Washington Evening Journal
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Washington, IA 52353
MT. PLEASANT — The current Miss Upper Iowa the proud 2014 Mt. Pleasant High School graduate Emily Folker competed in the Miss Iowa pageant this month.
Folker was a late comer to the pageant circuit and encourages other young women to take the plunge into the pageant world, even if they feel it is too late.
“Go for it, and jump right in!” she said. “The Miss Iowa organization competitors are all so nice and we welcome any new person in with open arms.”
She is confident that others can do it.
“We are all more than willing to help out someone who needs it,” Folker said. “You are also always welcome to reach out to me on any of my social media accounts and ask me for help, I’d be more than happy to oblige.”
In true modern form, Folker also points those in the wings to the internet to learn more about pageantry.
“There are also lots of amazing articles and YouTube videos about competing in the Miss America Organization that you can find,” she said. “In my experience the best way to learn is to just try it out and see how you like it!”
Folker began her adventures with the Miss America organization in 2017 after meeting a titleholder in her college music and drama club.
“She encouraged me to try it out and I was hooked,” Folker said.
“I was first attracted to the program because of the hefty scholarships you can win, in addition to my love of performing,” she said. “However, I stayed in it because I realized how much of an impact I was making by bringing diversity to the program.”
“I am plus-sized, disabled, and part of the LGBTQIA+ community.” Folker said. “When younger girls see someone that looks like them in a public position like this, they believe that they can achieve big things as well!”
Folker is committed to continually representing her authentic self, even in a world of pageantry.
“My favorite look definitely has to be from this year’s Miss Iowa competition,” she said. “I decided to keep my rainbow hair for the competition and matched my hair to my outfits.”
As a former member of Mt. Pleasant High School Chamber Choir and InMotion Show Choir, it is not surprising that Miss Upper Iowa is a talented singer.
Even within her comfort-zone of performing vocal music, Folker insists on pushing herself.
“I’ve done musical theater vocal in the past, but my vocal coach encouraged me to try out operatic and classical vocal,” She said. “At this year’s Miss Iowa, I performed Quando Me’n Vo’ from La Bohème!”
Unfortunately, Emily Folker was not crowned Miss Iowa, and this was her last year in the Miss America program before aging out.
“Even though I did not make finals or win a single award, I accomplished everything I set out to do,” Folker said of her experience at Miss Iowa. “I made sure the judges knew everything about me. I was not shy about my opinions and I did not hide my differences.”
“In past years, I often found myself changing into who I thought the judges wanted to see, but I never left those competitions feeling fulfilled, despite my placements,” she said. “If I was going to win this year, I wanted it to be because of the Emily I truly am.”
Folker will continue to be Miss Upper Iowa until she crowns the next young lady in November, and she plans to continue her work with her Social Impact Initiative throughout her remaining time.
“My Social Impact Initiative as Miss Upper Iowa is The Fingerprint Project: Mental Health Education Advocacy,” Folker said. “It’s an organization I created that helps teach students, teachers, and administration at schools the signs of a student in crisis and how to respond to a student who might be in crisis.”
This is a cause Folker holds close to her heart.
“I created this program because throughout my time as a student, I’ve had several times where I’ve reached out for help and did not receive the help that I needed,” she said. “So, I am working to make sure that nobody else has to go through that same feeling.”
Next, Folker would like to expand her nonprofit The Fingerprint Project: Mental Health Education Advocacy and go back to school with the scholarships she has already earned through the Miss America competitions.
While she does intend to take a break from pageants, Folker still sees a possibility for herself to begin her own local Miss America competition in the Mt. Pleasant area.
At this moment, Folker continues to follow her heart.
“I would just like everyone to know that if you’re going through a hard time and you feel alone or abandoned that you are never truly alone, there are lots of people who are willing to help you, including me,” she said. “If you ever find yourself in times of crisis please call the National Suicide Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (or 988 starting July 16, 2022), or contact Your Life Iowa by calling (855) 581-8111 or texting (855) 895-8398. You can also feel free to message me on any of my social media accounts if you need someone to talk to.”