Video: Interview with Heather Wells, Miss Ohio

Miss Ohio sits in dunking booths at fairs. She can’t talk her way out of speeding tickets. She jokes that Miss Ohio gets mucous too, as she apologizes for coughing because she’s coming down with a cold. She’s the girl-next-door from Warren — she’ll charm you with her winning smile and catch you off-guard with her quick, one-liners.

Heather Wells stopped by Franklin Hall Monday afternoon to visit her alma mater and talk to the Daily Kent Stater and TV2 after recently returning from the Miss America pageant in Atlanta. Wells, who received her undergrad in broadcast journalism in 2012, was so excited to be back in the TV2 studio that she had a member of the production team take her picture at the anchor’s desk.

“It feels like I never really left,” she jokes. “I’ll come back and do the news. I’ll write a couple of stories for you guys, do some VO-SOTS (Voice Over — Sound on Tape) or something.”

Wells will be back at Kent State next fall to complete her master’s degree in nutrition, but until then, she’ll be traveling the state, whole-heartedly embracing her job as Miss Ohio 2013, which she was crowned in June. The journey for Wells was a long one. She competed for the title a total of six times.

“I started competing (for Miss Ohio) when I was in high school,” Wells said. “I think I came in last place. I was really bad. I didn’t know what I was doing.”

She stayed optimistic and kept coming back for more. Wells has been competing in small county fair and mall pageants since she was 3 years old for fun and began competing in Sundance pageants in middle and high school because they allowed her to show her talent: lyrical dancing. She participated in speech and debate in school and knew she had the skills and potential to win if she just kept learning.

“I would take my little critiques every year and I would work harder, and I would come back and change things,” she said. “I would change up my talent routine or focus a little bit different on what I want to talk about in my interview with the judges.”

It was this process that made her who she is today.

“Every year I had to learn something about myself. I think pageantry has this misconception for being about beauty and being skinny and all this stuff, but really pageantry is one of the best self-improvement programs out there because you really have to learn a lot about yourself as you compete,” Wells said.

She won on her sixth and final try – 2013 was the last year Wells, who is turning 24 next month, would have been age-eligible for the pageant. This time she won the interview portion. Then she won swimsuit. And talent. Wells won the entire pageant, a perfect ending after years of persistence.

As for the Miss America pageant, Wells may not have placed in the top 15, but she had the experience of a lifetime and has no regrets or hard feelings.

“If you have a son, there’s a greater chance of him making it to the NFL than if you have a daughter making it to the Miss America stage,” Wells said. “To know that I’m a part of that small group of women that actually have competed at the Miss America pageant is really neat.”

“I just wasn’t the girl they were looking for, and that’s OK because I still get to be Miss Ohio, which is wonderful,” she said. “I do feel really confident in how I did. I feel like I would have felt really poor if I had messed something up, but knowing that I did really well and I just wasn’t what they were looking for; that makes me feel a little bit better because knowing that I couldn’t have done any better makes me feel at peace with how everything turned out.”

Now she’s making appearances on behalf of the Miss America program and for the Children’s Miracle Network. Wells is also educating teens on her running platform, Divorce Recovery for Teens. She’s visiting schools across the state and attending events, working four days a week with packed schedules, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“My director asked me, ‘Do you need some time off? Do you need a rest after Miss America?’ And I said ‘No, let’s get going,’ ” Wells said. “Why sit around and wait? I only get to be Miss Ohio for one year, so I’m trying to take advantage of every day that I have.”

Contact Kelsey Husnick at [email protected].