When Simone Esters entered her first pageant two years ago, she only told one of her roommates because of the stereotypes surrounding pageants and her fear of being judged.
Now that she has had more experience, she wants to spread the message that she’s a normal, relatable person.
“I don’t really consider myself to be like very pageant-y, like, at all, at all,” Esters said. “And that’s something that I want to stay true to throughout my year, that I want to put myself first and let my role as Miss Missouri just emphasize who I already am. I don’t want to be the mold of Miss Missouri and how that already is.”
Esters, an MU senior studying convergence journalism, won the Miss Missouri pageant competition Saturday. As Miss Metro St. Louis, she was one of five MU students participating in the competition. In addition to winning $14,000 in scholarship money, she will move on to compete in the Miss America 2020 pageant.
In an interview with the Missourian on Tuesday, Esters, 20, talked about her win and what’s next. Her answers have been shortened in some cases, largely for clarity.
Q: What got you interested in doing pageants?
A: Through (baton) twirling, I had found a lot of other girls who are involved in pageants from other states. I always knew I did want to compete in the Miss America organization, and I knew that when I decided to compete, it was going to be when I was totally ready. I felt like I was at that place in my life where I could be Miss Missouri or Miss America, so I started competing in 2017. The scholarship and the talent aspect were what really drew me in outside of that.
Q: That’s pretty crazy, that you only started competing two years ago. How does it feel to know you won such a big title with so little experience?
A: That’s what’s so crazy, because for some people, you know, it takes like years and years. So to have this dream of mine come to life after like two years is just, it feels unreal.
Q: What was that feeling when you won Miss Missouri and knew you would go on to compete in Miss America?
A: There’s a video on Facebook, and I literally, like, lose my mind. I’m acting crazy, but I was so excited. Mainly because, like I said, for so long I had been replaying and imagining in my head what that moment would be like, and for me to realize that I was actually going to live out something that I’ve wanted for myself for so long, it was just pure excitement. I was, like, truly speechless.
And it was especially great because I knew in that moment that all of my family and friends and support system that I would have wanted to be there, were there. So being able to see them in the audience cheering and also sharing that joyful moment with me made it all the more better.
Q: I know you can also dance, so what made you choose baton twirling as your talent?
A: I have been twirling specifically since I was in kindergarten, so that has always been the biggest part of my life. I’ve won national championships and world championships. A lot of times baton twirling doesn’t necessarily, in my opinion, get the recognition it deserves, and singing and dancing are pretty standard talents on a pageant stage. I felt like baton twirling really gave me the opportunity to showcase the uniqueness of what I do and let me express what I’ve put so much of my time into throughout the years.
Q: I saw online that you receive a new wardrobe and accessories for your upcoming events. How does that process work?
A: Essentially, what that comes through is in the form of sponsorships. There’s various local businesses that will sponsor a new Miss Missouri. They do it so you get to wear some of their clothes throughout the year. Specifically, in preparation for the Miss America competition, there’s extensive wardrobe prep that goes into that because they want to make sure that you look your absolute best. You get a certain allowance to be spent as well. That’s a big part of it.
Q: Who is an inspiration to you?
A: Well, this is cliché, but I would definitely say my mom (Julie Fornadel). Right now, I’m working in St. Charles, Missouri, at Royal Canin (Pet Food) at an internship, so my mom, in an effort to make this whole process easier for me of trying to be in two different places at once, has been staying out here. She’s been helping me drive back and forth and finalize details and stuff. She’s just been a godsend to me. She inspires me to have such a servant heart to others in the same way that she does for me.
Q: What comes next for you?
A: The next steps pretty much from here are different appearances. I already did my first appearance yesterday at the Women and Children’s Hospital in Columbia. Then on Wednesday, I’m going to be in a parade. They kind of really throw you right in, and you begin your service. Given that Miss America is usually in September, and the date hasn’t been announced yet, the Miss America prep process is going to look a little bit different this year in comparison to other Miss Missouris.
Typically, though, what the prep process does look like, like for myself, would be talent choreography — working with someone to choreograph my talent routine — and interview preparation. So working with people to refine my speaking and make sure I’m knowledgeable on current events. Another big part of it will be promoting my social impact initiative, which is mentorship, essentially. It’s called “Leave Your MARK.” It focuses on the importance of mentorship.
Q: Tell me more about your social impact initiative.
A: Leave Your MARK aims to increase both the quality and quantity of mentors in our state. What I do is go and speak with groups of adults — civic groups or professional groups — and I talk to them about the benefits of mentoring, and I discuss with them the different myths surrounding mentoring. And if they aren’t a mentor, we talk about why and how it can not only impact the lives of those they choose to mentor but also themselves.
When I talk with kids, I talk about the importance of them utilizing mentors and how that’s crucial to their success. In a broader sense, especially with the younger ages, just the importance of relationship building, and how we all kind of need each other for that success. It’s important to build strong relationships.
Q: If you are into astrology, what is your zodiac sign? Do you think you align with it?
A: Oh, absolutely. I’m an Aquarius, and I’m super into astrology. The one thing I do think about being an Aquarius that aligns with me is that I go against the norm and I always want to be different, which is something that my friends always make fun of me for. Because if anyone else has something, I don’t want it. That’s the same thing with my evening wear dress. I was like, “I want something that I know nobody else is going to have. I don’t want to look like anybody else.” (She wore a long, black gown adorned with rhinestones and lace down the sides that had large, ruffled sleeves and a low-cut back.)
Q: What are you most excited for?
A: One thing that I am definitely most excited for is building relationships like I like talked about earlier. Now that I have the official social media pages, I’ve been working on really connecting with the people who follow the accounts and engaging with them and giving them the content that they want to see.
As Miss Missouri, I just really want to be a representative of the state and the people who live here. This will never just be about me, period. I want it to be about everyone else, everyone who supported me along the way and my social impact initiative.
The girls I mentor, I went this year to represent them as well as myself. I’m really excited to be able to do that and get to meet so many great people through all my travels. And Miss America, of course!
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.