Becoming Miss America

By Lynsey Hart

Published: Monday, January 23, 2012

Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012

Laura Kaeppeler Miss America

Jeanie Hatfield

Laura Kaeppeler, who was declared Miss America 2012 hails from Wisconsin. Here, Kaeppeler is wearing the black dress designed by Chicago's legendary pageant gown designer Tony Bowls during last week's competition.

Laura Kaeppeler

Jeanie Hatfield

Laura Kaeppeler performs at the Miss America Competition.

A new Miss America has been crowned, and for the first time since 1972, she hails from our neighbors to the north, Wisconsin.

Laura Kaeppeler, 23, managed to wow the judges with her platform, her beauty and her voice.

For the next year she will travel across the nation participating in charity events and promoting the Miss America Organization.

In fact, as Miss America, Laura has such a packed schedule that she will not be able to make it back to Wisconsin until March.

As winner, Laura was awarded with a $50,000 scholarship which she hopes to use to pursue a law degree focusing on family and child advocacy, according to her personal website.

She obtained her undergraduate degree in music from Carthage University in Kenosha, Wis.

After winning the preliminary talent competition and the $2,000 scholarship that went with it, Kaeppeler says her undergrad was free – something that most of us can only dream of.

Her desire to pursue law is closely tied to her platform for the pageant.

When Kaeppeler was 14, her father, Jeff, was sentenced to 18 years in federal prison for mail fraud. That is why she started the organization Circles of Support, in order to help children of incarcerated parents.

"There are many of you out there, and I was one of them," Miss America said in a statement to the Associated Press, "but it doesn't have to define you."

For her evening gown, Kaeppeler chose a black dress that stood out in the final five, as the other four girls had chosen white or tan.

"It was really funny, because Laura originally wanted white," said Dana Mrazek, 20, of Racine, Wis., who assisted in the design and final selection of the gown.

Kaeppeler, Mrazek and wardrobe coach Jeanie Hatfield all met with Tony Bowls, legendary pageant gown designer, in his Chicago office.

"Tony actually drew the dress out in white, then we started contemplating colors," Mrazek said. "Pageant girls don't typically do black, they usually choose bright colors so black was completely out of the ordinary."

As for the dress itself, the 23-year-old showed that sometimes the more conservative approach can be the better one.

Surronded by girls who chose high-slits and dramatic backs, Kaeppeler's dress stayed classic with a modest v-kneck and capped sleeves.

The team's decision to go conservative did not get in the way on creating a stunning gown. "I liked it because it was black but a sexy design," said Natalie, a Junior. "That didn't make it look boring."

Dana also mentioned that although the dress was more conservative, they made sure to design a gown that still complimented all of Kaeppeler's assests.

Veering from the original plan, Tony Bowls decided to design Kaeppeler's talent gown as well. After spending only an hour and a half together, wardrobe coach, Jeanie Hatfield, says "[Tony] fell in love with Laura."

Mrs. Hatfield explained that once Tony found out about Kaeppeler's organization, Circles of Support, he was "dedicated on making her unique and amazing gowns."

Unfortunatly, the most discussed moment in the competition may have been the end. At her corwning moment, the new Miss America couldn't help but shed a few tears, and along with it came her mascara, streaming down her face.

The good news for Kaeppeler is that has an entire year to redeem herself from the minor beauty faux-paux.

With the character and grace that has already won the hearts of some of the toughest judges in America, chances are she will.


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