Section 36 had another visitor! Grace Keller is passionate about reading, a talented dancer, and the current Miss Iowa. I was so glad that she was willing to visit with us to discuss those topics, and a few more. I was also thrilled that she was our first visitor from the state of Iowa!
Photo Say Uncle! Photography
So, let's see what happens when Grace Keller visits Section 36!
How did you celebrate winning the Miss Iowa crown?
The night I won my family and friends who came to the competition all met up with me in the hotel lobby and we popped a bottle of champagne! They all knew how long this has been a dream of mine, and it was really special to sit among some of the most important people in my life and just let the moment sink in.
Do you have a specific goal you’d like to accomplish during your time as Miss Iowa?
I've already been working with a number of organizations at the state and national level to advance my social impact initiative, Read to Succeed: Promoting Literacy in Grades K-3. So far, I've personally worked with 400+ students implementing literacy curriculum and programming to help students reach proficiency by that third-grade level. By the end of my year, I'd love to have personally worked with over 5,000 students. I've also been working on securing funding to provide literature to low income students who do not have books at home. My goal in this area is to donate over 1,000 books to students in need.
This answer is kind of a double-edged sword because I amalways most nervous for talent, but it's also my favorite phase of competition! I started classical ballet training at age three, and my talent is ballet en pointe, so I feel like all my whole life has kind of been leading up to this moment for me to have the opportunity to perform on a stage as big as Miss America. So, while I do tend to get nervous for talent more so than anything else, my years of classical training has also taught me to do my best work under pressure, and I know if I lean on that experience, I'll be just fine. I can't wait to show America what I have in store for my talent piece!
What part of the upcoming Miss America competition are you most nervous about?
One of the most impactful moments in my education was a one-on-one conversation I had with my fourth-grade teacher. She told me in this conversation that the more you read, the smarter you get. This comment led me to discover my love for literature, and through that love, I discovered my passion for writing, and then speaking. It was these discoveries that pushed me into studying journalism in college, and being interested in competing in competitions like Miss America where I could put my speaking skills to the test. So, I kind of trace a lot of who I am and where I'm at now in life back to that moment. But I know not all students have the same role models or experiences and opportunities I did as a child. A lot of students don't see the importance of literacy, and being able to read and write well - I know there was a time when I didn't. So, I wanted to be able to be that role model or inspiration that pushes students to reach their fullest potential and succeed in school so they can realize their dreams like I had the opportunity to do. Studies show that students who do not reach proficiency by third-grade are four times less likely to finish high school, and that figure jumps by over 20% when a student experiences poverty. Knowing the direct link between meeting literacy benchmarks and future academic success, it becomes imperative for us to ensure every child, especially those from low-income hoes, is reading at grade-level by third grade to set them up for a brighter future.
How did you select your social impact initiative, “Read to Succeed: Promoting Literacy in Grades K-3”?
As a talented dancer, what do you enjoy most about performing on stage?
I get such a rush from performing! I think my favorite part is being able to "act" in character while I dance, especially during classical pieces. The most talented dancers don't just perform the choreography, they take on the persona of the person, song, or story they are portraying through the piece. This is something that takes a lot of work, and something I'm nowhere near mastering, but acting the part through your facial expressions, movements, and mannerisms really brings a piece to life in a way no baseline choreography can. In my talent song for Miss America, I get to portray a really fun persona, and I've been hard at work mastering it so my performance has that extra something special that acting the part will bring to the table.
Yes! My life pre-Miss Iowa was all about podcasting as I serve as Vice President for a podcast production startup. Never in a million years did I think I'd be paying the bills by podcasting, but it's something that really marries my love of journalism and strategic communication, and it allows me to help others tell their stories, which is something I'm very passionate about. "Grace is on the Case" came out of my love for true crime. I'm a total crime junkie, and I've always wanted to have my own investigative podcast, so it honestly worked out pretty well that I started podcasting for a living! Each episode tells the story of a famous case of true crime, and it mixes in interviews from those central to the case to provide the audience firsthand accounts and inside information. It's been a great learning experience to make, and I'm still trying to keep up with making content while being Miss Iowa!
You host the "Grace is on the Case" podcast. What can you tell me about that?
If you could be a Disney Character for a week, who would you choose? Why?
Absolutely 100% Belle from Beauty and the Beast! I've always identified with her because she was constantly reading, and that's something I was made fun of for as a child. She's also so independent and really controls the narrative of her story, which I've always loved. I was actually her for Halloween multiple times in a row - my mom couldn't get me to be anything else!
If you had an extra ticket to an Iowa Cubs game, who would you take with you? Why?
My little brother is a colligate pitcher for University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh, and baseball is his whole life. He's always up on the minor league prospects and stats in general, so I'd probably take him since he'd enjoy it the most.
I was actually able to throw the first pitch out at both a Cedar Rapids Kernels game and a Waterloo Bucks game this past summer, which was really fun! I grew up surrounded by baseball thanks to my two brothers, and it's now my favorite sport to enjoy next to Hawkeye football! My whole family and I are Sox fans because my Grandpa was originally from the south side of Chicago, so I'd LOVE to throw a pitch out at a Sox game, even though I'm Miss Iowa!
Is there a feature or activity at a baseball game that you’d especially like to experience?
As always, I want to thank Grace for visiting with us, and for sending along the pictures to go with the interview.
As Grace continues her time as Miss Iowa, I encourage you to follow her title's Instagram and Facebook accounts. You should also check out the official Miss Iowa website. They're great ways to keep track of everything she has going on!
I also want to wish her the best of luck when she competes for the Miss America crown this winter. It would be fantastic to have another Section 36 visitor wear that crown!