Lisa Kuiper is most comfortable in her role as wife, mother and accountant for Ben R Edelen and Sons.
But on Saturday, she’ll assume a role to which she’s still getting accustomed – that of pageant contest.
Kuiper, the current Mrs. Plus Louisville, will head to the Hampton Inn in Winchester, Ky. to seek the title of Mrs. Plus Kentucky. The nearly three-year-old competition is a preliminary for the 2012 Miss Plus America Pageant, which is June 27-30 in Memphis, Tenn. The contestants compete in a variety of groups based on age and marital status, but all must wear a size 14W and up.
In only Kuiper’s second pageant (she competed in her first at age 5), she’s had to enlist the help of her pageant director to prepare for the contest. But, her greatest asset may be someone much younger than Kuiper – her six-year-old daughter, Dakota, who’s an experienced pageant queen.
“My daughter competes in pageants,” Kuiper explained. “I get to experience what she does. … I’ve learned ‘pretty feet,’ which is the way to stand and I’ve learned how to answer questions on stage and give a beginning, a middle and an end. … I think if I didn’t have (my daughter) in it, I’d be completely lost, so I think that gives me a little bit of advantage.”
Having Richard, her husband of nearly 13 years, around for support has also been key to keeping Kuiper calm and collected before facing the nerve-racking critique of the judges.
“My husband’s proud of me,” Kuiper said. “This is so not me, and he said this is my time to shine. I worry about my husband and my daughter all the time, so this is my turn.”
As a child, Kuiper lived far from the glamourous, pageant lifestyle. Her parents and sister were deer hunters; her father and grandfather were firemen. Kuiper’s husband, too, is in the fire-fighting business as a member of the Zoneton fire department. And, it was through her husband’s profession, that the opportunity to vie for Mrs. Plus Louisville first came to fruition.
“I direct a pageant called Mr. and Ms. Zoneton Fire Pageant for the Crusade (for Children), and I needed judges,” Kuiper said. “I found the Ms. and the Teen Ms. Plus 2011, and they came out and judged my pageant, and so they convinced me to get into this.”
Kuiper later found the pageant application online and submitted a headshot, resume and essay, which earned her the title of Mrs. Plus Louisville. The competition for Mrs. Plus Kentucky, however, will call for a bit more effort and pressure, as Kuiper will be placed on a stage in front of a live audience and judges.
“We have an interview portion where we wear a business suit and we go in with a panel of judges, and they’ll ask us about current events and what we think is beautiful and why,” Kuiper said. “Then, when the pageant actually starts, we have an opening number, which I’m terrified of,” she laughed.
Following the beginning of the ceremony, Kuiper and her fellow contestants will be scored on elegant pant-wear and evening gown attire. As part of the competition, Kuiper also had to select a platform to promote. Under the label “Crusading for Children,” she will advocate special needs awareness and the WHAS Crusade for Children.
“I’m not in it to be famous,” Kuiper said. “A lot of (contestants) say, ‘I want to be models’ … but that’s not what I want. I’m amazed by watching my daughter with a crown on her head and wear her sash (and) the attention she gets. … But, me working with the fire department and the Crusade, that’s what I’d rather do.”
Win or lose next Saturday at the Mrs. Plus Kentucky pageant, Kuiper will hold her head high. She’ll also have proven she could fulfill a role outside of her comfort zone, which she hopes will send a message of encouragement and positive self-image to those who may struggle with self-doubt.
“If I can do it, anybody can do it with self-confidence,” Kuiper said. “And, I am really shy, but when I put the crown on and the sash on, it’s like you’re putting on a costume and you can be anybody you want to be, and you can still grow up and be a princess even if you don’t fit the mold.”