On her fourth attempt in the competition, Shivali Kadam was in the right place at the right time when she was crowned Miss Oregon 2019, Saturday, June 29, in front of a cheering crowd at the Seaside Convention Center.
"I honestly just couldn't believe it. After competing for four years, the fact that I was selected on my last chance was incredible," she says.
The 25-year-old's next step is to prepare for the Miss America Pageant in September, and Kadam says she will begin now to focus on elevating all phases of competition for the national stage.
Kadam entered the contest as Miss Portland; she is a 2012 graduate of Tualatin High School and graduated from Oregon State University in 2018 with a degree in chemical engineering. She currently works full-time as a construction manager for Jacobs Engineering Group in semiconductor manufacturing.
As Miss Oregon, Kadam won an $11,500 scholarship, which she will use in the future to pursue a master's degree in engineering management.
Winning Miss Oregon
Although this was the fourth time she has competed on the Miss Oregon stage, there were some significant differences, Kadam says.
"This year was the first Miss Oregon 2.0 pageant, which meant the elimination of lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit and the addition of the social impact statement in evening gown," she says.
"While it felt strange to not have swimsuit, I really love the new format. It shifts the focus to who women are and what they can do, as opposed to what they look like."
During the evening gown portion of the competition, Kadam wore a striking yellow one-shoulder floor-length dress. For her social impact statement, she told the audience that "engineers tackle a diverse array of problems. But the faces of engineers remain anything but diverse."
She added, "Only 13% of engineers in the U.S. are women. Through STEM outreach, we can show girls that there is a place for them in engineering — and it isn't only at the reception desk."
Now, after being named Miss Oregon 2019, Kadam says that the Miss America organization has helped her become confident and comfortable in who she is and what she has to offer.
In the preliminary round of the pageant when Kadam was interviewed in front of a panel of judges, Kadam told them that while she wanted to be Miss Oregon, her main purpose was to advocate for her values.
"I refused to fundamentally change myself just to impress a judging panel. If who I am and what I had to offer aligned with their idea of who Miss Oregon 2019 should be, it would be a blessing," she says.
"But, if it didn't, then I was completely at peace knowing that it wasn't meant to be and that there would be other opportunities in my future," Kadam says.
"Only one woman is crowned Miss Oregon each year, but every candidate can leave with a better understanding of herself."
The judges must have liked what they heard, as she was awarded the overall winner in the interview competition and $500 in scholarship money.
Although plenty of people in the audience were supporting Kadam on her quest to be Miss Oregon, three had a special stake in the outcome: her two local pageant directors, Kayla Shepherd and Stephanie Matheson, and her mother, Radnee Kadam.
"To hear them announce her name as Miss Oregon was the most incredible feeling; tears were streaming," Shepherd says.
"She has put so much time and energy into this program. Her heart truly is there and we could not have been more proud; we have no doubt that she will be an incredible Miss Oregon."
Shepherd said that Kadam is the definition of Miss America 2.0. She thinks the panel of judges saw Kadam as "having the dedication to grow the program, her ability to reach diverse populations and her heart for service. I don't know what more you could ask for from a Miss Oregon."
"Shivali is one of the most dedicated and hard-working women I know. She's had the last four years to prepare for the job of Miss Oregon, and has some big goals for this year," Matheson says.
Those goals include "representing and working with all of the local titleholders, being more present in the community, reaching a broader demographic of young women, promoting her platform of 'STEM to Bloom,' and working to bring in more sponsors and partners to the program," she says.
After the pageant, when Kadam was surrounded by well-wishers, Radnee Kadam said her daughter deserved the title she has worked so hard for. She added that her daughter is passionate about growing the next generation of female scientists and engineers and is looking forward to talking to students throughout the state about her platform.
The Miss Oregon Scholarship Program will take over training Kadam for the Miss America Pageant this fall, but Matheson and Shepherd will still help her with vocal practice and booking appearances.
Matheson adds, "We will continue to be some of her biggest supporters and can't wait to cheer her on at Miss America."
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