Former Bruin enjoys time as Miss Missouri


Madi Mertz

Headshot of Miss Missouri 2013, Shelby Ringdahl, provided by Ringdahl
Headshot of Miss Missouri 2013, Shelby Ringdahl
Photo provided by Shelby Ringdahl
Modeling evening gowns, visiting a rehab center and exercising with elementary school students while crisscrossing the state, Miss Missouri, Shelby Ringdahl, has had a busy start to the new year.
In fact, the 2010 alumna has had a breathtaking 18 months.
June 9, 2013 was the day that RBHS alumna Ringdahl’s life took a major turn. Along with being a loving sister, a devoted friend, an honors student, and talented performer, Ringdahl adopted a new title that day. A title which denotes an ambassador and a role model. The title of Miss Missouri.
For the past year, Ringdahl has made the rounds from Houston, Mo., where she won the Miss Texas County pageant in October of 2012, to Mexico, Mo., where she was crowned Miss Missouri in June, to Atlantic City, N.J., where she made it to the top 12 in the Miss America 2014 competition in September.
But years before she accomplished any of those feats, she was just another RBHS student.
Before she graduated Ringdahl participated in choir, show choir, varsity basketball, varsity volleyball, Student Council, the school musicals and Breakfast with Santa. She was also the chair of the prom committee. Ringdahl’s involvement in school activities reflected her dedicated and outgoing personality, even back then.
“Sometimes I would be at school 14 hours a day …  I learned how to use my AUT in order to maintain my GPA and use any time efficiently,” Ringdahl said. “Since I was able to get into my dream school, [Texas Christian University] and graduate with honors. I would say I was fairly successful.”
Besides her involvement at RBHS, Ringdahl also managed to make an impression on her teachers, one of whom she remembers fondly. Austin Reed, now a Civic Studies teacher, used to teach Ringdahl’s U.S. History class. Ringdahl recalls that Reed often made fun of her when her favorite football team, the Iowa Hawkeyes, would lose a game.
She did manage to get the last word in, though. One thing Reed remembers about Ringdahl is her attempt to play matchmaker for him while she was in his class.
“Shelby likes to pride herself on that she actually sent an email to my now wife, actually getting me a date,” Reed said. “I think I’d eventually have done it myself, but she likes to pat herself on the back for doing that.”
With her matchmaking and studying skills in hand, Ringdahl graduated and headed off for TCU to pursue a bachelor’s of fine arts in theater with an emphasis in musical theater as a major, and a business minor. It was a teacher at TCU that planted the idea of taking the move that would determine the course of her life for the next couple of years.
“My college freshman year voice teacher suggested I look into doing pageants to win scholarship money for singing,” Ringdahl said. “I put on my bucket list that I wanted to compete in Miss Missouri, and to make it to that level, you have to win a local pageant.”
So she headed to Houston, Mo., for the Miss Texas County pageant, one of the pageants from which the winners go on to compete for Miss Missouri. Ringdahl arrived in the tiny town expecting to gain some experiance and test the waters so she would know what to expect out of future pageants. She never expected to actually win the title.
In the nine months before the Miss Missouri pageant, Ringdahl used numerous frequent flyer miles to fly home to Columbia and drive to Houston for public appearances as Miss Texas County. The months of traveling paid off before long, and a box was checked off Ringdahl’s bucket list.
“I honestly don’t remember much of that night. You hear your name, and your life literally turns upside down,” Ringdahl said. “I remember doing my walk down the runway, then turning around and all the contestants hugging me. Then I was overwhelmed by the press for interviews and pictures with sponsors.”
She had won Miss Missouri. Ringdahl’s big voice, which already sang such musical theater roles as Millie in Thoroughly Modern Mille at RBHS, conquered the words of Elphaba, the so-called Wicked Witch of the West from Wicked to secure the title.
“To be Elphaba in Wicked is my dream role, so it seemed perfect. I also was a pageant rookie and didn’t really have the odds in my favor,” Ringdahl said. “I thought I would try to ‘defy’ the odds and win it all, making ‘Defying Gravity’ that much more appropriate.”
And defy the odds she did.
Without much of a clue to what was going on and her head still reeling from the news, Ringdahl was whisked away to an after party before signing a nine page contract and moving to Mexico, Mo. for the summer. There, she would live with a host family and train for Miss America.
With the pageant being unusually early this year, Ringdahl had about ninety days to prepare herself for what would be a crazy two weeks in Atlantic City. Dance rehearsals, appearances and preliminary competition filled her time in America’s playground. But she still managed to find time to make friends, namely Miss Wisconsin, Miss Michigan and Miss Hawaii.
“The night after swimsuit preliminary competition was over, we all went down to the employee cafeteria that we had access to in our hotel and ate one of every dessert they had because we hadn’t been able to eat desserts all summer! We all had the worst stomach aches the next day, but the chocolate cake was worth it,” Ringdahl said. “Now, we all communicate via Snapchat and it makes my day every time.”
Everything led up to the big night, the televised pageant, where Ringdahl made it all the way to the top 12 and was voted number three in people’s choice.
“Hearing my name for the top 15 was a complete rush…that was my goal: Make Top 15, set new goals,” Ringdahl said, “Being third in People’s Choice is what probably means the most to me because that was America voting and people that I know and love being so supportive in my dream to be Miss America.”
In ninety seconds, she was in the swimsuit round. Then evening wear. Then to wait on stage for talent. As names were read off one by one, the top twelve dwindled down to her and two others. They called the last girl in the top ten to show off their stuff, and it wasn’t Ringdahl.
“It was a hard pill to swallow, being so close to singing on national television, with Broadway producers in the audience,” Ringdahl said, “but everything happens for a reason, and I will find another opportunity.”
Although she was out of the running for Miss America, Ringdahl, always bright and optimistic, continues to make appearances as Miss Missouri around the state, even appearing in the halls of RBHS from time to time. She’s not the only Ringdahl roaming the halls right now, though. Her brother Karson is a sophomore, and her younger sister Sydney graduated from the school in 2013. Karson, for one, finds being Miss Missouri’s little brother a blast.
“It’s really fun,” Karson said, “It presents a lot of cool opportunities, like [Dec. 26] we went and worked at the Boys’ and Girls’ Town, and it’s really eye-opening.”
Whether or not she brings her brother and sister in tow, Shelby brings a little light wherever she goes, and always had fun doing it. In some of her favorite appearances, Shelby has appeared at AVID classes at RBHS, at Jefferson Middle School formerly known as Jefferson Junior High School, Gentry Middle School and Mill Creek Elementary, all being her alma maters. She also appeared at a Walt Disney World parade, children’s hospitals, and sang the national anthem at a St. Louis Cardinals’ game.
She has another six months until she will hand off her crown for the next Miss Missouri to carry on the legacy, while she herself will return to TCU for her senior year. But until then, she’s enjoying every minute of being Miss Missouri.
“It is an incredible, full-time job where no two days are the same,” Shelby said.
By Madi Mertz
Did you watch the pageant? What did you feel like watching a graduate of RBHS compete?