Miranda Mack, a 21-year-old native of Redfield, was in for a surprise when she entered the Miss South Dakota pageant as Miss SDSU this year. She said she had made peace with the idea that she would not win it.
"I [thought] 'I would love to do it in the future, but I am new and I've never done it. It is probably not my year,'" said Mack. "Then they kept calling names that weren't my name. I was like,'oh, top five, that's cool!' And then it was just me and one other girl, so I [thought], 'oh, I am first runner-up!'"
However, when Mack realized she was to be crowned Miss South Dakota, her reaction wasn't what might be expected.
"You know, you think are going to be all happy and crying and everything and I was actually as cool as a cucumber because I was definitely in shock," said Mack. "I was making these really weird expressions."
After accepting the crown, Mack was launched into life as Miss South Dakota. Among her Miss SD responsibilities is promoting her platform, "Music for Life." As a music education major at SDSU, Mack believes that music education is valuable to all people. She has been traveling to various schools throughout South Dakota to speak about it. She has also been vocally performing at both schools and nursing homes.
"You don't have to be Beethoven to be involved," said Mack. "Music still teaches you confidence and self-discipline. It brings people together and it has therapeutic uses. The elderly, the disabled and the ill — all kinds of people can participate."
As Miss South Dakota, Mack also serves as the fundraising ambassador for Children's Miracle Network. With the four points of her crown representing service, scholarship, style and success, Mack will be dedicating many hours to community service while keeping up with style, working out and eating healthy.
"I am getting tons of advice now, as you can imagine," said Mack. "Friends and family all want to give me ideas. I get lots and lots of suggestions, but a big part of the mental game is to sort through all of it and decide what is me. I still want to be myself, even when I am Miss South Dakota."
Staying true to her own sense of self has proved to be a major part of Mack's success. Chosen as the winner out of just seven contestants at SDSU, Mack went on to be chosen as the winner out of more than twice as many — 16 young women — at the state pageant. She now looks forward to competing against 50 other contestants (the District of Columbia also has a representative) at the national pageant in September.
Mack will be traveling to Orlando, Florida at the end of July in order to attend the Miss America Outstanding Teen pageant. She hopes to get to know the other Miss America state representatives during this time.
"I think the competition aspect is a lot easier on everybody when you have had time to get to know each other and become friends first, and then those friendships endure even when the competition becomes fierce," said Mack. All Miss America contestants will also have an orientation time before the national pageant.
Meanwhile, Mack says the whole experience has definitely shaped her as a person. She said that she believes in herself more and does not pay as much attention to what everyone else is doing.
" It has improved my interview skills and my awareness of current events in the world around me and it has definitely helped me to take better care of myself," said Mack.
As for advice to young girls who wish to walk in her shoes someday, Mack says that it is much more than just a sparkly crown.
"It is a lot of work. There is a lot that goes into it, but it is also super worth it. It is all about being the best version of yourself," she said. "I would hope that those girls are wanting more than just a crown. I hope that they would want to grow as people more through this organization, and that is absolutely what will happen if they decide to really invest in it."
Looking forward, Mack said that she is very thankful for all of the new friendships that she has found and for all of the opportunities and help from family and friends thus far.