Miss Kansas USA 2020 Hayden Brax proves pageantry takes more than having a beautiful face. The University of Kansas senior was only 20 when she won the crown, having balanced her Applied Behavioral Sciences curriculum and sorority involvement with pageant preparation.
However, the work had only begun when she won the Miss Kansas pageant at the Lied Center of Kansas. Title winners in school often take a gap year to focus on their reign and prepare for Miss USA, but Brax continued her studies. Many of her appearances were canceled due to the pandemic so she was able to succeed in school and Miss USA preparation.
In this Pitch Questionnaire, Brax gives insight into her Lawrence and Kansas City favorites, pageant journey, and aspirations for the future.
Social media handles: Instagram: @haydenbrax Twitter: @haydenbrax Facebook: Hayden Brax
Hometown: Leawood, KS
City currently residing in: Lawrence, KS
Favorite place in KC to get dessert?: Coldstone Creamery on the Plaza
Favorite place on Massachusetts St. in Lawrence?: Ta Co. has become a new favorite of mine!
Favorite thing to do in KC?: Cheer on the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
Any pets? If yes, tell us more!: I have a hedgehog! His name is Hemingway.
Why did you want to be in pageants?: I was a sophomore at the University of Kansas when my roommate suggested the idea of me doing my first pageant. Miss Kansas USA 2019 was 6 weeks away, so I took the leap of faith and signed up. After placing 4th runner up that year, I saw the immediate change in my confidence, speaking skills, and passion for serving others. With a fire ignited in my heart, I spent the following year preparing for the competition. I truly believe that it was the hard work and determination I put in that year that ultimately allowed me to walk away as Miss Kansas USA 2020.
When you were not fulfilling your Miss KS USA duties, what were you doing?: Schoolwork! I was (and still am) a student at the University of Kansas; where I will be graduating in 2021 with a degree in Applied Behavioral Science, with a focus in Early Autism Intervention.
What are some of your long-term goals?: Being Miss Kansas USA gave me a new perspective of how much I love being around people (like the true extrovert I am)! A newer goal of mine has been to obtain my Kansas and Missouri real estate license and help people find their dream home. I recently passed my Kansas exam, and am currently working on Missouri! In 5 years from now, I plan on working as a buyer’s agent and spending my free time continuing to volunteer with children with disabilities.
In what ways did you experience self-growth as Miss KS?: Before competing in pageantry, if you handed me a microphone and asked me to speak in front of an audience, I probably would have run right off that stage. Since my year as Miss Kansas, I feel completely confident speaking in front of large groups. I definitely believe this shows how much skills from pageants can transfer into other areas of a woman’s life.
How was your life as Miss KS USA affected because of COVID-19?: I was crowned in January of 2020 and was just beginning to get comfortable in the role when the COVID-19 pandemic began. I quickly had to shift to a virtual platform, and serve my state from within the four walls of my bedroom. I did Instagram lives, fundraisers, and delivered homemade masks to essential workers.
How did you give back to the community during your time as Miss KS USA and how will you continue to work with these organizations going forward?: One of my favorite organizations to work with was Newhouse domestic violence shelter in Kansas City. The shelter served 615 residents and clients in 2020 and continues to work to uplift and empower survivors. They taught me how to advocate for survivors of domestic violence. My work with them extends far beyond the crown and sash and I cannot wait to get back there and volunteer again soon!
What were you feeling as you were crowning the next successor to the Miss KS USA crown, Gracie Hunt, and why?: It is an incredibly bittersweet feeling. In that moment, you realize that you are closing one of the most defining chapters of your life, yet you have the honor of watching another woman’s dream come true before your very eyes.
Although you did not walk away from the Miss USA pageant with the crown, what did you take away from the experience?: For me, just having the opportunity to represent Kansas at the Miss USA competition was a dream come true in itself. Walking away with an experience to transform my life, and introduce me to the most incredibly hardworking and inspirational women from across the country, was the best takeaway. Having a new best friend in all 50 states is not an opportunity that many have, and I will be forever grateful.
What do you wish people knew about you and your pageant career?: I wish people knew how much work goes in behind the scenes. Pageants typically have the stereotype that you just “show up and look pretty” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Women in pageants in 2021 are working to break down barriers, advocate for individuals who need to have their voices heard, and serve as an inspiration to women across the world. My pageant career gave me a platform and opportunity to make a real difference in my state.
What advice would you give someone who wants to compete in pageants?: My pageant motto was “You gotta know yourself to show yourself”. It definitely takes a lot of self-reflection and personal development to be in this position. Dig down deep and figure out what causes you advocate for, what traits you embody that could serve this job well, and overall why you would want to represent your state for a year. I want every young girl to know that if I can do it, so can you.
What would you consider your greatest success as Miss KS USA?: With everyone stuck at home this past year, I wanted to be someone that people would be able to turn to during a time of uncertainty. And with 2020 being the historic year that it was, my goal was to never allow the craziness of what was happening in the world, to hinder me from being a light to others. With my family, friends, and the entire state supporting me, I would say that never losing sight of what was important, and continuing to fiercely serve my community was my greatest success as Miss Kansas USA.
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