The 2014 Miss Idaho Judges

The Miss Idaho Organization is pleased to announce the judges for the 2014 competition. On July 11 & 12 this panel will select the 65th Miss Idaho to be crowned. This diverse group of judges will evaluate the contestants throughout all sections of the pageant - interview, lifestyle & fitness, talent, on stage question, and evening gown. The 2014 Miss Idaho judges are:

Debbie Kling is the President/CEO of the Nampa Chamber of Commerce. She is motived by her desire to help others succeed and to make a difference in the lives of her children, grandchildren and community. 

Prior to joining the Nampa Chamber of Commerce, Debbie served in several leadership roles; VP of Legal Management for Unity Media Group, General Manager of then Qwest Arena and Executive Director of Team Idaho, (organizing the National Governors’ Association meeting, hosted in Idaho, for then Governor Dirk Kempthorne). Debbie has served on numerous national industry and community boards. She has a tremendous love for this community, a passion for the business community and a desire to help others succeed.

Debbie lives in Nampa and has been married to Jim Kling III for 39 years. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.

Jeffrey A Johns has been involved with the Miss America Organization in many capacities from local executive director, producer, host, judge, and dancer at the Miss California Pageant.

Jeffrey has performed in national and international tours, in regional theatres throughout the country (including Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre in Idaho), on television shows like “America’s Got Talent,” and in various independent films.  He’s also the author of the children’s book,  “Have You Ever Tried To Stop The Rain?”

In addition, Jeffrey wrote the feature film entitled, Waiting In The Wings: The Musical where he had the thrill of performing opposite Sally Struthers, Shirley Jones, and former Miss America, Lee Meriwether.

Nanci Wudel has been involved with the Miss America Organization for more than 30 years and has judged numerous state pageants. She served as an officer on the Board of Directors of the Miss Arizona Scholarship Pageant for 12 years and was state traveling companion to Miss America for five years. She also served as an interim traveling companion for Miss America 2003, Erika Harold, and in state competitions, she judged Sharlene Wells, Miss America 1985, and Laura Kaeppeler, Miss America 2012, prior to their winning national titles. 

Professionally, Nanci works in film, television, and theater production. She was executive director for “The Finalists’ Show,” featuring the Top Ten finalists from NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” Recently, she completed filming a cast role in T.C. Christensen’s feature movie, “The Cokeville Miracle,” scheduled for theatrical release next year. She is represented by FORD Talent Agency and has appeared in many national television commercials, and in the feature film, “Chaplin,” with Robert Downey, Jr. 

Nanci has worked as an entertainment consultant for various tourist attractions, including the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie, Hawaii, as well as directing pre-tour concerts in Nashville, Tennessee. She has also been the artistic director of “The George Dyer Show” and the Polynesian extravaganza “Island Fire,” both in Branson, Missouri. 

Currently, Nanci works as Creative Director for The Dutton Theaters, in both Branson and Phoenix. 

For nine years, she served as Director of the Mesa Arizona Easter Pageant, the largest, annual outdoor Easter Pageant in the world – featuring a cast of 500 and audiences of nearly 100,000, during an annual ten-performance portrayal of the Easter story through song, drama, and dance. 

Nanci has directed numerous vocal and dance productions for the past 20 years, and is a classically-trained pianist, having studied for three years in Caracas, Venezuela, with Polish concert artist, Margot Schmidt. 

She holds a B.A. in Journalism from Brigham Young University, and a secondary major in Theater Arts. She has interviewed dozens of high-profile personalities, including Dan Rather, Mitt Romney, Daniel K. Inouye, and Barbara Smith. 

Nanci serves on the Board of Directors of “Time To Blossom,” a personal development program for girls, and she also sits on the National Advisory Board for Southern Virginia University. 

She and her husband, John, are the owners of “Nanci’s Frozen Yogurt,” distributed throughout the U.S. and in 45 countries internationally. They are the parents of four children and reside in Mesa, Arizona.

