Miss Iowa – The Love, Sweat, and the Tears.

I like to call this one, growth.

On March 4th of 2017, a girl with a curly head of hair and big dreams won her first Miss Iowa local title.  In complete shock, she walked the wrong way before being crowned- nonetheless, her smile was wide and bright.  She was going to compete on the Miss Iowa stage, and she didn’t know if that fact in itself made her want to scream, cry, or both.

This was the moment that was going to change everything, and she didn’t even know it yet.

Being crowned as Miss Wild Rose 2017

With only three months until hitting the big stage, I did not know if I could honestly pull this off. For one, I was already so busy with extra-curricular activities and classes at the University of Iowa.  I had fallen out of my workout schedule all together, and fast food was always easiest with the pace of life I was living.  I now had this motivation to make a change for the better, however, and that is just what I did.

I would be lying if I said that prep was easy- I learned very quickly that I would need to devote both my mental and physical energy to this goal if I wanted to do well in the competition.  I found that the hardest thing I had to overcome was myself.

I am ALWAYS my worst critic, and up until recently I did not believe in my God-given abilities. My director, mentor, and fairy godmother Aly Olson would always encourage me to believe in myself and my visions, but for some reason I was always doubting everything that I did. Although the exterior and social media posts may have said otherwise, there were still times where I would find myself completely self-conscious and wondered if I was even worthy of competing among such amazing women.

Because of this, I prayed everyday for the Lord’s guidance throughout this journey- one that I found myself on because of the constant encouragement of others. Is this something that you want for me, God? What plans do you have in store for this title, and Miss Iowa? Am I making the right choice?

But then, I stopped questioning, and I let God handle it all. Whatever is going to happen on that Miss Iowa stage is meant to happen. So, I started to take in this experience for all that it was, and did as much service in those short few months as possible. Little did I know how much I would grow and learn from each day, and each new encounter.

For instance, reconnecting with a young woman I met at the 2016 Love Awards, Ayana. She approached me and thanked me for inspiring her to play the violin, and then went on to share that she was a featured soloist in her orchestra. You never know when someone is watching, and it was a reminder to be the best role model for the young women in the community as possible.

Or meeting Dayton, a 5th grader who told me that he really enjoyed my playing and shared that he too is a violinist. He was also one of the kindest and most polite young men I have met.

My favorite experience during my title holding months was attending the “Mental Health Awareness Night” in Iowa City, where I not only heard the stories of many others who have suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts, but also shed a few tears and allowed myself to be vulnerable and share my experiences. That coffee shop was filled with so much HOPE for a greater tomorrow. There was so much understanding and healing in that room- It is something that has produced lasting friendships, like my almost birthday and almost matching tattoo buddy Patrick Zhao, and memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.


Lastly, my final appearance as Miss Wild Rose was at How About H.O.P.E.?’s first fundraising talent show, which enabled me to raise $400 for suicide prevention in the state of Iowa. I can’t begin to thank all of the participants, their families and the community for backing me on this event. There was so much love in that room for fighting this epidemic, and I am so grateful for the donated space from Rock Island High School and time of my friends/volunteers.

But then, June 18th rolled around and it was time to move in. After hours of packing, it was time. Let Miss Iowa week begin!
Sunday- Crowns and Gowns

Mood of the Day: Nervous

Crowns and Gowns is the official kick off event of Miss Iowa week. At this time, we get to show off our shoes, a tradition similar to the “Show Us Your Shoes” Parade at Miss America, and mingle with the other contestants and families in style.

My “Beauty and the Beast” inspired shoe


The event was so much fun, but it was also a moment when reality set in- I was going to be living in a hotel for a week, and at the end of that week, someone was going to be the new Miss Iowa. I was, however, so thankful to be in my position, and I could not wait to see what the rest of the week had to offer.

Monday: Kids, some friendly conversation, our new potential home and amazing food.

Mood of the day: Excited

We started off the week strong with our most jam-packed day.  It began with visiting some of the children at the Friendly House in Davenport. The day was filled with a lot of crowning (of both the girls and boys), a “Moana” dance and sing along, and sporting some red Play-Do in my hair.  It was by far one of my favorite events of the week, and I am convinced that they are some of the coolest 4 and 5 year olds in Iowa.

Secondly, we visited Senior Star for lunch and I shared my talent piece with the residents.  My personal assistant Ann and I were thrilled to have such an engaging conversation with our table.  Being in good company is always a great feeling.  We ended the lunch with a picture taken on a flip phone- that’s when you know it’s real.

Next, we headed over to Ridgecrest to mingle with some of the residents and also share our talents. Chelsea and I met a wonderful woman named Carolynn who had a hat for everyday of the week.  She told us about her young adulthood, her short career in pageantry and how she loved to put on her best clothes, even if it was to go to the doctors office. She was wise, kind, and hilarious, and I am so thankful for that conversation.

After Ridgecrest, we visited the Miss Iowa apartment and ate some delicious cookies. Check out our lovely selfie featuring 16 people in one elevator.

Last but DEFINETLY not least, we had my favorite dinner of the week at Greatest Grains in Davenport.  It was great to enjoy a great meal after such a busy day, and I am sure that no one left hungry.

