Savannah Kleiner entered the pageant circuit to get out of her comfort zone.
Two crowns later, the Lake in the Hills resident will represent McHenry County at the Miss Illinois County Fair Pageant in January.
The Huntley High School graduate started with the Miss Lake in the Hills Pageant in the spring, an experience aimed at improving her interviewing and public speaking skills before college.
The crowning in Lake in the Hills and subsequent scholarship money landed the 18-year-old in the Miss McHenry County Fair Pageant. A victory there punched her ticket to Springfield, where she will compete against about 70 other girls for the title of Miss Illinois County Fair.
When she’s not preparing for competition, Kleiner works as a camp counselor at Lifetime Fitness in Algonquin.
Now a freshman at Butler University, she is studying strategic communications and marketing in the hope of heading off to law school to become an attorney.
The county queen spoke with reporter Lawerence Synett about pageants, breaking out of her shell, and her fear of tripping on stage.
Synett: What made you want to compete in the Miss Lake in the Hills Pageant and did you expect to win?
Kleiner: I thought it would be a really good opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and put myself out there because I’ve never really been any good at public speaking or the interview process.
\It takes a lot to get up on stage and talk in front of people, walk in front of everyone with a bathing suit on. Those are things I wouldn’t have typically done before. I was in shock when I won. I didn’t see it coming.
Synett: How was the Miss McHenry County Pageant experience?
Kleiner: I feel so blessed and humbled. I was beside myself when I won, but it was such a learning experience. I learned what beauty really means.
It’s not about being pretty or having the nicest dress on; it’s about inner beauty. That is what I took away from it all.
Synett: Are you nervous about the state competition?
Kleiner: Yeah, because that is a whole new level of competition. I’m always concerned about the judging process, but I am really going to focus on the interviewing portion.
I am going to delve into everything beforehand.
Synett: What’s your biggest fear out there?
Kleiner: I’m extremely clumsy and generally a “hot mess.” I’m tripping and falling all the time. It’s a blessing I haven’t fallen on stage.
Synett: Do you feel you have changed as a person since the first competition?
Kleiner: I don’t necessarily think I am a changed person, but I think I am a better person.
I took a lot out of this. In Lake in the Hills, it was about the competitors joining together to raise money for the scholarships that were later awarded to the winners. At the county level, it was about forming friendships and working hard to win.
Synett: Depending on what happens at the state competition, do you still plan on competing in pageants?
Kleiner: Whatever happens at state, I would still love to continue doing them in the future. I have gotten so much out of them, so why not? We will see what the future holds for me.