Philip Michael Casias is an interior designer for Carols Design House in Boise Idaho. Formally educated at Mississippi State University School of Architecture and the University of Louisiana school of Architecture and Design, Michael is a modern renaissance man who has worked as a design professional for the past fifteen years.

In his career, Michael has been a design partner for fine residences, restaurants and commercial spaces including Hilton Hotels, Brennan’s Restaurants, and the Academy Share Center for Oliver Finley Cosmetology.  He has renovated rare and historic buildings in New Orleans, Alaska, and Idaho. He has also served as a gourmet food educator and sous chef, most recently for William Sonoma Incorporated.   

Committed to serving his community, Michael has designed art features for the Acadian Outreach Service, has provided services for the Boise Philharmonic Chef and Gourmet, and has assisted with charitable projects for the Idaho Botanical Gardens. He looks forward to his next collaboration with the Women’s and Children’s Alliance as they foster healthy and safe relationships for families across the treasure valley.

Michael is passionate about lifelong learning and the preservation of cultural heritages.  He enjoys celebrating culture through the bounty that is food, music, art, design, and architecture.  When he is not busy designing or volunteering, you may find him kayaking on the river or sea, landscaping and gardening, entertaining, fundraising, or collecting the unusual and obscure ephemera of science, history, and archeology.  

Brooke Bennett is a native of Idaho and a Boise State University graduate. She was crowned Miss Idaho 1995 and was first runner up for the distinguished Quality of Life Award at Miss America for her Get Into Reading program, which motivated children to become lifelong learners. Brooke traveled the northwest sharing her platform and participated in several national literacy campaigns, including one with former First Lady Barbara Bush. Brooke was also crowned Miss Idaho USA and represented Idaho at the Miss USA pageant in 2000.

Brooke served in the Office of the Governor for Dirk Kempthorne and First Lady Patricia Kempthorne, acting as personal assistant to the First Lady. In this capacity, she supported the First Lady on children and family issues. In late 2000, Brooke moved to Washington, DC to pursue a career in communications. Brooke was part of a corporate communications team at the prestigious global private equity firm, The
Carlyle Group. Brooke later became the Communications Director for an anti-trafficking organization, Shared Hope International. In this role, Brooke spearheaded an effort to bring media and public attention to the demand side of sex trafficking of women and children in both the U.S. and abroad. This included work in Singapore, Amsterdam, Mumbai, and other international cities. In addition to a variety of awareness campaigns, Brooke co-produced a documentary entitled DEMAND. This documentary focuses on demand factors for sex trafficking, one of the most significant being pornography. It also addresses how all forms of commercial sexual exploitation are connected to sex trafficking and sex slavery. DEMAND has been used by the U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, local law enforcement, and other advocacy organizations.

Brooke's passion to help women and children who have fallen victim to atrocities such as war, trafficking and poverty has continued with her involvement in a newly launched company, Ethic: Goods that make a difference. Ethic is committed to purchasing and creating beautiful items that create jobs for marginalized women. Each piece of jewelry is handcrafted by gifted artisans employed by Ethic. These artisans earn a sustainable income with dignity, and are able to provide opportunities for their families to rise above poverty and escape vulnerable situations.

As a classically trained violinist, Brooke shares her love for music through teaching violin lessons, performing with various bands, music artists and at social events. Brooke is also on the worship team for National Community Church (NCC) in Washington, DC. Her most recent project was a worship album entitled The God Anthology, produced by NCC.

Brooke resides in the Washington, DC area with her husband, Nathanael, and three beautiful children: Jude (5), Brell (3) and Hope (2). She homeschools her children and also serves as a tutor for a classical
education program in Alexandria, VA.

