Cori Keller grew up to be Miss Arkansas; listen to a podcast with her here

Cori Keller grew up to be Miss Arkansas; listen to a podcast with her here

It’s a safe bet that anybody who watched the Miss Arkansas Pageant June 10 remembers Cori Keller. During the onstage conversation among the five finalists, Keller, competing with the Miss Metro preliminary title, spoke tearfully of her father and how he was watching from cardiac ICU in Little Rock.

Keller had promised him that if she won — and she says she felt an “insane peace” about competing — she’d visit him wearing gown and crown. She did, later that night.

Dad is doing much better now, she said during a recent visit to the Free Weekly’s podcast studio in downtown Fayetteville.

Keller is from Stuttgart, but she has ties that run deep in Northwest Arkansas. Sixteen years ago, she became a Diamond State Princess for two competitions based in Rogers, the Miss Lakes of the Northwest Pageant and Miss Frisco Springs. Ebony Mitchell was her Miss Lakes of the Northwest Outstanding Teen, and her queen was Lindsey Lee Shepherd, who has become a lifelong friend.

“I loved being in Northwest Arkansas with her and her family during my childhood,” Keller says. “I have grown up in this system. I was mentored and loved by the volunteers of this organization. Knowing I could use the skills I’ve gained over the years to give back was a priority in coming back year after year.”

In addition to a podcast — which you can hear at — Keller answered these questions for The Free Weekly.

Q. What is your first memory of seeing someone wearing the Miss Arkansas crown? What did that moment mean to you?

A. My dance teacher, Micki Petrus Konecny, was Miss Arkansas. I walked by her official Miss Arkansas portrait every day going in to dance class. I loved seeing and hearing about her experience as Miss Arkansas, and it made me want to be like her one day.

Q. What do you remember of the moments just before and just after being crowned?

A. The moments before went by so fast. I can hardly remember them! Afterwards was a whirlwind. We started interviews, took a lot of photos, and met many people. It was so much fun! I was overwhelmed with emotion for days.

Q. Tell me, please, about your platform.

Feeding the Future: Collaborative Solutions

I was inspired from growing up in a rural town in Southeast Arkansas where hunger sat next to me every day in class. Wanting to help my classmates and the 1/4 children in Arkansas that are food insecure, Feeding the Future was born.

Q. How did you choose your talent? And how do you think it will “travel” as Miss Arkansas?

A. My talent is a tap dance to “Workin’.” It’s an energetic remix of Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’. I have been a dancer since I was 3. I hope I can take it to Miss America; we will see!

Q. What will you do now in preparation for Miss America?

A. We will prep for Miss America through interview training, talent practice, wardrobe, etc. The best preparation for Miss America is being a busy Miss Arkansas.

Q. What’s been the biggest “oh holy cow! I’m Miss Arkansas” moment so far?

A. Being flagged down on the interstate in the Miss Arkansas car is a surreal experience. Also, grocery shopping and the cashier knowing my name, hometown, and passions was very much a “holy cow!” moment.

Q. What do you want people to know about “pageant girls” that they’re probably completely wrong about?

A. The women that compete in this organization are poised, accomplished, and well-rounded individuals that will be the next leaders of our state and society. You’d be surprised who is a former “pageant girl” in Arkansas leadership!

Categories: In The News