Friday, November 5, 2021

Kaitlin O'Neill Visits Section 36!

Section 36 had another visitor! 
Kaitlin O'Neill is passionate about mental health, a talented dancer, and the current Miss South Dakota. I was excited that she was willing to visit with us to discuss those topics, and a few more.

So, let's see what happens when Kaitlin O'Neill visits Section 36!

How did you celebrate winning the Miss South Dakota crown?
Right after I was crowned, I was actually taken to a celebratory after party with all of the former Miss South Dakota’s which was an amazing way to kick things off. Being a part of the organization for 5 years, I had always dreamed of joining the Miss South Dakota sisterhood. Being at this small celebration was so surreal because I was surrounded by all of the ladies I had looked up to for so many years and was now one of them!

What’s the biggest thing you learned about yourself at the Miss South Dakota competition that will help you at Miss America? 
This year in particular, I really focused on my mindset. In previous years, I had compared myself to other candidates, got lost in what I didn’t have to offer, and was more concerned about what I thought the judges wanted to see and hear over what I actually brought to the table. Truly being who I am I think really set me apart. Heading to Miss America, I am working to continue that momentum and mindset especially! It is really easy to play the comparison game especially when you go up against the best 50 ladies in the nation. That mindset and place of peace really helped me see a new side of me and I plan to take that to Miss America as well. 

Is there a specific goal you’d like to accomplish during your time as Miss South Dakota?
Outside of growing my Social Impact Initiative, BLOOM, and

Tiger Lily Photo
 bringing it to every school in the state, one of my biggest goals as a Miss South Dakota is to grow the Miss South Dakota program. Many people in South Dakota do not know much about the Miss South Dakota and Miss America Organizations and I want to change that. I have benefited so much from this program over the years and I want to share that with the people of my state! This next year is the 75th anniversary of the Miss South Dakota Competition and I want it to be bigger and better than ever before! 

How did you select your social impact initiative, “BLOOM Into a Healthier You”?
““BLOOM Into a Healthier You” was actually built off of personal experience. Growing up, I struggled with depression and an eating disorder but no one knew. I kept everything to myself because I wasn’t comfortable opening up about my feelings and honestly didn’t know much about mental health or where to turn. Heading into college, there was a much more open dialogue around mental health and through reflection, I realized the severity of where I was. I needed a change and slowly overtime grew into the person I am now thanks to support from friends, resources on campus, and small steps of strategy implementation. When I was getting ready for Miss South Dakota a few years ago, I realized that this was what I wanted to advocate on. It was extremely hard to open up and find the courage to talk about these hard parts of my life, but it was also healing. As I developed it further, I knew I wanted to create a program that anyone could use that was either struggling or just wanting to maintain their current lifestyle. After looking back at my past and experiences, I wrote down the key factors that helped me get through my hard times. I knew I wanted to create and acronym to keep it simple for anyone wanting to use my program and I wanted a word that represented growth. The word BLOOM fell into my lap and the rest is history! Over the last few years I have grown BLOOM in so many way and am so excited to continue that growth even further – stay tuned as some amazing things are coming your way!

As a talented dancer, what is your favorite part about performing on stage?

FELS Photo

I absolutely love having the opportunity to tell a story and move people simply through movement. Along with that, performing is such a thrill and I love the challenge that it brings. Dance is not something where you can just show up and go. You must constantly work at your craft, push yourself, and put the time in! Dance has become one of my favorite outlets where I can let go, be free, and not worry about anything else. 

You’ve been able to do quite a bit of traveling. What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?
I have attended many summer dance intensives over the years and have had the opportunity to travel all across the nation for them! My favorite by far has been going to New York where I trained with a Radio City Rockettes. I attended the Rockette Summer Intensive three times and someday hope to be dancing alongside them as a member in their company!

If you could be a Disney character for a week, who would you choose? Why?
This is hard! As a big Disney fan, I have many favorites but if I had to pick one to be, I would have to say princess Merida. One, she is a red head and I relate to her on that aspect, but two, I love her grit and drive to be who she truly is rather than who her family or society wants her to be. 

If you had an extra ticket to a Sioux Falls Canaries baseball game, who would you take with you? Why?
I would have to choose my mom as she is a big baseball fan

Tiger Lily Photo
and actually houses baseball players in the summer that come to the Aberdeen area. If anyone would be excited to go to Canaries game it would definitely be her.

Is there a feature or activity at a baseball game that you’d especially like to experience?
I would love to attend a Twins game in Minnesota, throw the first pitch, and even sing the national anthem! I am a dancer, but I a lot of people don’t know that I sing as well! It would be such an honor to partake in a Twins game in this way.


That would be a great way to enjoy a game! 

As always, I want to thank Kaitlin for visiting with us, and for sending along the pictures to go with the interview.

As Kaitlin continues her time as Miss South Dakota, I encourage you to follow her title's Instagram and Facebook accounts. You should also check out the official Miss South Dakota website and her SII's 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 next month. It would be fantastic to have another Section 36 visitor wear that crown!

Thanks again Kaitlin, and good luck!

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