Miss Idaho 2013 || Week Three

It is now officially less than one month until I leave for Miss America! My time has been spent making appearances, preparing my interview, talent, and walking, and shopping! I feel so lucky to have the help of so many people. The saying "It takes a village to raise a child" is true, only it makes more sense for me as "It takes a community to prepare a contestant for Miss America." Thank you to all of the sponsors and individuals who have already done so much for me!

A belated congratulations is in order for our new titleholders! Miss Idaho Falls Cynthia Huntsman, Miss Southeastern Idaho Kayla Jepson, Miss Idaho Falls' Outstanding Teen Jackie Andreason, Miss Southeastern Idaho's Outstanding Teen Heidi Schwicht, and Miss Snake River Valley's Outstanding Teen Marissa McKinney. They put on a lovely show and it was definitely worth the drive.

I love attending local pageants and I LOVE appearances! I got to help with the Gem/Boise County 4-H Fashion Show with Miss Gem County Kim Ford, was a taste judge for two Cooking Matters classes through the Idaho Food Bank, attended a Rotary meeting in Emmett, was a video narrator for a grant application for community health equipment, and helped out at the Nampa Farmers Market with the University of Idaho extension program; we made seed bombs with the kids! Keeping up with a blog and social media is harder than I thought it would be, but I'm getting the hang of it. Be sure to "like" the Miss Idaho Organization Facebook page for all of the updates, including the Miss America Judges! This year there will be a separate panel for preliminary competition and finals night. CRAZY! Well, I'm off to a mock interview. 

Until next time...
Sarah Downs
Miss Idaho 2013

Miss Idaho 2008

Meet Elise Davis,
Miss Idaho 2008!

Local Title to Compete at Miss Idaho: Miss Idaho Falls

Talent: Vocal Performance of “O Mio Babbino Caro” by Puccini

Platform: Sharing Strength, Creating Character: Women Mentoring Girls

Favorite memory from competing at Miss Idaho: There are so many memories I cherish from competing at Miss Idaho, so it’s impossible to pick just one! I loved all the girls in my class, and we all had such a good time goofing around back stage during rehearsals. There was also the moment right after I won when I realized my then-boyfriend had driven up to the pageant last-minute to surprise me and was in the audience to see me win.

But my favorite memory from Miss Idaho was the night before the competition when I was alone in the gym at our hotel. I remember working out in the quiet and feeling an overwhelming sense of calm and confidence that I’d never felt before and that I’ve never really felt since. I knew in that moment that I was there for a reason, and that the Miss Idaho Pageant was going to be the beginning of something truly special in my life.

Favorite portion of the competition: The talent portion was the whole reason I started competing in pageants. I grew up taking classical voice lessons and figured I might be able to win a little scholarship money if I could win the talent portion of the competition at Miss Idaho Falls…but I won the whole thing! I always felt like talent was the moment when I really shined and got to show the audience and judges who I was and what I was all about.

Favorite memory from Miss America: The night I competed in the evening gown portion of the pageant, Clinton Kelly, from “What Not to Wear” was sitting on the front row at the Planet Hollywood. After the competition that evening, he came up to me and said, “When you came out on stage tonight, I leaned over to my friend and said, ‘Miss Idaho looks just like Grace Kelly.’” Best. Compliment. Ever.

Did you meet any great friends at Miss America? From where? I was closest with South Dakota and Wisconsin (we all referred to each other by our state names, as opposed to our real names). We were roommates and teammates on the green team during the “Countdown to the Crown” reality show on TLC.

How has being Miss Idaho influenced your life now? There’s nothing like the confidence that comes from being a Miss American titleholder, and that confidence benefits me both personally and professionally every day! I currently work as brand strategist for Ogilvy & Mather, a worldwide advertising agency with over 450 offices around the globe. I spend the majority of my time building client relationships, leading agency meetings and presenting research and strategy, so the poise, passion and public speaking experience I gained as Miss Idaho has definitely impacted my life for the better!

