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miss arkansas u.s.a.
Story by Audrey Hanes, Photo by Amy Long

When Kelsey Dow, Miss Arkansas USA 2012, walks on stage on June 3 in Las Vegas for the live, televised 2012 MISS USA® Competition, she will not only be representing her home state of Arkansas, she’ll be proudly representing Craighead County and the city of Jonesboro. The pageant veteran exhibits the poise and class that is characteristic of the well-known pageant, and her style, both in pageants and in everyday life, stays true to her southern roots.

Dow, who entered the Miss Arkansas USA pageant as Miss Craighead County USA, was crowned as the state’s winner on Jan. 8. Since then, she has been busy making appearances and preparing to wow the judges of the 2012 Miss USA competition, all while keeping up with her studies at Arkansas State University.

“It’s a dream come true to represent this great state at Miss USA,” said Dow. “Jonesboro has been my home for over 20 years, so it truly is an honor to not only represent Arkansas, but Jonesboro, as well.”

It was Dow’s first time competing in a Miss USA pageant; she said what she looks forward to most are the many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that she’ll get to experience as Miss Arkansas USA, such as appearing on shows like “Live with Kelly,” “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” and “The Today Show.” She will also get to meet the owner of the Miss Universe Organization, well-known business mogul Donald Trump.

“I cried when I was crowned, and I haven’t done that before,” said Dow of winning the Miss Arkansas USA title. “It was the night of the big Red Wolves bowl game, and it was also my dad’s birthday, so there was a lot of emotion that day.”

The ASU student is majoring in communication disorders and plans to become a pediatric speech-language pathologist. She is also a member of the Epsilon Zeta Chapter of Alpha Gamma Delta; the death of a sorority sister’s father in a car accident that involved texting and driving is one of the reasons she chose “Texting and Driving: It Can Wait” as her pageant platform.

Dow thinks that one thing that would surprise most people about pageants is the amount of work that contestants put in to competing.

“It’s very time consuming,” she said. “It takes a lot of dedication, not just physically, but mentally, too.

“I am really excited for all the opportunities the Miss USA competition will have. I’m not really sure what will take place once I get there, but I know it will be filled with lots of amazing activities. I’m so anxious to actually be competing. I’ve worked so hard preparing, and now it’s finally time to see all of my hard work pay off.”

How would you describe your pageant style?
I’m very unique. I pick out things that no one else would ever wear. If I had it my way, everything I wore for pageants would be blue.

How has pageant style changed recently?
Long sleeves are a recent trend in pageants. You’ll probably see a lot more white dresses. I think people are going more for a classic look these days – very clean and simple.

What will you be wearing at the 2012 MISS USA® pageant? My gown is from Sherri Hill, and I got it from her daughter’s store in Oklahoma called Serendipity. Sherri did a custom-designed gown for the Miss USA pageant. I haven’t even seen it yet, but I know it’s light blue. Serendipity in Paragould donated all of my jewelry; it’s three weeks worth.

Who influences your everyday style? I really like Rachel Zoe’s style. I love the way she accessorizes everything; everything is big. When I’m not in a pageant, I don’t wear heels unless I have to. I go for comfort more than anything else. I’d rather just accessorize an outfit.

Do you have any style tips for our readers? I have recently learned how to contour my face to highlight certain areas. A light concealer under the eyes and around the nose really does wonders. It makes a big difference, especially in photos. I’ve also started using a bronzer on the outer portions of my face. Another trick is to put a water-proof liquid eye liner in the waterline of your eye on the top and bottom. Also, I have learned how to apply fake eyelashes – you just stick a mirror on your lap and look down.

Where do you shop?
Here in Jonesboro, I shop at Rockstar Clothing & Guitars. I’m a big bargain shopper, so I shop at T.J.Maxx a lot. I also love Macy’s.

Do you have any advice for younger girls or girls who are thinking about participating in pageants?
It’s important to do what you’re most comfortable doing. Wear what you’re most comfortable in, and stay true to yourself.