Story by Leslie Miller
“Is your crown stapled to your head? Do you sleep in your crown? Do you ride everywhere in a limousine? What celebrities do you know?” What would you ask Miss Arkansas? Lighthearted questions such as these have been asked by children from around the state to the reigning Miss Arkansas, Amber Bennett.
Amber’s blue eyes light up and her smile grows even larger as she recalls the entertaining questions children like to ask her. Amber loves these humorous moments, but her favorite experience as our state’s official ambassador is receiving sincere thanks from those whom she has been able to interact with, assist and encourage as Miss Arkansas.
Since being crowned on June 24, Amber has traveled the Natural State speaking to over 8,000 students and raising almost $20,000 for the Make-AWish Foundation. But on the day of our interview, Amber was at the office of Dr. Michael Cooper, DDS, shadowing the dentist to learn about preparing teeth for all-ceramic porcelain veneers.
“Being Miss Arkansas is not always glamorous,” said Amber, a 22 year-old Carlisle native. It’s about more than wearing expensive gowns and a sparkling crown on her head. In fact, Amber was dressed comfortably in a sleek black pantsuit with no crown in sight. She stressed that she was at Dr. Cooper’s office to continue her education because she plans on applying for dental school after her year of service as Miss Arkansas.
Despite her busy schedule, including her preparation for the Miss America pageant in January, Amber tries to shadow Dr. Cooper about twice a month. She came to the River Valley at the invitation of Dr. Cooper who sponsors a scholarship at the Miss Arkansas pageant. While attending the pageant, Dr. Cooper learned Amber was a pre-dental student at the University of Arkansas. He then offered Amber the opportunity to shadow at his practice because shadowing is an important part of applying for dental school.
Amber took Dr. Cooper up on his offer; but her commitment to her professional success is not her only priority.
“This year is not about me, it’s about serving the state of Arkansas,” she said. When she travels to Arkansas schools to present her “Get your head in the game” program, Amber talks about the importance of making right decisions, setting goals, being drug free, and succeeding in the classroom. Amber also works with children through the national Make-A-Wish Foundation which grants wishes for children battling life-threatening illnesses. “The opportunity to change a life by raising funds and making a few phone calls is priceless,” said Amber.
As if shadowing a dentist, traveling the state to speak at schools and granting wishes don’t keep her busy enough, Amber is also preparing her talent, sharpening her interview skills, working out daily, and finalizing her wardrobe for the national Miss America pageant which will conclude on January 29 on CMT.
To stay motivated and focused while preparing for the national pageant, Amber remembers that she is not just representing herself at Miss America. She is representing the hundreds of volunteers that organize and the many young ladies that compete in the Miss Arkansas pageant every year. She is representing the many sponsors that provide the scholarships and the many business people that contribute to making her year as successful as possible.
Amber is representing all Arkansans and wants to represent each of us to the best of her ability. It is a true love for her home-state that provides the driving force to motivate her as the pageant approaches.
Once she is at Miss America, being held again in Las Vegas, Amber will not just be competing for another crown. Scholarships worth more than $250,000 will be given away at the national pageant. If that number surprises you, consider this: the Miss America Organization is the largest provider of scholarships for young women, and last year MAO gave away more than $45 million in scholarships on the local, state, and national level. Allowing young women to advance their scholastic goals by providing them with scholarships is the primary goal of the organization.
Amber has already won $20,000 in scholarships from competing in the Miss America pageant system. She is a wonderful example of what it truly means to wear the Miss America crown.
Being Miss Arkansas is about more than having an entertaining talent, a commanding interview, and being in excellent physical condition. Amber encouraged young ladies interested in competing to “set their mind to it” and remember that there is not one certain criteria to be Miss Arkansas.
“You don’t have to be the prettiest or the smartest. Just be your self,” she said. And even if you don’t walk away with the crown, you can still earn scholarship money, life experience, and a stronger sense of self.
Shattering through assumptions that all pageant queens are to campaign for world-peace and big hair, Amber Bennett is advocating education and service.
So if it’s time for your annual teeth cleaning with Dr. Cooper, don’t be surprised if Miss Arkansas herself is there to observe the process. Just be sure to wish her the best as she competes for the title of Miss America and give her a warm welcome to the River Valley.
The Other Side of the Smile…Miss Arkansas 2006: Amber Bennett
Story by Leslie Miller