What lessons did you learn from competing? The two most important things I learned from competing were:

1. When you look the part, you can play the part. I found that looking your best and having the right outfit can make all the difference in feeling confident – whether that’s for an important business meeting or just working out!

2. Never underestimate the importance of preparation. Competing requires you to prepare for a lot of different events at one time: public speaking, performing, physical fitness, etc. I spent more time preparing for some events than others, and I always did best on the events where I put in more time.

What part of Miss America do you look forward to today? Evening gown is my favorite! Onstage question and talent stress me out because not all the contestants perform well during those segments, but competing in evening gown at Miss America is the kind of experience that makes every contestant feel absolutely beautiful, and it shows!

What was it like being Miss Idaho? It sounds cliché, but being Miss Idaho was a 365-day emotional rollercoaster. I experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows of my life during my year of service. There were definitely days and weeks when I felt lonely and a little lost, but those moments were always followed by a once-in-a-lifetime experience like making a difference with my platform, performing at events around the state, and competing at Miss America that made the whole ride worth it.

What is one story that you love to tell people about your year as Miss Idaho? I love telling people that I was on a reality show! It’s such a ridiculous, random experience. The show was called “Countdown to the Crown,” and it aired on TLC. We lived on the Queen Mary boat in Long Beach Harbor for a month and competed in a series of team and personal competitions. There was a scavenger hunt, obstacle course, dress design challenge, and talent show. If you won a challenge, you got a “golden sash” and were then eligable to be voted into the top 15 at Miss America. My team won two of the challenges and we were all awarded with golden sashes on the final episode.

Miss Idaho 1993

Meet Roseanna Boyle Holliday, Miss Idaho 1993!

Local Title to Compete at Miss Idaho:  Miss Twin Falls (now Miss Magic Valley)

Talent: Vocal: How Could I Ever Know from The Secret Garden

Platform:  Prevention of Disease Through Nutrition

Favorite memory from competing at Miss Idaho: Building relationships with other contestants – most of whom are still part of my life today….

Favorite portion of the competition:  Interview and Swimsuit

Favorite memory from competing at Miss America: Loved performing on that famous Miss America stage and brings tears to my eyes thinking about walking the runway in Atlantic City.  Also, the visitations were SO much fun – all of my Idaho peeps were always at my table cheering really loud and welcoming me in each night just boosting my confidence and making my experience memorable.  My TC (traveling companion) was awesome and so supportive.

I remember getting ready to perform my talent on preliminary night and here comes Miss Kentucky from her performance crying and upset.  I tried to comfort her and she mentioned that her performance wasn’t what she expected and she could tell her state peeps were upset.  I grinned and said that I thought she did an amazing job (she really did!) and thought to myself that my state is SO supportive and would probably love me if I accidently walked out in swimsuit during talent or something else…..

I wore this huge head piece (definitely show girl material), mostly because I was one of the tallest contestants.  We spend two weeks, flying into Philadelphia, being escorted to a variety of events and the security was overwhelming (even for the early 90s).  Idaho’s media was very supportive and wanted to interview me most everyday and even other states (mostly radio DJs) wanted to know who Miss Idaho was…  I was willing to talk to anyone.  I was even awarded the best swimsuit award on MTV’s Pauly Shore show (too bad he wasn't one of my judges… LOL).

Favorite memory from being at Miss America: Board walk parade…  loved showing my potato shoes and announcing to the world the nutrition information of an Idaho potato. This was a perfect fit because I just became a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (from U of Idaho) and nutrition was my platform

Also, being from a conservative state, my state director(s) weren’t happy with my boyfriend (now husband) hanging out.  We couldn’t really hug (kissing, no way!) or show affection for each other.  One of the pictures we took together is of us not really touching each other (just to be silly…)

Did you win any prelims at Miss America? Which ones? No, darn.  But I thought I was in Top Ten because the producers always called me out and asked me to lead all the contestants in all the patterns and dance routines.

