We went behind the scenes of the Miss Utah pageant and chatted with the contestants, including 2012 Miss Utah Kara Arnold and 2013 Miss Utah winner Ciera Pekarcik. See what's behind all the glamour and get to know the girls who represent our state.

Ciera Pekarcik, 23, Miss Utah 2013

How do you represent Utah?

"[My platform is] child sexual abuse recognition and recovery. I put an emphasis on the recovery and helping the children come out of that because I'm a child that actually faced that myself. Helping them from the beginning of that in recognizing that it actually happened is key. I've worked with an organization called Children's Justice Center, which caters to children who've gone through child sexual abuse. I work with them hand in hand and incorporating that into being Miss Utah really represents the service that we have."

What are your plans for the future?

"I want to be Miss Utah and potentially Miss America, but beyond that I want to do an Iron Man one day. I have a lot of ambitious dreams, but my mom always said shoot for the moon and you'll land on a star. I would love to have my degree in broadcasting, be a news anchor and then do a lot with athletics."

What makes Utah stand out in your mind?

"I've lived here the majority of my life. I think we have so much to offer just because of the culture that we have. People are so kind and involved with service, but also we are just driven individuals in pursuing whatever talents we might have, whatever career options we want to pursue, we're really put together." 

Kassie Nielson, 20, Miss Pioneer Valley, Snow College graduate

How do you represent Utah?

"My platform is called Breakaway Today, and it's combatting our obsession with entertainment media. Too many people are being affected by how much they use the media. I don't feel that the media necessarily is affecting them—I think it's time they spend with it, and they are wasting so much valuable time, time they could spend being a productive citizen, which I feel is an obligation."

What are your plans for the future?

"I want to get married, I want to be a mother, I want to go to school, I'm planning on being a nurse practitioner. I want to get involved with triathlons, and I just have so many things on my list that I'm so excited about."

What makes Utah stand out in your mind?

"Something that is really ironic about my title as Miss Pioneer Valley is that my family actually settled about four or five different counties here, both sides of my family, so I have huge pioneer ancestry. So something that really makes me love Utah and makes me want to give back to it is my family has been involved in it for hundreds of years and I want them to be involved in it for hundreds more."

Ellie Tucker, 20, Miss Davis County, Utah State student 

How do you represent Utah?

"My platform is the Hope Kids organization. It is an incredible nonprofit that is for children with life threatening illnesses. It operates on the idea that it's the hope of something to come that keeps these kids going." 

What are your plans for the future?

"I would love to work in management at 501c3 nonprofits. I'm a liberal arts and business major at Utah State."

What makes Utah stand out in your mind?

"Its diversity. If you look at how many things we have in Utah—we have the Red Rocks in southern utah, we've got Antelope Island and the salt flats. we have such a diversity in the state and in the people that it's incredible that we still have that sense of community and that's what makes it wonderful."

Kara Arnold, 2012 Miss Utah, University of Utah graduate

As Miss Utah this past year, how have you represented our state?

"It seems like a huge role, and it is, but it's exciting because I can fill those shoes, and the work that I do makes a difference and it matters. When I go out there and I speak up, people listen and I think that's been one of the most exciting parts of my job this year. With this title comes a lot of responsibility, but there's kind of a powerful force behind it for good and that's what's so exciting for me; I'm not in those scandals and in the negative, I'm always in the positive and I love being that kind of positive light, positive role model, positive spirit in Utah."

What makes Utah stand out in your mind?

I was born and raised in Bountiful, so I'm a Utah native. Everything, I think, about me is just totally Utah based and I love that. I love representing all types of people in Utah because there are so many Utah stereotypes. I get it because I'm a pageant girl and there are stereotypes that are put on me like, 'Oh, you're just a pretty face; Oh, you're just about beauty,' and I love going out there and breaking those stereotypes."

What has been something you have done as Miss Utah that has made a big difference?

"It's mostly the people that you meet everyday, the little conversations that you have that are really life-changing. If I had that chance again, just to change that one girl's life and that's all I did all year, this year would be worth it. Just that one change. But thankfully, it's been a blessing. I've been able to meet, and I feel like influence, a lot of people, but they've also influenced me."

Arnold has passed the crown to Pecarcik, the new Miss Utah 2013.