Emphasizing grit and grace
Prineville resident Kaley Blasdell recently had the honor to represent Crook County in the annual United States of America Pageants in the Mrs. Oregon division.
Blasdell brought home first runner up in the pageant, something she is immensely proud of.
"If anything was to happen to the Mrs. Oregon, I would step into her place and take over for her," commented Blasdell of the first runner up placement. "While I do not have any official duties as first runner up, I still have the honor of serving as Mrs. Crook County (2020) and look forward to that till the end of the year."
The 2020 Mrs. Oregon was Jordan Fink, who represented Lane County.
The USOA pageants are designed to encourage women to strive to achieve their hopes, dreams, goals and aspirations, while making them feel confident and beautiful inside and out.
Their motto is to empower women, inspire others and uplift everyone. They focus on promoting positive self-image, while advocating a platform of community service that allows contestants to rise by lifting others.
"It's not a beauty pageant, it's a confidence program," Blasdell said. "My platform was Grit and Grace."
She went on to say that her platform was not specific in one awareness.
"I have never been one to pick one awareness to support, I have always done as much as I could," elaborated Blasdell of her platform. "There is an awareness or charity every single month that they are trying to cure cancer for, depression or mental health, or diabetes. I am not one to just to stick to one specific thing, I am here to help people. That's always what I have wanted to do."
She added that being one of very few women in the business she is in as a stock contractor, she has had to grit it out and be as graceful as possible.
"It doesn't matter who you are, you still have to grit it out and be as graceful as possible. It doesn't matter what battle you are fighting, people are battling different problems every single day … it's your own battle, and if it's hurting you as yourself, if it's hurting your heart and your soul, then it needs to be brought up," she added.
There are four categories for the contest: the USOA teen, Miss, Ms., and Mrs. Blasdell competed in the Mrs. Category, which requires the contestant to be between the ages of 21 and 59. They must be a United States citizen and must work or go to school in the state in which they are competing. They also must be a natural-born female and have been married for at least six months.
The contest is scored in four categories, with the weight evenly distributed between personal interview, swimwear, evening gown and onstage question. Contestants must first have a local or county title to compete at the state level. The Mrs. Oregon contest took place Oct. 21-23, with all four categories competing consecutively over the three days.
Blasdell commented that the current pandemic modified many things for the pageant, including the way that the contestants prepped for the contest.
"Because of COVID, we weren't able to have a lot of our meetings together, meeting all the girls, and doing a couple of the meet and greets that we would have gotten to do, and be able to represent in parades," she added.
"In the end though, after COVID in the past two or three months, we were able to meet up with each other here and there, but we still had to practice those safety precautions because of COVID."
Because of social media, they were still able to do a social opening number, which is a traditional part of the pageant. The participants do the number together, and although it is not judged, it is something that the candidates look forward to. They practiced for the first six weeks by themselves using a social media platform.
On the date of the pageant, they were able to rehearse together.
"We finally got it, and after it was all said and done, it looked amazing. It was actually really nice and it was a lot of fun," commented Blasdell.
She also enjoyed the interview process in the pageant. They were able to be one-on-one in the interview with a judge. She indicated that there were five candidates in the Mrs. Division of the pageant. The Washington and Oregon pageant were combined. In all, 27 women competed for the various categories.
"It was definitely a lot of fun," exclaimed Blasdell. "My goal was to bring back—whether I got a crown or not—to bring back a pageant to Crook County or even to Central Oregon."
She said that they are no longer doing qualifiers but will be bringing workshops to Central Oregon. Blasdell was impressed with the entire pageant, and she encourages people to not make judgments about beauty pageants without learning more.
"Being with the USOA system, it really was one of the best feelings I got being around so many women who are actually there to help you in any aspect. All the women there are there are wanting to inspire other women, but also those inspired women want to help inspire others. It all came together, and it was just such a great experience."
Blasdell is no stranger to challenges, as she is not only the mother of a three-and-one-half-year-old, a wife and a student in cosmetology school—she is rodeo stock contractor and raises bulls for a living. Blasdell is from Shandon, California, a community that is considerably smaller than Prineville.
She met her husband, Logan, through rodeo. He is a bullfighter and Blasdell shared in a former interview the day they met.
"We met in Chelan, Washington, for the first time," she smiled. "He got run over by one of my bulls."
Blasdell has made it to six PBR finals with her bulls and has recently made the decision to temporarily retire from raising bulls to spend more time supporting her husband's career. Their careers often take them in different directions. Logan's season starts in April and goes through early October.
She added that her husband is in the professional rodeo circuit, and Blasdell is involved in futurity and PBR.
The day before leaving for the pageant, she fell down a flight of stairs and sustained some injuries. As she is attending cosmetology school in Bend, she could not miss any classes. The next day, she had to head over the mountain to Salem for the pageant.
"I kind of just iced it, took some ibuprofen, and just gritted it out," she commented of her grit and determination.
Blasdell said that she has been in one other pageant, for the California State Fair immediately after high school. The OSOA pageant is scored in four categories, with the weight evenly distributed between personal interview, swimwear, evening gown and onstage question.
"I would try to encourage as many girls as I could to at least do one pageant in their life, because it can really open up a lot of opportunities – especially in the Teen, Miss and Ms. or any of the categories. The winnings you earn can go towards your national's entry fee and also a charity of choice" she concluded. "I just really encourage women to try it at least once, because being around those ladies, it is really moving and it shows how many girls out there are competing against you but they are also cheering you on."
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