Did you meet any great friends at Miss America? Yes… From where?  Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin.  Miss Washington and I were best buds and we ran into Miss Oregon at Starbucks (imagine that) in Kansas City.  I can’t wait for my 20 - year reunion at Miss America this year.  It will be SO much fun to see each other again and catch up.

How has being Miss Idaho influenced your life now?  Currently, I am the Director of the Miss Magic Valley Scholarship Program.  Having the experience at both Miss Idaho and Miss America provides credibility to not only this organization in my belief to promote and encourage women to further their education and serve others, but aids in helping or offering advice to these wonderful young, articulate women that compete for a title.

The platform concept was pretty new when I was competing, but I honestly just implemented my passion, which was nutrition.  As Miss Idaho, I was able to travel across the state, visit over 100 schools to discuss the important role that nutrition plays as part of a healthful lifestyle.  I learned SO much over my year and am honored to have been given the opportunity to take the crown into every one of Idaho’s communities.  Every once in a while, someone will say to me – You came to my school,  I really appreciated your message of good nutrition and taking care of yourself.

In fact, nutrition is and continues to be my life’s work.  As many of you know, I received my BS in Nutrition from University of Idaho (scholarships from Miss Twin Falls/Magic Valley and Miss Idaho) and my MPH from the University of Minnesota (scholarships from Miss America).  I also received my doctorate from the University of Connecticut in Nutritional Sciences (of which during my interview my main advisor wanted to know more about my experience at Miss America).  Anyway, as President of the Idaho Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics this past year, I was invited to speak at a committee meeting of Idaho State Legislature (both House and Senate) – guess what my topic was:…..  Prevention of disease through nutrition (yup, my platform), specifically relating to the state health insurance exchange.  My husband even mentioned to me after my presentation(s) this past January, how something I worked on 20 years ago, was still part of my life and I had the opportunity to share my passion and life’s work with Idaho State Legislators (albeit, 20 years later, but hey, better late than never…..).

What lessons did you learn from competing?  You are only competing against yourself and it is important not to get caught up in who looks good in what or the latest fashion or gossip.  Really rings true in my life today (both personal and professionally).  Just be the best mom, professor, director, friend that you can be and don’t get caught up in the small stuff. Also, how to be confident and articulate in all aspects of my life.

What part of Miss America do you look forward to today?  I am thrilled beyond belief that Miss America is heading back to Atlantic City.  Oh, the board walk parade, seeing all the stores (merchants) and people excited to welcome the contestants back to the boardwalk.  Miss America originated in 1921 on the boardwalk (beach) in Atlantic City as a way to celebrate summer and has evolved and changed over the years to provide over $45 Million in scholarships to young women.  This competition is a life changer, especially for one lucky girl who will become Miss America.

What was it like being Miss Idaho? A lot of work.  Seriously, performing my talent, speaking and articulating my message to various groups and a variety of ages.  I look back on my year knowing that 365 days were spent representing our state to the best of my abilities and hopefully making a difference in the lives of others.

What is one story that you love to tell people about your year as Miss Idaho? A lot of people are confused about the difference between Miss America and Miss USA.  When someone asks me about being a beauty queen, I graciously remind them that I wasn’t involved in a beauty pageant, but a scholarship program.  I love to tell them about all the doors that opened during my year and how I am still articulating my platform across this great state.  Most people know or have seen Miss America program and the notoriety that comes with the title.  As I’ve lived in 5 different states over the past 20 years, everyone I encountered that hears I am a former Miss Idaho always asks me something along the lines of…  Did I have a good experience or a good year as Miss Idaho (sometimes with a coy little smile wanting to hear the gossip)?  I always tell them that I would do it again in a heart beat (minus a few pounds and wrinkles) because I had an amazing year and learned SO much being Miss Idaho 19 ninety (cough, cough)……  No, just teasing, 1993.  I am truly humbled and honored to have held this title for a year and am thankful for the opportunity to serve others and hopefully make a difference.