BETTENDORF — A one-month stretch this spring was life-changing for Emily Tinsman, and the new Miss Iowa on Sunday will launch what will be nearly a year of arts advocacy.
The 22-year-old Bettendorf High grad is hosting and performing in a concert at 2 p.m. Sunday at her home church, St. Peter's Episcopal, 2400 Middle Road. Proceeds from the $10 admission fee and the sale of auction items will benefit a new fund Tinsman established at the Q-C Community Foundation for arts programs locally and throughout Iowa.
“The arts cost money,” she said Friday at the church, noting the fund will offer grant money for students in need. “If they want to take voice lessons or guitar lessons, they can't afford that. There aren't always programs out there for kids. That's why it's important.”
The fund is called TEMPOS, for Teaching and Encouraging Music Participation in Our Schools.
Tinsman graduated May 18 from Drake University in Des Moines, where she was a music education major. She then went on a 17-day European tour with the Drake choir, which included singing at the Vatican and in Vienna.
Days after getting home, Tinsman began weeklong activities for the Miss Iowa pageant. This year was the third time she had qualified for it, after winning the titles of Miss Cedar Valley, Miss Eastern Iowa and Miss Wild Rose. The Miss Iowa pageant is open to women ages 18 to 25, and the winner gets over $10,000 in cash scholarships.
Tinsman was crowned June 15 at Davenport's Adler Theatre. Arts education was her platform.
She had a job lined up for this fall, teaching music at a Des Moines elementary school, but she will pass on that now, since she will be busy with Miss Iowa duties.
“As Miss Iowa, I have the ability to reach more arts organizations in Iowa,” she said Friday.
This year for the first time, the Miss Iowa pageant did not include a swimsuit competition. That part of the pageant had contributed 10 percent of the point total, so without it, there was more emphasis on the talent competition. The current categories are talent, interview, lifestyle/fitness, evening wear, and on-stage question.
The pageant is not focused on external beauty, Tinsman said. “You've seen a shift in attracting more types of women. Women who weigh more or look different, or feel they never could have had that opportunity, now have that option,” she said. “There are talented people who thought, 'I can't walk around in a swimsuit; I can't do that.' It's really cool to see that.”
“Even ethnicity — Miss America, you think she's this tall, skinny, blond girl. That's completely shifted,” Tinsman said, noting Iowa was the first state to send an African-American competitor to the Miss America pageant, in the '80s. Last year's Miss Iowa, Rock Island native and University of Iowa student Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw, also is African-American.
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Tinsman will compete in Miss America 2020 on Dec. 19 at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. The pageant will be broadcast on NBC.
Her talent this year was singing an aria from the Donizetti 1842 opera “Linda di Chamounix,” which she'll do Sunday to close the program. She will open the show with Cole Porter's “Always True to You (In My Fashion)” from “Kiss Me, Kate.”
The concert also will showcase several other Miss Iowa contestants, including Li'l Miss Iowa Ony'Khah Green, and Miss Iowa's Outstanding Teen Caitlin Crome, as well as Liz Treiber, lead singer of the Q-C band Wicked Liz and the Bellyswirls.
Tinsman performed in three operas while at Drake and in three Bettendorf High School musicals. She was in show choir for three years, and she has done community theater shows in the Quad-Cities.
“The big thing about my platform is making sure kids have access to arts programs, and knowing that a lot of times, kids' situations are not their fault,” Tinsman said. “They need love; they need someone to give arts to them, to be creative and have an outlet. That's why I do it.”
“I grew up in a very supportive family that always encouraged me to dream big,” she says on the Miss Iowa website. “I was privileged to work with enthusiastic directors whose passion inspired me to want to teach. They always pushed my limits as a person and a performer while encouraging me to try new things. I saw them change the lives of so many students like myself, by inspiring them to go after their dreams."
“I participate in the Miss America system because I like to challenge myself to learn from other empowering women and to be surrounded by strong leaders in my community,” Tinsman said. “Competing in pageants has changed my life.”
“By competing in Miss Iowa, I gained all these skills and more confidence,” she said. “I don't think I would have been able to have gotten a job as fast as I did before graduating without these skills.”
“You gain so many different skills competing in this environment,” she said. “Miss Iowa, Miss America — you are interviewing and competing for a job. That's exactly what you do in the professional world — you're competing against other people, and only one person can get it.”
“I'm just very grateful. I can only do this once, but I can teach forever.”