Inside the Story: Behind the intense preparations for the Miss America Pageant

Inside the Story: Behind the intense preparations for the Miss America Pageant (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) She may have won the Miss Utah crown, but the pressure is just beginning for JessiKate Riley.

Riley is now preparing for one of the biggest events of her life--the Miss America Pageant.

"I think it's every little girl's dream to be Miss America," said Riley.

Riley was crowned Miss Utah 2017 in June and since then, it has been non-stop preparation for the Miss America competition.

"It's a lot of healthy eating, a lot of fitness, practicing talent, alterations at least once a week," described Riley. "There's a lot that goes into every single appearance that people don't necessarily see."

She also has to go through a lot of Q&A drills so she can be ready to answer any questions on the spot.

"You have to be so prepared on who you are and feel confident enough to be happy and spunky on stage," she said.

Getting to this point has not been easy.

"I am from Beaver, Utah, which is a one stoplight town," Riley said.

There was a time when JessiKate couldn't even look in the mirror because of a serious case of social anxiety.

She had Trichotillomania and would pull out her hair.

"Being a 12-year-old girl having bald spots was very hard," Riley said.

But Riley, who has been playing the violin since she was three years old, believes it was her music that helped her pull through.

"Basically what it came down to is I needed to know who I was, needed to know what my strengths were, and share them with other people," she said.

She believes this kind of life experience can help her reach others across the country--hopefully as Miss America.

"You can get through challenges and you can still be on the Miss America stage even though as a 12-year-old girl you didn't even know if you were going to go to school," Riley said.

Right now, Riley is in New Jersey where the Miss America competition is just getting underway and has already won the preliminary talent award.

The crowning event will take place on Sunday night.

The last time a Miss Utah became Miss America was 33 years ago.

For more on the Miss America pageant, visit the pageant website.