GALLIPOLIS —In a world of instant gratification and feedback via Facebook, sometimes the act of persevering to succeed over time gets lost in the shuffle.
Megan Wise of Gallipolis, was crowned Miss Ohio USA over the weekend in Springfield but being crowned wasn’t a stroke of luck, it was an act of perseverance.
Wise had previously competed in the competition nine times, starting when she was 18 in the “teen” category and then moving up to the “miss” division where, over the last few years, she was first runner-up and second runner-up multiple times. She was so close so many times, only to come up short.
This year was her final year of eligibility and after a tough second runner-up finish last year, she wasn’t sure if she’d attempt one more try.
“It was a hard loss,” Wise said of the 2015 competition. “I had to really reevaluate if this was something I wanted to do and why.”
After a few months of contemplation, she says she decided this was something she loved doing, and as she put it, she wanted to “take every opportunity to do what I love one last time.”
She said as for why this year’s pageant had a different outcome, it was an evolution that wasn’t about the dress or the makeup coming together.
“Something came together on the inside and I felt at peace no matter which way it went,” she said. “I had the confidence to know I can do this and the loss won’t affect me anymore.”
So Wise, who makes all the decisions in her classroom at Meigs Primary School where she teaches first grade, decided to take charge of her own fate and pageant outcome by doing things the way she wanted them done. She said rather than go with outside consultants, she made the choices of what to wear, how to physically train and about a million other details down to what earrings she wanted to wear. By the way, her earrings came from New York and Company – nothing fancy but they were what she liked.
“Everybody tells you to be yourself but really, being yourself in the moment is so hard and so difficult to do. It’s scary. But when you truly let it go and think, ‘here I am, take me or leave me,’ it fell into place for me.”
Wise said when her name was finally called as the winner, the room “exploded.”
“I was yelling so loud,” she said. “I kept going ‘I can’t believe it.’ I was yelling so loud I couldn’t hear and other people were yelling and screaming and crying. It was such an overwhelming moment, I can’t even describe it because I just witnessed what could be the best moment of my life.”
Next up for Wise is a big adventure to the Miss USA pageant where she will compete on a national level. The pageant, formerly owned by Donald Trump, has been purchased by WME/IMG out of California and will be broadcast on FOX in 50 countries.
“I’m looking forward to Miss USA, it’s a once in a lifetime thing for a select group of people,” she said. “People say you have a better chance of having a son play in a Super Bowl than a daughter in Miss USA…the odds are so small.”
She’ll also be working with two former Miss USA’s to help her train for the national competition – Miss USA 2004 Shandi Finnessey and Miss USA 2003 Susie Castillo, both of whom were on the judges panel in Springfield. Wise called the two women “two of the most elite pageant holders in the history of Miss USA.”
As for what excites her most about all these new opportunities, the girl from Southeast Ohio says she wants to do as many local appearances as possible to be a “presence in the community” where she is not just recognized for a title but what she is doing in the communities of the Buckeye State.
Despite all the hoopla over the weekend, Wise went right back to work on Monday to find her fellow teachers, staff members and students ready to congratulate her with matching t-shirts celebrating her win. There was even a note on the Meigs Elementary sign outside the school that said “Miss Ohio works here.”
Beyond the story of winning the crown and title of a prestigious pageant, Wise said she hopes her story is more of a message of perseverance.
“Set a goal and try for it, no matter what,” she said. “I think of it like riding a bike, if you quit the first time you fell off, you’d never learn to ride. Get back on constantly so you can eventually get to where you want to go.”
The other message she hopes her story conveys is gratitude.
“I worked hard for something and I appreciate it so much more,” she said.
Wise is a 2008 graduate of Gallia Academy; has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rio Grande in elementary education; a master’s degree from Concordia University of Chicago in education leadership. She is the daughter of Tonya Kincaid and Kevin Wise, both of Gallia County. She is the granddaughter of Sherry McBride of Gallia County and the late Wayne Kincaid, Jr., formerly of Mason County, W.Va. She is the great granddaughter of the late Wayne and Margaret Kincaid, formerly of Mason County.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.