When Makenzi Marek first began competing in pageants in high school, she never thought it would take her all the way to the Miss Iowa pageant years later, where she would eventually be crowned as the second runner-up.
After being crowned the Washington County Fair Queen during her senior year of high school, Marek took some time off from pageants while in college. She began to miss the pageant world and this year, decided she would compete once again and this time, in the Miss Iowa pageant.
“I always loved competing and I knew I would do it again, (and) this year just happened to be the right timing,” she said.
Marek said she was inspired to do pageants by her older sister who competed in them also. Being four years younger, Marek wanted to do exactly what her sister was doing and compete at the same level.
“It was something we really did together and I loved that aspect of it. We really supported each other,” she said.
To qualify for Miss Iowa, Marek had to win a smaller title, which she did in January when she was crowned Miss Pearl City, located near Muscatine. She was then added to the list of 19 other contestants from across the state competing for the crown.
The hardest part of the competition was perfecting her talent: dance. A dancer in high school, Marek thought she would have an easier time with it, but soon found out she had to put in extra time at the gym to get her strength back.
Staying up on current events was also a challenge for her, as she had to prepare for the mock interview portion of the day. Because the pageant retired the swimsuit portion, an onstage interview was added instead. The further along the contestant gets in the pageant, Marek said, they have more interviews and questions to answer.
“Just to ensure that you have the knowledge to be able to answer those is really important,” she said.
This also proved to be the most nerve-wracking part for Marek, as she typically never remembers most of the interview process. However, she said public speaking used to be a big fear of hers but through pageants, she has learned to enjoy it a lot and has gained confidence from the experience.
During the weeklong process, contestants arrive in Davenport on Sunday and work through the week on their own personal routines as well as group dance numbers. The competition begins on Friday and wraps up Saturday with the contestant list shrinking from 20 to 10, then to the top five.
“I went in telling myself I was going to have a great interview, I was going to meet all the girls, and I was going to make Top 10,” she said. “I think that’s the best thing you can do is really just go in with an open mind because you never know what’s going to happen and that’s the fun part.”
Marek said upon hearing her name announced in the Top 10, she was excited and proud of herself for accomplishing her goal.
“Then they announced fourth runner-up, third runner-up, and I was still standing there,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is so cool. I’m so honored and so blessed,’ because I went in there just wanting to make Top 10, so I was in shock. I teared up a little bit because honestly, I was so happy from Top 10 that nothing could go wrong, I was so happy to be there.”
Marek was eventually crowned second runner-up for Miss Iowa and her best advice to others considering competing in pageants is simple: “Go in, and have fun.”