Since winning the 2012 Miss Arizona competition, now 23-year-old Piper Stoeckel admits her life has drastically changed.
This weekend, another Arizona “miss” will get the chance to follow in Stoeckel’s footsteps, and likely see her life changed in some of the same ways. Sixteen contestants are set to compete in this year’s “Miss Arizona 2013” pageant from June 20-22 at Mesquite High School in Gilbert. To the winner: the Miss Arizona crown, and the chance to represent Arizona during the Miss America pageant on Sept. 15 in Atlantic City, N.J.
Stoeckel said being Miss Arizona isn’t necessarily as glamorous as many might perceive it.
“I went from a 22-year-old student on a campus, just kind of camouflaged in with 40,000 students at (The University of Arizona), into being Miss Arizona where I was in such a prestigious job - but a lonely job by myself,” Stoeckel said.
Stoeckel noted that winners face situations where they’re constantly busy, constantly traveling, but added that all the effort is worth it in the end. In her case, the opportunity to serve the community – to change people’s lives – and meet wonderful families and individuals made her journey a success, she said.
“My dad laughed because my brother was in Afghanistan for the first 10 months that I was Miss Arizona, and my dad is a police officer,” she said. “He said I have more ups and downs and ins and outs, and it was more of an emotional and physical roller coaster for me than it was for my brother or my dad and their stressful jobs.”
Stoeckel explains that being Miss Arizona is a seven-day-a-week job and certainly involves more than just pearly smiles and delicate waves. Stoeckel notes the new perspectives she’s been exposed to; in one day she could go from seeing people with life threatening illnesses in a veteran’s hospital or children’s hospital, to serving kids ice cream at a festival.
“If you just do it for the recognition and if you just do it wear the crown and the sash and say ‘I’m Miss Arizona,’ you’ll find you want to fall flat on your face,” Stoeckel said.
Stoeckel will participate in the entire week of this year’s Miss Arizona by helping with the production for all the events, working with sponsors, and showing off her dancing talent in the opening number and do a farewell dance.
Her initial pageant platform was to work with the Southern Arizona Children's Advocacy Center and The Boys and Girls Club, and she has gone on to represent several other organizations through her tenor as well. After graduating with a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Arizona this fall, Stoeckel will be the Children’s Miracle Network coordinator for the Miss Arizona Organization.
Stoeckel was 21 when she found an interest in beauty pageants.
“Some beauty pageant angel came down and gave me a tickle about it,” she jokes, adding that it led to her putting school on hold to compete.
Now she has met more angels outside the pageant community – people that she says encourage her every day. That includes 6-year-old Elizabeth, who was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkins Lymphoblastic Lymphoma just a month after her fifth birthday. Stoeckel wears a rubber bracelet that Elizabeth designed herself that says, "Kicking Cancer in the butt crack!”
Another angel for Stoeckel is Jacob Mockbee, who recently turned 16, Mockbee was diagnosed with Spina Bifida, and battles a number of other medical conditions as well. But Stoeckel said he has a wonderful attitude and “radiates hope,” and added that he’ll be helping her with her final farewell at this year’s pageant; he even took her to his senior prom earlier this year.
The Miss America Organization, as Stoeckel attests, works to offer hope for many women as both the oldest pageant system in the United States, and its significant effort to provide scholarship money for women.
But pageants aren’t just for females anymore either.
Pageants like Miss Arizona have become so popular that student councils in the Gilbert area have recently come up with a male pageant program that will be held at Mesquite High School, part of the Gilbert Unified School District, with proceeds going to the winner’s charity or club of their choosing.
Brian Dahlem, the Auditorium Manager at Mesquite High School, said that the school has a good history with pageants and has been used by the Miss Arizona Organization since 2001.
“The audience during the event is a lively one. Each contestant has supporters, with signs posters and photos that they wave as the contestant is introduced,” Dahlem said.
The auditorium at Mesquite High School has 885 seats for audience members.
Preliminary competitions will take place June 20-21 and are expected to last until 10 p.m. The pageant final will be June 22 and is expected to last until 11 p.m.
What: ‘Miss Arizona’ 2013 pageant
Where: Mesquite High School, Gilbert
When: Thursday, June 20 – Saturday, June 22; event begins at 7:30 p.m. each evening
Tickets: Friday night (preliminary event), $35 per ticket; Saturday night (preliminary event) $45 per ticket; Saturday night (finale) $45 per ticket; Tickets to all three days run $100 or $105. Tickets are on sale through Bryant Tickets and can be purchased by calling (480) 202-7980.