At the Miss Wichita Scholarship competition Oct. 30, three women walked away wearing crowns — and one walked away ready to coach them throughout the year to come.
Vanessa Rials, the director of multicultural engagement and campus life, will serve as the personal success and life coach to the women who won the titles of 2022 Miss Wichita, Miss Sedgwick County and Miss Air Capital.
Rials will help the women establish personal success plans, work toward their initiatives and offer support and counsel along the way. The initiatives of Miss Wichita, Miss Sedgwick County and Miss Air Capital include mental health, advocating for those in foster care as well as those who are visually impaired.
“When you have something that gives our youth or really anybody a platform to display who they are and what they’re passionate about, I think that’s something we should all celebrate and support,” Rials said.
As a licensed social worker, Rials is especially excited to bring her mental health and counseling support into play.
“It can be trialing mentally,” Rials explained. “You’re literally being judged on your character, your confidence, your talent, everything. You’re really being vulnerable. With my passion for mental health and mentorship, I get to provide a nice blend of both support systems to each of these women.”
Rials will meet with the female winners on a monthly and occasionally weekly basis until October 2022 — a few months after they compete at the Miss Kansas competition June 11.
Captivated and inspired
Though Rials doesn’t have past experience with the pageant world, she was approached with an opportunity by senior Mai Dao, who serves as the executive director of the Miss Cambodia Wichita Pageant.
“Mai asked me to sit on the committee for a mock interview with Miss Cambodia,” Rials said. “It was amazing. During the mock interview, I learned about who Miss Cambodia was as a person. I learned about her culture, her people, her traditions, her values. I heard her story and why she was so passionate about competing.”
Rials previously served as a program coordinator at Rise Up For Youth, where she worked to inspire and motivate the next generation through education, mentoring and empowerment. She worked with young women in high school, helped them create goal-oriented success plans and met with them weekly to support them personally and academically.
As a Wichita State University graduate, Rials attended the Miss Black and Gold pageant at WSU multiple times as a student. She even took a few of the young women she mentored through Rise Up For Youth to experience it.
“They got to go backstage before the show and meet the candidates,” Rials explained. “On one occasion, we had a chant in the sisterhood that we’d say that the women of Miss Black and Gold joined in on. One of the lines we said that I think is really awesome is ‘treat others with respect and never give up on my dreams, ask for help and give it, for these are the characteristics of a queen.’”
This was the moment when Rials felt her passion for the pageant world ignite.
“I really was captivated by the growth, dedication and the passion that these young women pour into this process and how they transformed,” Rials said. “I think that’s what kept me going back each year. I think it’s important for all women in general, but especially our youth to see that amount of passion for important initiatives and confidence.”
Now that she gets to be a direct part of the pageant world in Wichita, Rials feels that she’s exactly where she is supposed to be.
“How lucky am I to have seen these women win their current titles, then meet with them over the course of the next several months, but then also see them lay it out on the stage,” Rials said. “I get to be with them even after they compete at Miss Kansas and witness that achievement, so I’m pretty excited.”
One of Rials’ ultimate goals in life is to “be that person that I needed when I was younger,” she said.
“This job at Newman University, but also this life coach opportunity, really allows me to live that goal out,” Rials said.
Newman alumna named Miss Capital City
Gabby Altenor, a May 2021 graduate in biology and Ablah Award recipient, was recently named Miss Capital City 2022, which is affiliated with the Miss America Organization.