going to be waving and parades; there’s going to be a lot of community service,” Jeffers said. Her goals as Miss Alaska are to make the pageant easier for future women to come and to let all women know about this scholarship opportunity.
“There’s no fundraising. There’s no service. You’re starting from the beginning. If nothing else, in my year I want to get out there so that the next girl has it easier and she doesn’t have to start from the very beginning, but she’ll have a jump start,” Jeffers said. Jeffers is also hoping to start up locals again so that each region of the state has someone to represent them at the state pageant, such as Miss Birchwood, Miss Anchorage, Miss Wasilla, and Miss Girdwood.
Although she felt like she deserved Miss Spokane because she felt that she was better for the program, Jeffers realized that “it’s not always about you”. This didn’t prove a threat to Jeffers. She believes the puzzle fits. “This was my year to win,” she said. Although Jeffers felt lost in the beginning of her participation in the pageants, she also said that being in the pageant six times has sort of changed her. She said she has become more tactful. Now, being Miss Alaska to Jeffers means having a stronger voice.
Jeffers said she’s willing to let life change a little bit. “I’m in a place right now in my life that I can do whatever. The eventual goal; a PHC in Horticulture, but if a Broadway show or a couple trips around the world comes in between now and then, so be it,” she said. Jeffers was a part of the Scared Scriptless Improv Troupe. She also hopes to start an improvisation troupe on campus on her own for UAA students. She’s already begun auditioning.
“I’m a little terrified of the national stage,” Jeffers remarked. January 26th begins the Miss America Pageant, nationals. The pageant week begins first with three nights of preliminaries in Las Vegas where TLC will broadcast the phases of competition. “I’ll go in there knowing I’ve got the same experience and same qualifications as all those other girls. I don’t have to worry about being intimidated,” Jeffers ended.