- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) - Representing the state as Miss Nebraska is not all sparkles and glitter. There are endless hours on the road. There is the relentless networking. There is constant pressure to always be at your best.

For 2013 Miss Nebraska JaCee Pilkington, the end of her reign may mean the closing of one door, but she sees many more opportunities ahead.

As the 2014 Miss Nebraska Scholarship Program got underway last week and a new woman chosen for the honor, Pilkington talked with the North Platte Telegraph (https://bit.ly/1u94nVJ ) about her year wearing the crown.

“I am very anxious to see how my experience as Miss Nebraska will translate into my life and into a real job,” she said.

Pilkington became involved in the pageant system early, winning the Miss Nebraska Outstanding Teen crown in 2009.

“I was attracted to anywhere where I could sing,” she said. “Then it became much more than just a talent show for me.”

After completing her reign as Miss Outstanding Teen, Pilkington took time off from the pageant circuit. She attended Doane College, where she majored in political science and business with plans to attend law school. She also moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked for U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns.

“I took time off (from pageants), which turned out to be a really good thing for me,” she said. “I learned a lot about myself and that helped prepare me for the job of Miss Nebraska.”

For example, now she’s not so sure law school is in her future.

“It may be someday,” she said, “but now I am not sure it is for me. I know I want to work with public policy and community outreach.”

She won the state title on her first try. Her platform is “Operation Remember Me,” honoring America’s veterans and active duty service members. She has partnered with veterans organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Junior ROTC, Veteran Leader Corp and the American Red Cross.

“I really hope that each of my appearances gave Nebraskans a heightened level of awareness and appreciation for those who have already sacrificed so much,” she said.

During her year as Miss Nebraska, Pilkington logged more than 50,000 miles traveling across the state. Pilkington estimates that she has crossed the state an average of once a week.

“I wanted to visit as many cities and as many people as possible,” she said. “After the Miss America Pageant, I had four to five bookings every week.”

She cites the opportunity to meet people from across the state as one of the highlights of her reign.

“There are so many stories,” she said. “I talked to veterans, to kids who have been bullied, to young people who are interested in the pageant life.”

Eight days after the final night of competition, Pilkington will leave for a mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico. Her faith is an important part of her life.

“I grew up in a Christian home with a Christian family,” she said. “I don’t know how anyone could do this job without having faith in a higher power. I would think you would crack under the pressure.”

What would she like her Miss Nebraska legacy to be?

“I hope my legacy is that I served the state to my fullest capacity,” she said. “I feel really good about that. I just hope my successor keeps up the momentum. Miss Nebraska needs to be tangible to people, a real, living person that they see and talk to.”

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Information from: The North Platte Telegraph, https://www.nptelegraph.com


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