From Bountiful, Kara Arnold was crowned Miss Utah 2012

Last summer, Kara Arnold was crowned Miss Utah. Since that time, she's represented Utah through non-profit work, placing in the top 15 at the Miss America Pageant and . . . biochemistry. 

She graduated from the U of U in the field shortly and has spent time as Miss Utah promoting higher education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 

But all good things come to an end. This summer, Miss Utah 2013 is crowned.

We chatted with Arnold about her work as Miss Utah, what she's accomplished and what she hopes to do before it's over.

Let's start at the beggining—how did you get started in pageantry?

"I was 17, and in my junior year of  high school. My friend was trying out for Junior Miss Davis County, and she was the one who invited me to get involved with pageants . . . At first, I had no idea what I was doing, but looking into it I thought it would be a good opportunity for me because I felt I did have talents to share, and the pageants provided a way for me to share them. I actually ended up winning and was able to progress and participate in Junior Miss State, and at that pageant I was awarded First Runner-Up.  That experience opened me up to new opportunities with the community and state, including many service opportunities that I loved.  From there I really thought I was done with pageants. However, I thought about it, worked on my platform some more, and I went for Miss Davis County. I'm glad I did, because I ended up winning, and from there was able to compete for Miss Utah."

So, why biochemistry? How did you get into science?

"Well, I didn't know I would study biochemistry when I first began college, but I knew I had a desire to study medicine. To be honest, I started out studying music because I had a piano teacher, who I admire, who also teaches at the U. That's how I began college, but I owe a lot of my success to my mom. She teaches fifth grade, and she has always shared her passion for science with me. Growing up, I remember going on hikes with her as a little girl, and she was always really good at asking me questions and teaching me how the world works through a scientific perspective. She also helped motivate me to participate in science fairs, and I actually won first place once at a regional competition. So, there are a few moments in my life where I felt a spark of confidence which helped me know I could understand complex things that are often found in science or math."  

Tell us a bit about the platform you've tried to promote this past year?

"I've had wonderful opportunities to tutor and be a mentor throughout my education, and it's something that helped motivate me to promote education in the pageants I've been in. I've had experiences of starting a science or math class, and seeing so many girls wanting to be pre-med students, but as time moved on, I noticed fewer girls continue forward and finish those classes. That shouldn't be happening. I want to reach out to those girls, and boys, that feel science education is too difficult."

And what have you done to promote STEM?

"With help from the College of Science at the University of Utah, I have created a program that I share with many schools throughout the state. I've been able to attend multiple assemblies and school events, where I educate children about different aspects of science, such as chemical versus physical reactions. We go into the properties of dissolving, and we spend time studying the periodic table. It is really a hands-on program that helps get the students excited and curious about careers involving science. Also, I not only try and work with the youth, but I promote STEM in other ways by reaching out to a national audience. As an example, the company L'Orèal sponsors Women in Science, and they just launched a new website called forgirlsinscience.org, and I was able to connect with them, and I've been asked to write content for their new website."

What does a normal week look like for Miss Utah?

"I have two or three assemblies to attend each week, but really, my schedule changes a lot throughout a month. I mean, speaking engagements tend to change all the time, it seems like, and it can get kinda crazy. The governor held an awards ceremony for science and technology recently, and I was asked to emcee that event, and that was a really fun experience. Lately, I have spent more time sharpening my skills on the piano, because I know that once school starts back up for me, my time will be dedicated to my education. I have also spent a lot of time planning and organizing the next Miss Utah pageant." 


Arnold at the 2013 Miss America pageant.

When they announced your name as Miss Utah 2012, what was going through your mind?

"I was in complete shock! I was also a little scared. I really went into the pageant telling myself that the experience is just as good as the win, if not more; so when I won, I had no idea what was happening. In fact, as I was being crowned, the former Miss Utah had to remind me to smile. It was a really amazing feeling, and I loved it. May I add, I had no idea how to be Miss Utah. I feel that your duties are, in a way, altered by the platform you promote and your personality type. But I started with a few goals, took it one day at a time, and it's been a truly rewarding experience."

What was it like to compete in Las Vegas for Miss America 2013, and were you satisfied with the results? 

"Absolutely, I feel that I went in a winner, and came out a winner. I've learned that pageants are really a showcase for what you've done in your life, things you've worked toward and a chance to stand for something you believe in. I'm happy with my accomplishments, and what I've been able to do. Las Vegas was such a wonderful experience, to be able to perform on that level, and to even be considered as a potential Miss America has given me great confidence. There were times that I felt like I was in a 10-day interview, but I would never trade the experience for anything else in the world." 

What's the scene like backstage at a big pageant like that?

"The girls definitely share an energy and excitement. I've heard that close to 13,000 girls compete for this title every year. So, to be recognized as the top competitor in your state is an amazing feeling, and I think each of us shared that excitement. It really is an honor to represent your state in this competition. I've been able to create lasting friendships through this competition. I really did have a blast with the girls. A lot of us stay connected through social media." 

Do you have a favorite local restaurant, or a place you like to go with friends?

"There are a lot of really good places in Salt Lake. I do enjoy going to downtown Salt Lake and just meandering around City Creek. I really like the atmosphere and the shops that are there. They did a really good job designing it. And I think I would say my favorite place to eat is The Chocolate. I love that place. It has some of the best desserts I've ever had."

If you had more time, what would you like to do as Miss Utah?

"If I had more time, I would just want to involve as many people as I could. I would continue with STEM, and really try to push it more on a bigger scale. I think it would be so neat to be more involved with legislature and actually work more on education bills and science bills. I really believe education opens your mind to the world, and I would do my best to play a bigger role in that."

What's one message that every girl should know, and apply in their life?

"I think it's easy as women to judge ourselves and compare ourselves to so many unnecessary things in this world. We tend to lose focus on our own potential, and how much each of us has to offer. More simply, I would say discover what you're passionate about, and realize your potential in this world and know that you can contribute. I would also say don't get down if somethings don't work out, because that's just how life goes sometimes."