Miss Missouri USA designs a future at Stephens College

The student must juggle school and pageant duties.
Tuesday, June 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:37 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Ashley Litton’s crown of jewels has become her new trademark, but the Stephens College senior considers herself “just a college girl” despite her one-of-a-kind title.


Ashley Litton, 20, is Miss Missouri USA., 2004, and is a senior at Stephens College.

Litton, 20, recently became Miss Missouri USA after the former Miss Missouri USA, 25-year-old Shandi Finnessey of Florissant, was crowned Miss USA. Finnessey was the first Miss Missouri USA to win the national title.

Litton, who is studying fashion design and product development, was at the Columbia Mall buying shoes for the woman who would model her designs in a fashion show at Stephens when she learned she would succeed Finnessey.

“When I got off the phone, I was so excited that I screamed,” Litton said. “I told the director of pageants that I needed to think about it for a bit — of course I called back and accepted the position very willingly.”

Litton, who grew up in Olathe, Kan., received an honorable mention at her first pageant appearance, the 2001 Miss Kansas Teen USA pageant. She entered again the next year and became a semifinalist. After moving to Columbia to attend Stephens, Litton started participating in Miss Missouri USA pageants. She was a semifinalist in 2003 and again this year.

She was chosen from 15 semifinalists. The first and second runners-up are participating in other pageants.

Litton will have to balance school responsibilities with pageant obligations in the fall. The next couple of months include attending publicity events, doing community service, working at a summer internship with a New York designer and getting a jump on her schoolwork.

“There’s a lot going on, and it’s tough. But I survive on high stress,” she said.

Litton also said she is successful at managing her time during the school year because her teachers are understanding, supportive and encouraging.

“I’m glad that I go to Stephens,” she said. “A lot of my teachers are like my friends, and we’re on a first-name basis. They know me as a person and know what I am capable of, and they will help me out in any way that I need.”

Litton said she enjoys working in the sewing lab and hopes to design evening gowns as part of a class project next year.

Lynn Boorday, who leads the fashion department at Stephens, met Litton two years ago and said she was immediately impressed with Litton’s classroom performance.

“Ashley has such a well-rounded personality. She was cheery, talkative and interactive in the classroom, but she was almost always the first student finished with work,” Boorday said. “She’s a very diligent worker and an extremely good student.”

Litton was recently named “Most Promising Designer” in the junior class by a panel of industrial designers. Litton’s swimsuit, weekend wear, active wear and career dress designs were the highest scoring garments in her class.

In addition, Litton was awarded the Katie Marble Scholarship for best in design. Litton said she was honored to receive the award.

“She’s always been good,” Boorday said. “She came in with raw talent — an excellent illustrator and good pattern maker. Ashley’s skills have advanced at Stephens, but her natural talent makes her one of the top students in the department.”

When Litton returns to school in August, she expects some of her classmates will have stereotypes about her pageant duties. But Litton said she is just like any other student.

On the Miss Missouri USA Web site, Litton said she enjoys shabby-chic decorating, art, vintage shopping, running and modeling. At Stephens, Litton is a member of the Innovative Fashion Association and a model for Stephens Modeling Group.

“I’m very normal, down-to-earth, as goofy and silly as the next college girl. I just have an ambition to do something very exciting,” she said.

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