Tuesday: Children’s Miracle Network Hospital

Mood of the day: Thankful

Tuesday was a blessing.  My fellow contestants and I were granted with the opportunity to meet some of the in-patients at the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital.  Although it was unfortunate to meet the children in these circumstances, It is comforting to know all of the efforts that went into making the hospital the best that it could be.  Did you know that patients can now watch the football games from a press box on one of the top floors? Overall, this visit made me appreciate the Children’s Miracle Network that much more.  Their efforts are being recognized by these families, and I am so blessed to be able to raise money for such an important cause.


Wednesday: Princess Crowning and Rotary Club

Mood of the Day: Focused

Wednesday was such a special day! I was able to officially welcome my Miss Iowa Princess Gracie to the week.  I also like to say that I had an honorary princess as well, little Miss Maddie. We enjoyed an official crowning ceremony, and I was so excited for her to join me on our first Miss Iowa week.
Gracie made this week one to remember for so many reasons.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a mentor to this young lady, and I know that her future is bright.

After the crowning, we headed over to the Rotary Club for some lunch before what we call our “tech” talent rehearsal before the competition starts on Thursday.  We had a great time, and enjoyed great conversation and food with the Rotarians.

We also got to enjoy some great massages in between our tech rehearsal times. Boy, was that needed.


Thursday: Interviews, Kiwanis and Preliminary Night 1

Mood of the Day: A little bit of everything??? 

And so it began- The first day of competition started on Thursday with our formal interviews and 2 portions of the competition in the evening.

I was nervous (as usual) before my interview, but walked away feeling very good about what I left in the room.  I was able to talk about my passions, my goals, and even my music.  Being able to interview for one of the coolest jobs in America was a blessing in itself, and I was thankful for the opportunity to do so.


For this day of the preliminary competition, I competed in Talent and Lifestyle and Fitness.

I am not sure if there are words to describe my nerves before taking that stage. Sure I had worked hard for months on my talent piece, perfecting it and even adding some small choreography thanks to one of my best friends Curtis Bell- I was, however, still shaky and unsure of if my hands would work. Welcome to the adventures of nervous Mikhayla featuring a lot of irrational fears.

Photo: Say Uncle Photography
Photo: Say Uncle Photography
Photo: Say Uncle Photography

I did, however, manage to survive the evening, and was welcomed after the fact by an overwhelming amount of friends and family.  Seeing them after what had seemed like a month, (which in reality was less than a week), made it all worth it. It was now time to rest up and prepare for the next day.

Friday: Optimist Club and Preliminary Night #2

Mood of the Day: Let’s not mess up onstage question

Friday, we were oh so excited for a few things… including the taco bar lunch with the Optimist Club in Davenport.  We enjoyed our last community lunch featuring great conversation and one last opportunity to share our talents.  I fell in love with their creed, and I was in great spirits for the rest of the day. 20170623_125914

That evening, I competed in On Stage question and Evening Gown portions of the competition.  Out of the two nights of competition, this was the night where I found my confidence.  I have said before that I am always my worst critic, and this night, I felt very confident in my performance.  I answered the question and got an opportunity to talk about my platform “H.O.P.E.”.

Photo: Say Uncle Photography

I walked the stage in my huge yellow gown feeling like an absolute princess.  God was with me on stage this night.


I was once again just so thankful for this opportunity.

Saturday- Finals.

Mood of the day: Oh so happy/sad/wanting some pizza

Gracie and I before the show

I would be lying if I said there were not tears after not hearing my name be called into the Top 10.  I would be lying if I said that it was easy to get back on that stage.

But, my feeling of defeat was short lived.  I knew that I had made an impact this week, and since I had won Miss Wild Rose.  I knew that I had been given a unique opportunity to live out my love of service. I thought about the individuals and the experiences that made this all worth it.  I was suddenly overcome with a sense of joy for my Miss Iowa sisters who were still fighting for the title. I also reassured myself that EVERYTHING happens in God’s timing.

For now, I had the coolest 7 (now 8) year old waiting for me. My little Miss Gracie.  This was our chance to do our awesome handshake onstage, and I wouldn’t want to miss that for anything.

More importantly, this was a lesson for the both of us.  I had to show her how to be strong when things don’t go the way that you want them to. I had to show her how to be gracious and thankful for the opportunity that not many are granted.  So, we went on stage and did our handshake, and seeing this picture after the fact made it all worth it.


Although I was disappointed, I was not discouraged.  I knew that God had a plan.

That evening, I walked away with both the Applause Award and the Non-Finalist Talent Award, and the award of knowing that or state is in good hands. Actually, scratch that- The state is in GREAT hands.  Chelsea, the lady I get to call my Miss Iowa, stole the stage and took our breath away. Her poise, her grace, and that voice- I could not be happier. (Here’s a picture to prove it.)


As for Miss Iowa, it is still a dream of mine to be a servant to the state.  I want to be able to use the crown as a tool to impact lives.

I have also found some amazing new friends that I also get to call my sisters. I can’t thank you all enough for your support, your love, and your kindness. I am so excited for what is to come for all of us, and it’s also cool to have a friend in every part of the state.

Here’s to the the Miss Iowa Class of 2017, the title of Miss Wild Rose, and a new competition season. This is NOT the last that you will be seeing of me- I am sure of it.


Signing off one last time-

Your Miss Wild Rose, 

Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw 



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