Zhiibaahaasing First Nation member crowned as Miss Indiana USA 2014

MissIndina1SHESHEGWANING FIRST NATION—Melinda Sampson spent most of her weekend glued to her Facebook newsfeed for updates on how her daughter, 24-year-old Mekayla F. Diehl, was fairing at the 2014 Miss Indiana USA Pageant. Ms. Diehl currently resides in Bristol, Indiana and is a registered member of Zhiibaahaasing First Nation. She is a 2011 graduate from Albion College, Michigan with a Bachelor’s Degree of Liberal Arts in Mass Communication and Psychology.

When it comes to pageants, Ms. Diehl is no greenhorn and has won awards and titles like: Joy of Life Recipient and 2nd runner up to Miss Indiana (America) 2012. She placed in the top 10 for Miss Indiana USA 2013, was Miss Wabash Valley 2012, Miss Elkhart County and Non-Finalist Interview Award Winner at Miss Indiana 2011, Miss Elkhart County 4-H Fair Queen 2007 and Bristol Homecoming Queen 2007.

On Ms. Diehl’s Facebook page she states, “I am a true “Michiana” Girl! I was born in Elkhart, Indiana and raised right on the state line in Little Union, Michigan. I come from a family who believes in the American spirit of entrepreneurship and hard work.” Although Ms. Diehl worked for a year as a radio DJ, she found her true passion for fashion and mentoring thru Ashley Rene’s. Ms. Diehl joined the Ashley Rene’s team last August, as the manager, marketing director and pageant consultant.

Ms. Diehl said,“now that I have finally found my place in the real world, I have decided to reach for the stars and achieve one of my life-long dreams: becoming Miss Indiana USA.” Ashley Rene’s has quickly become known as the Midwest’s one stop pageant shop for girls of all ages, from local to national pageants. When asked about her career ambitions, she responded “to utilize my experience in the formal fashion industry and work alongside one of the top dress designers to create my own line of pageant gowns.” When asked what three words she would use to describe herself she stated, “vivacious, adventurous and classic.”

Ms. Diehl’s mother and local resident Melinda Sampson spent her weekend pacing the floor, waiting for updates from friends and loved ones on-site. Over the course of the weekend Melinda would get updates from Ms. Diehl’s childhood friend Erin. “She did very well on the swimsuit,” was a Facebook status from Ms. Diehl’s mom.

Ms. Diehl updated her status before final call, and it simply stated, “As I sit alone in my hotel room…waiting for our call time for the finals, I have a quiet second to reflect on how amazing the past nine months have been. The people who have prayed for me, sponsored me, encouraged me, and supported me, have been such a blessing in my life. This is a dream that I have been preparing for since the day I first stepped foot on a pageant stage (at the 2002 Cass County 4-H Fair Queen Contest lol). I can honestly say that I have given it my all. No matter the outcome tonight, I know I have already won because of the support I have back home! It is truly humbling and inspiring to see just how many people believed in me and came along this journey. Thank you to my amazing sponsors and loved ones! When 4:00 rolls around, I put everything in God’s hands. He has a plan (and I hope it includes a sparkly piece of hardware). No matter what, I will continue to inspire others to go after their dreams, too! Thank you everyone!”

With Ms. Sampson’s Facebook status’ rolling and updating every few minutes, “She made Top 15!”, “She made Top 5!”, “Intermission, I’m going to go crazy waiting.” With the final status simply stating. “She won!”

When this reporter asked Ms. Sampson, “how does it feel knowing that your daughter has achieved something so important to her and so outstanding to the rest of us?” Ms. Sampson smiled broadly and replied, “honestly, I’m not surprised. Mekayla has always accomplished everything she has set out to do, even as a young child. She has always had such a glow about her. She could and would always light up a room with her presence. Mekayla’s spirit always radiated kindness, she is a natural helper! I am so proud of everything my daughter has accomplished and will accomplish.”

Ms. Sampson said the energy in her house Sunday was one of excitement and nervous energy. Logan, one of Ms. Diehl’s little brothers, was so excited his sister had won, he simply said, “My sister won! Wow.”

Ms. Diehl was kind enough to take few minutes out of her busy first day as Miss Indiana USA and answered a few questions from this reporter. “How did it feel to hear your name called as the 2014 Miss Indiana title recipient?” she was asked. Ms. Diehl replied, “Oh, tunnel vision set in right away. It was truly an out of body experience. I actually had to touch the crown and look at the banner to make sure that it was really happening!”

I joked with Ms. Diehl and asked, “I noticed on your Facebook page that someone had asked if you slept with your tiara on. Did you?” She replied, “in a way, I did sleep with my crown on! My pageant director, Randy Sanders, gave me a 14 karat white gold ring that looks just like my crown. So in away, I wore my crown on my finger!” chuckled Miss Indiana USA.

“Just out of curiosity, how many messages and or notifications did you have when you finally did looked at your phone, once everything was said and done?” asked Ms. Tenniswood. Ms. Diehl laughed. “When I woke up I had 137 friend requests, 25 of which I still have to go through, 26 private messages and 107 new notifications.” That’s a lot of new friends.

When asked “how do you prepare for your stage time? Do you have a routine or a back up plan?” Miss Indiana quipped, “as far as the on-stage competition, knowing how to present yourself in a confident matter is key. Not to mention walking in six-inch heels! So I had a lot of practice! I trained for nine months with a personal trainer and 16 weeks with two different workout programs from FullOnFit.com.”

My final question for the newly crowned Miss Indiana USA was, “what message do you want other young women and girls to hear from you today?” Ms. Diehl thought for a minute and then smiled. “The number one message I want to spread during my year as Miss Indiana USA is to go after your dream, no matter how big or small they may be. It won’t be easy, you’ll have to get up and go after them yourself! Don’t ever let your past define you. Instead, embrace it, learn from it, and work hard for success. No dream is ever too big.”

Ms. Diehl will participate in Miss USA 2014 next summer at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Doral, Florida.

Jessica Tenniswood