From rock climbing to donning evening gowns, Keiran Reynolds pushed herself out of her comfort zone to become Miss Washington for America 2019.
“I’ve been more anxious about walking in heels on stage than I am about putting on my shoes and getting on a rock-climbing wall,” Reynolds said.
This week, the 32-year-old is competing on a national stage for the title of Miss for America 2020 in Las Vegas.
The winner this Saturday will be the first ever Miss for America. The traditional Miss America pageant is for women 18 to 24 who are unmarried and don’t have children. The Mrs. America pageant is for married women no matter their age. The new Miss for America pageant is for unmarried women 18 and older who can have children or be divorced.
“It really opened it up to a modern-day woman,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds grew up in Moses Lake after immigrating from the United Kingdom.
“I very much grew up as an athletic female,” Reynolds said.
After high school, she moved to Portland and studied interior design at the Art Institute of Portland.
She moved to Spokane two years ago with her fiance, Eric Jahn.
“My fiance and I were looking for a place to plant our roots,” Reynolds said.
The decision to move to Spokane was part of Reynolds’ desire to come back to Washington.
“I fell in love with Spokane because it was in Washington and it really has become such a beautiful city,” she said.
This spring, Reynolds decided to compete in the upcoming Miss Washington for America pageant as Miss Spokane.
It was a “glitz and glam way to be involved in the community,” Reynolds said.
The pageant was something out of her comfort zone and pushed her to get in touch with her feminine energy, Reynolds said.
Reynolds won numerous awards at the state level in June.
She won the Most Photogenic, Physical Fitness and Miss Congeniality competitions, and title of Miss Washington for America.
Winning was “exciting and horrifying,” for Reynolds, who then realized she had to compete “in front of my nation” in just a few short months.
The award Reynolds is most proud of is Miss Congeniality, which is given to the most friendly and welcoming woman at the pageant by the other contestants.
“To be quite frank, that award was definitely more flattering than actually winning my title,” Reynolds said. “To have my peers stand behind me and see that they were getting the adequate love and support was so humbling.”
This weekend, Reynolds will be evaluated in four categories: 25% of her overall score will be be for physical fitness, 25% for evening gown and 50% for an interview.
“The more community service we do the more we have to talk about in an interview,” Reynolds said.
Contestants nationwide advocate for the Victoria’s Voice Foundation, which works to reduce overdoses and addiction.
Individually, they each choose a platform they are passionate about to discuss in their public speaking engagements and to partner with local organizations with in fundraising.
Reynolds works with the National Alliance on Mental Illness chapter in Spokane to encourage others to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness.
“When I was trying to figure out my platform, I wanted to do something personal,” Reynolds said. “I grew up with depression and anxiety and always thought I would outgrow it.”
“She has a huge passion for educating people about mental health and mental illnesses,” said Julianne Jett, program coordinator at NAMI. “I’m extremely excited to be working with her moving forward.”
The day after winning her title back in June, Reynolds’ sister had a mental breakdown.
“I was very concerned about a loved one of mine who was dealing with something as I was opening up this platform to talk about mental illness,” she said.
The perception of mental health issues in society was something Reynolds struggled with for most of her life.
“I was always embarrassed to mention that I had any of those, because I looked at is at a bad thing,” Reynolds said. “If people don’t even feel comfortable discussing mental illness, how are they going to get the tools they need?”
However this weekend’s competition goes, her goal is to “walk away feeling ecstatic, whether I place or not.”
“This pageant system is nothing like how people perceive pageants to be,” she said. “While there are beautiful women, it really comes down to a group of women empowering each other.”