Grand Valley student named runner-up at Miss Michigan Pageant


From left to right; Shelby McPherson, second runner-up; Sarah Dudinetz, first runner-up. COURTESY \ Mallory Rivard, Miss Michigan

Katherine Arnold, Staff Reporter

On June 15th, Sarah Dudinetz, a senior studying advertising and public relations, placed first runner-up for the annual Miss Michigan pageant. Her prize consisted of $5,000, which will go towards her college education. 

“Those last few seconds are a complete blur,” Dudinetz said. “I just remember them calling other girls’ names as fourth runner-up, third runner-up… and every time they announced someone else, I just kept telling myself, ‘They’re going to call you next, this is as far as you’re going to make it,’ because I honestly couldn’t even believe I’d made it that far.” 

Dudinetz has been participating in pageants ever since a family friend recommended that she give them a try during her second year of high school. 

“When I started out, I didn’t look at pageants and think, ‘This is totally up my alley and is something I really want to do,’” Dudinetz said. “I looked at them and thought, ‘This is something that will help me become my best self, even if it’s out of my comfort zone.’”

The Miss Michigan pageant is the final step before joining the national Miss America competition. The competition itself features four key categories, each with its own percentage of the total score: interview (25%), talent (40%), evening wear and social impact (20%) and the onstage interview (15%). 

For her talent, Dudinetz chose to sing “Watch What Happens” from one of her favorite musicals, Newsies.

“It’s from the point of view of a journalist who is struggling to write a story for the underdogs, but she knows that it’s a super important story,” Dudinetz said. “It’s a very optimistic song, and it makes me wish that I had more than 90 seconds to sing it.”

The social impact statement, designed to last no more than eight seconds, is a new edition to the rounds, created to replace the highly debated swimsuit portion. Dudinetz chose the topic ‘Give Blood, Give Life’ as her Social Impact Initiative. 

“If every person in this room gave blood once, we could save over 5,000 lives,” Dudinetz said as her statement. “As Miss Michigan, I will encourage our great state to Give Blood, and Give Life.” 

Her choice arose after her father’s experience receiving donated blood during two surgeries. Dudinetz described it as a life-changing event.

“I had never seen anyone receive blood before, and my entire life I had only viewed blood donation as a painful inconvenience,” Dudinetz said. “Everything changed for me when I saw someone else’s blood keeping my dad alive.” 

She stresses that the Social Impact Initiative is vital to the Miss America organization — giving back to the community through volunteering and being a role model to future generations. 

Pageanting isn’t easy, but Dudinetz knows that even though the process is nerve-wracking, the end results are worth waiting for.

“It can be easy to get caught up in one on-stage question that didn’t go well,” Dudinetz said. “But in the end, those little things are so small. What matters is the skills you’re able to take into the workplace and your relationships, and the personal growth you’ll experience through the ups and downs.”  

With the experience she has gained, Dudinetz hopes to take her new knowledge into her future career. 

“I think the word that sums it up best is ‘growth,’” Dudinetz said. “I can say, without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I am — educationally, professionally, personally — without this organization. I’ve grown into a person that I never even dreamed I could be, a person that has the confidence to tackle tasks that daunt her.”  

Dudinetz wants to continue pageanting, and plans to enter several contests this year in hopes of entering the Miss Michigan contest again. She looks forward to going for the crown in the upcoming 2020 Miss Michigan pageant, which will be held in Muskegon at the Frauenthal Theater next June.