Miss Indiana USA 2014 visits children of St. Joseph’s School

SHESHEGWANING—It’s not everyday that your sister is Miss Indiana 2014, but a young boy in Sheshegwaning was able to conduct his interview for his cultural heritage festival project in front of his classmates.

Logan Sampson decided to do his project on his sister Mekayla Diehl of Elkhart, Indiana who in November of 2013 was crowned Miss Indiana 2014. Miss Diehl will be travelling to Baton Rouge, Louisiana on June 8 to compete in the Miss USA 2014 pageant. Everyone assembled in the school gym and Logan’s teacher, Mr. John Sapanos, recorded his interview so that it could be played as part of his project at Monday’s festival in M’Chigeeng.

Logan’s first question to Miss Indiana was, “Who is your role model?” Miss Indiana answered, “I have a lot of role models. My grandmother, who I live with in Indiana, she taught me to be very confident in myself and to always go after my dreams. I have another role model, her name is Miss America. She taught me to work hard for my dreams and be the best that I can be.”

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Logan quickly asked his next question, “What got you interested in pageants?” With a big smile Mekayla responded, “When I was in elementary school, about the age of most of you here, I realized that I wanted to go to college or university. Someone introduced me to pageants because they give out scholarship money.”

Miss Indiana asked the kids, “Do you guys know what scholarship money is?” she then was happy to explain that, “Scholarship money is money that you can earn and or win so you can go away to school. I did pageants so that I could earn money to go away to university.”

With excitement in the air Logan moved on, asking “Where do you work?”

“I work in a store that is full of sparkles, lots and lots of diamonds and bling, as we call it,” Miss Indiana USA responded. “I work at Ashley Rene’s, which is a formal store. We sell really pretty dresses—long ones, short ones, dresses of all colours. Some have sparkles and other have glitter. I sell dresses to girls that want to go to prom, pageants or other formal parties.” With little girls gushing in the audience over sparkles and diamonds, Logan quickly moved on. “How did you know you wanted to become involved with Miss USA?” Fixing her sash Miss Indiana replied, “I knew I wanted to be a part of Miss USA when I watched it on television. Just like you guys will be able to watch me in just a few weeks. I wanted to be just like those girls and stand on a national stage and represent my country—one of my countries—as Miss USA. So after watching on TV I decided I wanted to try it out.”

With a big smile Logan’s next question was, “How did it feel, winning Miss Indiana?” With almost a squeal Miss Indiana answered, “Have you ever won a video game or won a prize and you feel so excited, like you are dancing inside? That I could shout to the world I was so excited.” With pride Logan asked his next question, “How does it feel being my sister?” With a smile a mile wide Mekayla replied, “Proud, I’m so proud to be your sister. I love saying that I have three of the most beautiful and handsome brothers up here in Canada and I love coming up here to visit. I’m proud to be Native, and super proud you guys are Native too.”

As proudly as he could, Logan’s next question was, “What is the first thing you would do as Miss USA?” Mekayla took a minute and answered, “I’m pretty sure I would celebrate and eat cupcakes!”

“What did you want to be when you were younger?” Logan asked. “Oh man, when I was young I wanted to be a lot of things,” his sister answered. “I am a dreamer and I like to dream big. At one point I wanted to be an astronaut and go to outer space. I wanted to a singer and sing on stage. I wanted to be a hair dresser.” After Miss Indiana looked around she added, “Looks like a lot of you guys have long hair and don’t cut it!” The school kids let out a unified giggle.

“I went out in the world being introduced to other things and dreams,” she continued. “Now I sell dresses and I talk to people for a living.”

After Mr. Sampson had conducted his interview Miss Indiana opened the floor for any other questions the kids of St. Joseph’s might have. The kids were quick to hand out compliments, “You look so beautiful in your red top,” piped up little Savannah Panamick. “Thank you, I wore red today to match my little brothers who are wearing my Team Indiana shirts today,” replied Mekayla.

Another little girl asked, “How does your crown stay on?” With a big smile Miss Indiana lifted her hair and replied. “It’s like a circle and I put it on like a headband, I have these funny little combs that hold it in, because I like to move around and it keeps my crown on my head.”

Janice Cada, one of the staff at St. Joesph’s, asked, “As Miss Indiana, do you have a cause that you are raising awareness for?” Miss Indiana replied, “I do have a cause and the cause I have chosen is child abuse. It’s very important to me because when I was growing up I was sexually abused. That means that somebody hurt me in the wrong way. Abuse happens a lot and I want to help stop the abuse. I want to be the voice of these children—children who are being bullied or hurt at home or hurt by friends. My entire year I have been helping fundraise for an organization that will help stop child abuse as well as an organization who help children like me who have been abused.”

Another child asked, “What does your sash say?” Mekayla quickly ran her fingers down the sash saying, “Miss Indiana 2014, it’s so I don’t forget who I am.”

Don Matheson quickly asked, “When you were competing for Miss Indiana, how many other ladies were in the competition with you?” Miss Indiana smiled, “Good question. When I was competing I had to compete against 41 other beautiful women across the state of Indiana. They were all different sizes, shapes, height, skin colours and hair colours. We all keep in touch on Facebook.” Another question from one of the staff at St. Joe’s was, “What were some of the prizes you won?” Almost with a sigh of where to start Miss Indiana replied, “Oh goodness, I have won lots of prizes. My crown and sash. I won a scholarship to the New York Film Academy so I can learn to be an actress, make up, hair products and my wardrobe for Miss USA. And a lot of speaking opportunities to come speak to boys and girls like you. That’s my favourite prize right there.”

Mekayla’s childhood friend asked the next question, “What’s your favourite part of being back home here on the reserve?” “That’s easy, being with my family that I don’t get to see very often. I love coming to visit. My favorite thing to eat here at home is scone. I love Indian tacos.”

A parent, Virginia Matheson, piped up at the back of the room, “We heard you went smelt fishing, was that your first time?” With a big giggle Mekayla replied, “Yes, it was my first time smelt fishing. Who else has gone smelt fishing here? Did you guys catch them with your hands? I did, you have to reach down and grab them with your hands. Did any of you guys have to clean your fish? My mom made me clean ours. My hands smelled.”

While on her visit home to Manitoulin this time Miss Indiana was doing speaking engagements, encouraging the youth of Sheshgwaning and Zhibaahaasing to go after their dreams and never give up. She also received her Native spirit name, clan and colours—very proud moments in this ambitious young woman’s life.

Miss Indiana also pointed out, “If I win, I’ll be the first Native American to be crowned Miss USA. I will also have to move to New York City and have an apartment to share with Miss Universe. I’ll also be working for Donald Trump.” The final question came from teacher John Sopanos, “Mom (Melinda), how will you feel when she wins?” With a shy giggle Melinda Sampson responded, “It’s going to be very crazy at our house. Watching her do the Miss Indiana competition, I was all over the place, nervous and excited. When she was competing for Miss Indiana, I was ever so grateful to Erin for all the text messages and photos.” You can follow Miss Diehl’s story and adventure on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MekaylaDiehlforMissINUSA and for those that would like to help Miss Indiana on her venture to Baton Rouge, please go to www.gofundme.com/TeamIndianaUSA and make a donation.