Alexis Kiesling, a sophomore exercise physiology student at WVU, recently won her first pageant within the Miss America Organization using her passion for physical therapy and fitness.
Kiesling was crowned as Miss Elkins Area on March 5 and she will be competing for the title of Miss West Virginia on June 24.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, Kiesling competed as a baton twirler.
“I was part of a team, The Modernettes, for 10 years in my hometown,” she said.
During her senior year she began to compete solo. She later became a feature twirler for the Mountaineers.
“That was one of my biggest passions throughout my whole life and that’s really what brought me here to this campus,” Kiesling said.
This passion led her to take a new interest in pagentrey.
“I started getting into the pagentrey style because one of the WVU alumni featured twirlers actually had won Miss West Virginia a few years ago and I had really looked up to her,” she said.
Kiesling said her background in performance competitions helped her performance in specific categories of the pageant.
“The first one is ‘Interview’ and that's worth 35% of our score. I've had a lot of jobs in the past and other people that have helped me and inspired my speaking skills,” Kiesling said. “Then the second part is talent, which is 35%, and of course I use baton twirling as mine.”
Twirling gives Kiesling many opportunities, including the chance to share her passion with others who might not see it very often.
“That's something that I’ve worked on for years and years and years. I was just excited to share with a new population of people what baton twirling can be,” she said.
Despite her love of twirling, Kiesling found the interview portion of the pageant to be the most exciting.
“My favorite part is actually the interview actually,” Kiesling said. “Which is surprising because I love baton twirling and I love the talent portion and performing for people, but getting to know
the judges and getting to talk about the impact that we’re able to make, especially with these titles, is really inspiring.”
Every candidate for Miss West Virginia must be involved with a community or social issue, a "social impact initiative.”
Kiesling’s social impact initiative, “Strong is Beautiful” gives her the opportunity to put her love for physical fitness and her dedication to hard work together in hopes of reaching an audience through the message of body positivity.
“I created that because, whenever I was younger and participating in gymnastics, I was always conscious about the way that I looked,” Kiesling said. “I would go home from practice, even though that was what was helping me be physical/fit for my sport, I wasn’t feeling confident for what today society really expects you to be.”
Kiesling was inspired a few years back by the Olympic debut of Simone Biles and what she stood for in regards to body image among athletes.
“I saw Simone Biles at the Olympics and she really stuck up for body image issues that really inspired me a few years ago to start really thinking about the way that I looked at my body image, and the way that girls should look at their body image,” Kiesling said.
The impact initiative is part of Kiesling’s work towards inspiring others to have a positive attitude for fitness.
“I want people to feel confident in the way they look but also be excited to participate in physical activity,” she said, “Because you should be participating in physical activity for yourself and not for the way you look towards others or what others think about you.”