When Taylor Even went to sign up for her first beauty pageant at 18, she got cold feet, started crying and ran out to the car where her parents were waiting.
“I talked to them and decided to go ahead and register,” she said. “And I’m really glad I did it. They have been a great support to me.”
The pageant itself – Miss Iowa USA – was intimidating, Taylor said.
“It was my first-ever pageant,” she said. “I was the youngest in the Miss division.”
Contestants are judged in three areas: Interview, evening gown and swimwear.
“Swimwear was the hardest for me,” Taylor said. “It was my first year doing pageants, I was 18 years old and had to walk around the stage in a bikini and five-inch heels with all these random people looking at me.
“But I succeeded, and I’m glad I went through with it.”
Despite her trepidation, Taylor finished as second runner-up.
The following year, 2013, Taylor competed again and finished as second runner-up for the second time.
In 2014, her tenacity paid off when she competed and was crowned Miss Iowa USA 2015.
Taylor, a native of Jesup and graduate of Don Bosco High School, has earned an AA degree from Hawkeye Community College and plans to pursue a career in respiratory therapy.
“My ultimate goal is to work in a children’s hospital,” she said.
The 22-year-old beauty has taken a year off of school to attend to her duties as Miss Iowa USA, and she will compete in the Miss USA pageant later this year.
In addition to the appearances she makes as Miss Iowa USA, Taylor works two part-time jobs and is focusing on charitable work. She has been a longtime volunteer through her church, St. Athanasius, and its parish school; with the Catholic Worker House; and with the organization Up With Families, which works with families who have disabled children.
“I have a great aunt who has Down syndrome, so I tend to lean towards those who need help,” she said.
In her off-time, Taylor said she enjoys working out, cheering on her sister and cousin at their sporting events and boating and jet-skiing.
“Just being on the water,” she said.
To prepare for the Miss USA pageant, Taylor has been working on her interview skills, narrowing down her dress choices and practicing her walk.
“We won’t know what the stage is going to look like until the day of the event, so I have to be ready for anything,” she said.
“I am nervous, but I tend to hide that,” she said. “I will be gone for three weeks. There will be a media tour, so I will get to know the rest of the girls.”
Taylor said she has met some great people through her pageant activities and has gained a lot of supporters.
“The pageant system is just like another family,” she said. “Everybody is so welcoming.”
“I’m excited for it,” she said. “I’m super happy I got involved. It has opened new doors in my life.
“My motto is: Step outside of your comfort zone, believe in yourself and your dreams will come true.”