Sikeston woman competing to be next Miss Missouri

Saturday, June 7, 2008

MEXICO, Mo. -- This week, one Sikeston resident is competing for the title of Miss Missouri.

Erin Bell is representing Miss Metro St. Louis at the Miss Missouri pageant.

Bell will be a senior at Maryville University in St. Louis in the fall. She will graduate next year with a degree in marketing.

This will be Bell's third year participating in the Miss Missouri pageant, which began Wednesday. Two years ago she was named first runner-up. The crowning of this year's Miss Missouri will be tonight.

For Bell, preparing for Miss Missouri is a little more involved than preparing for other pageants.

Along with working with a vocal coach in Tulsa, Okla., and a personal trainer, Bell went to her director's house about once a week before the pageant. "A board of directors help you prepare and get ready to go," Bell said. "We would talk about current events or just pageant stuff."

Bell practiced interviews with her director once a month. The interviews last nine and a half minutes and include a "wide spectrum of questions," she said.

While she noted that she loves singing and dancing, "especially in a full house," Bell said her favorite part of participating in Miss Missouri is being able to meet the other girls.

"We're up here for a week and we stay in dorms at the Missouri Military Academy. It's kind of like camp in a way," she said. "These girls will be my lifelong friends."

For the pageant, each contestant has a platform issue, an issue they are helping to promote. Bell's platform issue is raising awareness of skin cancer.

"A man by the name of Ray on my board two years ago had melanoma. His last year of living was my first year at Miss Missouri.

"It's such a relevant topic because it's so preventable," Bell said.

Along with skin cancer awareness, Bell recently held a toy drive for the Children's Miracle Network. SEMO Christian Academy, JoAnn Nichols of Vanduser, Mo., and people at Shady Acres Church of Christ, where Bell is a member, helped her collect more than 500 items to split between two hospitals, St. Louis Children's Hospital and Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis.

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