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Meet: Miss Iowa


Emily Tinsman won the Miss Iowa title last year, and she is preparing to compete at Miss America 2021. The Miss America 2020 Competition, previously scheduled for December, was delayed due to the nation-wide impact of COVID-19. As a result, Tinsman will be the first Miss Iowa to serve for two years. Photo submitted

“There was an old lady who swallowed a fly….”

How did Emily Tinsman get to be singing these lyrics while kicking off a summer reading series for kids? The same way she came to be opening Iowa’s senate session last January at the capitol by singing the national anthem.

“One of my favorite moments,” she recalls.

These opportunities — and many others like it — came Tinsman’s way because she answers to the title of “Miss Iowa.”

Many Miss America contestants compete for the potential financial benefits. The organization is a scholarships-based program, and winning Miss Iowa can bring a windfall of $10,000 or more in scholarship money. The cash prizes are considerable, according to Tinsman, but the experience is life altering in other ways, too.

Serving as Miss Iowa is a 365-day job. The full-time gig gave Tinsman the chance to travel 55,000 miles across the state while advocating for her cause, Americans for the Arts, and to help raise funds and garner support for art education and accreditation. During her year, she honed her communication skills, and the value of her personal growth as a result of the experience can’t be quantified.

“Without Miss America, I probably wouldn’t have landed a job (on such a fast time frame),” she says. This past fall, the Drake graduate began her teaching career at Harding Middle School.

Miss America’s national competition, previously scheduled for December 2020, was postponed until 2021 due to the nation-wide impact of COVID-19. Thus Tinsman hasn’t yet competed on the national stage, and as the reigning Miss Iowa during the pandemic year, she will be the first Miss Iowa in nearly 100 years of competition to serve for two years. When she does eventually compete for the Miss America crown, it will be the event’s 100th anniversary. The national contest has not yet been scheduled, but it will eventually air on NBC, probably in December.

During her unprecedented second year wearing the tiara, Tinsman pulls double duty. After she finishes her daily duties as a music teacher, she puts on the Miss Iowa crown and goes to work promoting the virtual online program she started to support and keep people engaged in the arts. ♦


The Miss America Competition has evolved in society in line with the evolution of gender roles, restrictions and expectations. This past year, the event ceased judging candidates based on outward appearance, which included the elimination of the swimsuit competition, and much weight is put on interviews, plus the candidates have opportunities to advocate for social impact initiatives.

Winning the Miss Iowa competition can mean $10,000 or more in scholarships, which is nice, but maybe more important, contestants each advocate for a culturally relevant issue that is near-and-dear to her heart.

To compete, Miss Iowa contestants must be between the ages of 18 and 25, and winning means doing well in multiple interviews and performing a talent.

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