Earlier this week, Kacie West was running around Kalispell with a lengthy to-do list. There were people to see and things to pack and, even if she had more time before boarding a plane for Las Vegas the next morning, she knew she would forget something – something as simple as a toothbrush.
West, 24, was preparing to leave for Las Vegas to take part in the 2013 Miss USA competition. In October, she was crowned Miss Montana USA. On June 16, she will join 50 other young women on national television for the live finale. It will be the second time West has represented Montana in a national pageant – in 2011 she competed in the Miss America pageant.
“I never ever thought I would be involved with organizations like this,” she said. “But I’m so glad I did.”
West’s first pageant was the Junior Miss Montana in 2006. West graduated from Flathead High School in 2007 and from Montana State University in 2012 with a degree in elementary education.
West said she has always wanted to be a teacher and has been working as a substitute in Kalispell since graduating from MSU. Beginning in the fall, she will be teaching fifth grade at Peterson Elementary.
“I always feel at home in a classroom, I love that environment,” she said. “It’s the only job I can imagine doing, being in a classroom and teaching kids.”
The Miss USA competition has three parts, including an interview period, a swimsuit competition and evening gown competition. West said the most important part is the interview and she has spent many nights sitting around the kitchen table practicing with her dad.
“The whole thing is won in the interview, because that’s where judges get to see your personality,” she said. “I think it’s all about personality, confidence and how you present yourself on stage.”
Kacie’s father Chris is a self-described news junkie and said he works hard to keep his daughter familiar with current events. He said politics, health and social issues are common topics. Chris has even researched questions from previous years.
“We all have our jobs in the family, because it’s a family effort,” he said. “I can’t help out with the dresses and such, that’s where Mom comes in.”
Kacie says she spends a few nights a week with her family preparing for the pageant. Her younger sister is her biggest fan and toughest critic.
After competing in Miss America two years ago, the training and preparation are nothing new for the West family. In 2011, Kacie had to sing in front of a national television audience.
“It was a really nerve-racking experience because you’re singing in front of thousands of people,” she said. “I look back at that and think ‘that was the craziest and most exciting moment in my life.’”
If Kacie makes the finals, it would be the first time since the 1950s that someone from Montana has made it that far in the competition. This year’s Miss USA competition will be her last pageant. But another West could be waiting in the wings. Kacie said her younger sister has shown interest in following in her footsteps.
“The next time I’m at a pageant, I hope it’s to support my sister,” she said. “I’ve had my turn. Now it’s her turn.”
Kacie will spend two weeks in Las Vegas doing interviews and preparing before the big show on June 16. Her family will be watching from the audience and, although Chris acknowledges his bias, he said his daughter has a good shot of winning.
“I think she has as much of a shot as anyone else there,” he said. “She’s coming prepared and she wants to be a good representative of Kalispell, her hometown, and Montana.”
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