PUHI — Fifty-three contestants. One of them Kauai belle, Stephanie Steuri.
Smart, beautiful, driven, talented — all the makings of the next Miss America.
The 20-year-old Kalaheo native, known these days as Miss Hawaii, spent Thursday evening, the day before boarding a plane for the East Coast, surrounded by friends and family at Island School, her alma mater.
“At this point it’s just trying to stay relaxed,” she said. “I’ve been working for two months now as Miss Hawaii to prepare for the Miss America stage.”
That preparation has included staying on top of current events, working out and practicing a hula routine she will be performing in a little over two weeks.
Nervous? No. Eager? For sure.
“I’m ready to go,” she said, draped in leis and sporting a giant smile. “I’m excited. I can’t wait to get on that plane and really buckle down and get ready for the competition.”
On Sept. 14, with millions of people tuned in, Steuri will represent not only Kauai but the entire state during the 2015 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City.
Winning isn’t everything; however, it is certainly on her mind.
“Being able to look back and see the amount of hard work I’ve put into it, it would be truly amazing,” she said of taking the crown. “But my dad told me when I was running for Miss Hawaii to, ‘Want it, not to want it too badly.’”
Regardless of the outcome, Steuri said getting the opportunity to represent Hawaii is already a “huge win.”
Steuri isn’t a “typical pageant girl,” as she put it. Behind the “showy, girly-girl stuff,” she said there is the nerdy bookworm and a former roller hockey player. And unlike other competitors, she is looking forward to the on-stage question.
“I’m so backwards,” she admitted. “I love the interview and the on-stage question. That pressure and the quick thinking on your feet. That’s my absolute favorite part.”
When asked what sets her apart, Steuri said this is her first time competing in pageants, although her mother is a former Miss Maui.
“I have that total new and fresh legs kind of thing,” she laughed. “And I really don’t have any clue what I’m doing. And I think that’s so refreshing to have someone who just kind of goes into it and is really able to show who she truly is and not who she’s been trying to become over the years.”
Thursday’s get together served as one last good luck and farewell celebration for Steuri.
By the end of it she could hardly see past the pile of leis around her neck.
Her father, Chris, said his final message for his daughter is a simple — “Continue to be yourself.”
“I’m not disappointed if it’s not going to be,” he said. “She has so many qualities and is so focused on her veterinary career.”
Steuri’s scholastic honors, according to the Miss America website, include upper division honors program at the University of Hawaii; two-time state champion and national competitor in the Veterinary Science Competition of HOSA Future Health Professionals; Blue and Gold Student Athlete Award at Island School; Island School Board of Directors Award; Hawaii Medical Service Association Kaimana Scholarship recipient; and Kaimana Student Athlete Scholarship recipient.
Her ambition is to earn a doctorate degree in veterinary medicine.
Miss America 2015 will air live Sept. 14 on ABC.