As the Miss America competition nears its 100th anniversary, it will for the first time feature two contestants from the Quad-Cities at the same time.
“I think it's very unusual,” said Ashley Hatfield, Miss Illinois executive director, who won the state crown in 2007. “I know the Quad-Cities is a nicely populated area, but I do not recall this ever happening before.”
“I think it's amazing that we have two Quad-Citizens heading out to Miss America this year,” said Rock Island native Mikhayla Hughes-Shaw, the 2018 Miss Iowa who is currently a senior at the University of Iowa. “It shows the talent and intelligence of the young women in the Q-C. It's also so fascinating that they share similar arts advocacy initiatives.”
Both Tinsman, a 2019 Drake University graduate, and Beverly, a 2017 Illinois State alum, have raising money and awareness for arts education as their platform, and they will sing in the talent competition.
“Emily and I are both in education careers, in the arts,” Beverly said recently. She's gotten to know Tinsman since they won their respective crowns in June.
Promoting art education
Beverly was an art education major at Illinois State in Bloomington-Normal, and she spent the 2018-2019 year teaching art at Glenwood High School, just south of Springfield.
She is a 2012 alum of United Township High School, one year younger than another UT grad who is the only other Miss Illinois from the area — Jaryn Franklin, who won in 2016, and now works as a nurse at Dubuque's Finley Hospital.
“I got more advice from her after I became Miss Illinois. There's a lot of stuff that goes on with this job,” Beverly said.
Her goal as a visual art teacher (ceramics and sculpture were her focus at Illinois State) was to give her classroom an inviting and creative atmosphere. By banning phones, and emphasizing lighting and decorating techniques, Beverly said she made her classroom a calming, stress-free place to go to develop creative skills.
“The students really appreciated that,” she said, pointing to a study that showed 72% of business leaders say that creativity is the top skill they seek when hiring. “Art in schools is not just kids drawing pictures with crayons. It’s not just technical ability. It’s encouraging individuality, spatial skills and creativity,” Beverly said.
Beverly also runs a student postcard project, includethearts.com. It promotes the value of art education while allowing students to remind government leaders remain committed to that value.
Thousands of blank postcards have been sent to schools across Illinois, and students create their own masterpieces on them and add notes about why the arts are important. The cards will be collected and presented to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker next spring.
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In September, Beverly gave $1,000 for art education supplies donated by Blick Art Materials to Heyworth High School south of Bloomington, where a student or students had created exceptional postcards. Her goal is to make the classroom art award an annual event.
A main goal of her reign as Miss Illinois is to work toward placing at least one fine-arts teacher in every school, and for every high school to require at least one arts credit to graduate. “Currently, over 80% of Illinois schools do not require students to take a single course in the arts in order to graduate. That’s insane,” Beverly said.
She added that lower socio-economic students who attend schools without any art program are five times less likely to graduate from high school than kids who have access to art education.
“Not only was she an art teacher, and an art education major, she's an entrepreneur in her own right,” Hatfield said of Beverly, noting she operates her Etsy business, Originals by Ariel, which sells her handcrafted jewelry.
“I've been a little bit of an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember,” Beverly said. She started selling her own jewelry as a UTHS sophomore.
Lynne Stukart, her flute teacher, who's on the Black Hawk College music faculty and is head of the QC Flute Association, said: "I truly believe Ariel’s music preparation, the arts, and the other activities she did (All-State musician, music competitions, etc.) paved the way for her pageant success. I encourage my students to be confident performers and to reach for their personal best."
Stukart is among the many friends and family who are going to the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut to see Beverly compete.
Miss America 2.0
The Miss America competition is now billed as “Miss America 2.0.” For the first time last year, it didn't judge contestants on outward physical appearance, and eliminated the swimsuit and evening gown portions of the contest. In their place, “each candidate participates in a live interactive session with the judges, where she will highlight her achievements and goals in life and how she will use her talents, passion and ambition to perform the job of Miss America,” the pageant guidelines state.
“We're trying to get away from the whole beauty pageant category,” Beverly said, noting she competed in Miss Illinois in 2014 and 2015. “It's more into preparing professional women in the world.”
“In the opening number, with the on-stage question, it does not have to be an evening gown. It can be a suit, anything you want to be,” she said, adding that most of the women still will wear formal gowns.
The Miss America competition is now a nine-day process, and the finalists are highlighted in the Dec. 19 broadcast.
The winner of Miss Iowa gets over $12,000 in scholarships, and Miss Illinois receives $10,000 to further her education or pay off student debt. In the last two years alone, the Miss America Organization and state competitions have awarded nearly $6 million in scholarships.
No Hawkeye has ever won Miss America, and five Illinois women have since Miss America started in 1921 — the last was in 2003, with Erika Harold, who in 2018 unsuccessfully ran for state Attorney General.
“It's neat that the Iowa and Illinois title-holders have that same passion,” said Rachael Vopatek, president of the Miss Iowa Scholarship program, of Tinsman and Beverly's work in arts education.