MEXICO — University of Missouri student Simone Esters, 20, was crowned Miss Missouri Saturday night at Missouri Military Academy in Mexico. Shae Smith, 15, of Bolivar was crowned Miss Missouri Outstanding Teen.
This year marked the golden anniversary the Miss Missouri pageant was held at the academy. Pageant Co-Executive Director Alice Leonatti recognized Brig. Gen. Richard V. Geraci, academy president, for the school's continued support in hosting the pageant since it came to Mexico. Several legacy Miss Missouris once again graced the stage, including Miss Missouri 1969 Fran (Biesemeyer) Owen who, earlier this month, said she has many wonderful memories of her time representing the state. "I was very honored, humbled and proud to represent the state of Missouri at the Miss America pageant," she said.
Esters, who is majoring in journalism, represented Miss Metro St. Louis in the competition. She is the daughter of Julie Fornadel of Hermitage, Pennsylvania, and Jeff Esters of Coconut Creek, Florida.
"I'm just thrilled to see her be able to go out and represent the state of Missouri, Mexico and then also take her platform and take that out into the community and spread the word about how important mentoring is," Fornadel said.
This is only Ester's second year competing in the pageant. She also made it to the top five last year, but was selected as second runner-up.
"This is just crazy," she said. "I've worked all year for this very moment, and to see all my hard work come to fruition tonight on this stage is just an amazing moment I'll never forget."
Her platform is a mentorship program with the social impact statement of "Leave Your Mark." Esters was able to develop the nonprofit Writeous Girls Inc., which is a mentoring program to "empower young women through the craft of writing." The nonprofit is working to get its program implemented in schools, she said.
"What I seek to do is educate people on the importance of mentoring and tell them why they should form mentor relationships within their life," she said about her social impact statement.
Esters recognized her family and friends for their support in her work to become Miss Missouri. "None of this would have been possible without the amazing people I have in my life. To look out into the audience and see so many people cheering for me is the ultimate form of gratitude that I can express, whether or not I walked away with the crown," she said.
It feels good to be Miss Missouri Outstanding Teen, said Smith, who represented Branson Outstanding Teen in Friday's competition.
“I had the right mindset coming in here, and I'm really excited it happened,” she said.
Smith is the daughter of Mark and Angie Smith. This was her third year competing in the Outstanding Teen pageant, and she is the third Miss Branson in the pageant's 15-year history in Mexico to win the title. Smith said she's excited to continue the legacy of Branson Outstanding Teen representing the state on the national stage.
Smith's platform is for the Children's Miracle Network. She received the $1,000 Teen Miracle Maker scholarship for raising the most money for that organization — $10,970.
Smith was one of 11 finalists Friday evening, which included Mexico local Maggie Huffman as Miss Springfield OT. Other finalists were Kirksville OT Camryn Crist, River City OT Allisyn Neal, Zona Rosa OT Olivia Richardson, Platte County OT Natalya Knoke, Heart of the Ozarks OT Ashley Berry, Audrain OT Olivia Coy, Metro St. Louis OT Abbie Mueller, Fleur de Lis OT Halie Hebron, and Gateway St. Louis OT Mallory Sublette, of Palmyra. Huffman received the $500 Cindy Baker Community Service Scholarship.
Those 11 were whittled to five, where Mueller was fourth runner-up, Berry was third runner-up, Sublette was second runner-up and Hebron was first runner-up.
Other Miss Missouri finalists Saturday were Miss Title Town Jacquelyn Walker, Miss River City Faith Whatley-Blaine, Miss Springfield Olivia Henson, Miss Forest Park Debrielle Patee-Merrill, Miss Branson Chelsea Arnold, Miss St. Charles County Ashley Perry, Miss Fleur de Lis Holly Enowski, Miss Audrain Christina Beard, Miss Gateway St. Louis Marissa Jarnagin and Miss Moberly Christina Brocksmith. Miss Zona Rosa Sarah Kasubke, of Mexico, while not a finalist, received the $500 Commerce Bank Community Service Award.
The top 11 was narrowed to five, and Henson was fourth runner-up, Arnold was third runner-up, Enowski was second runner-up and Patee-Merrill was first runner-up.
Esters moves onto the Miss America pageant, which will broadcast on NBC.