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Pageant News Bureau - Miss USA

Branson, Missouri
February 5, 1999

A special kind of energy

Kimberly Ann Pressler has been checked for radioactivity. It's not because she looks positively radiant, even though she does. It's because of her work.

Ms. Pressler lives in a peaceful community of upstate New York, where there's only one stoplight -- and a nuclear power plant. She has a job there, assisting in "the characterizations and organizations of waste streams based on their radioactive criteria." To put it another way, she works with "lag storage data." OK, so we don't really understand this, but she can make it sound rather exciting.

Kimberly Ann Pressler, Susan Wisdom.
Kimberly Ann Pressler is crowned as Miss New York USA by her predecessor, Susan Wisdom.
She wasn't always a small-town girl. She's the daughter of a military man, and she has seen a lot of the world. She used to live in Germany, and she has done intensive study in international business, specializing in the Japanese market.

She works occasionally as a model, but talks about that experience matter-of-factly. It's pageant competition that really seems to appeal to her. "You get a little nervous or excited beforehand, but there's such a rush when you walk onstage," she says. She was Miss New York Teen USA 1994, and is the first woman to hold both state titles.

Ms. Pressler was born in Las Vegas, where "21" is an important game, and her birthday is May 21. She made a point of telling us that 21 is her "lucky number." Can you guess how old she is? Very good! (Or maybe you're just lucky.)

Photo courtesy of Sanders & Associates
Morgan Tandy High

They're playing her songs

Morgan Tandy High of Tennessee describes herself as "the girl with three last names." Some people have even joked that she was named for a high school. Actually, "Morgan" and "Tandy" are surnames of her ancestors.

She feels very much at home competing in Branson. "I'm in my element," she says. Branson is a country music town, and she's from the capital of country music, Nashville. She's proud to point out that Nashville and Tennessee have been voted the friendliest city and the friendliest state in America.

If everyone there is like her, the vote was understandable.

She's a member of a chapter-at-large of the "Sweet Adelines," an international chorus of women who sing four-part harmony. They're the female equivalent of what Americans used to call barbershop quartets.

And speaking of barbers, Ms. High has unusually close-cropped hair for a beauty queen. "I love my hair being short," she says. She has found it much easier to manage than long hair, and the life of a pageant contestant is so hectic. But she admits that "it still takes me an hour to put on my makeup."

One of her dreams, she tells PNB, is to be in a soap opera. She might even be willing to grow her hair long to do it.

Photo by Benjamin Gibbs, PNB

Positively lovely

Melissa Godshall of Pennsylvania is working on a business degree in risk management, but it took her a long time to risk participating in pageants.

"In high school, I was a runner-up to homecoming queen," she recalls, but she didn't try for another title until she decided to compete in the Miss USA system. She won the state crown on her first try.

She says positive thinking has helped her with her sudden leap into the limelight. Inspirational books, such as "Chicken Soup for the Soul" and "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff," are among her favorites, and she is toying with the idea of becoming a motivational speaker. She has also modeled and taken acting lessons.

Melissa Godshall
Photo courtesy of
Miss Universe L.P., LLLP
Being a major beauty queen has opened a whole new world to her. "People invite you to come and do stuff," she says, neatly summing up the advantages of pageant success. "They hope you'll like it and talk about it."

Three new experiences that she enjoys talking about are scuba diving, sky diving and delivering the news on television.

Ms. Godshall (whose name is pronounced God shawl) has met numerous celebrities during her reign, and when a PNB reporter asked her who was the most memorable, she didn't hesitate. "Ronald McDonald," she replied eagerly.

Then she laughed that delightful laugh, even warmer and more soothing than chicken soup.

Meredith Young

Close is not enough

Meredith Young of Georgia was truly young when she learned about pressure and disappointment in the pageant business. She was first runner-up to Miss U.S. Teen in 1990, first runner-up to Miss Teen USA in 1991.

When this glamorous schoolteacher returned to pageant competition late in 1998, trying for the Miss Georgia USA title, she was half-expecting to wind up as first runner-up again. But she won, getting another chance to represent the Peach State, this time at Miss USA.

She would like to be the first Georgian to finally break through and win the whole thing.

Ms. Young is from extreme South Georgia, a few minutes from Florida, several hours from Atlanta. But she spent a lot of time in the Georgia capital in December, carrying out her duties as the Peach Bowl queen, reigning over the annual football classic. It has been a great season for football in Georgia. Could that be an omen?

Photo by Joe Whiteko, PNB

Indian, from Indiana

"You never know where life's going to take you," says Pratima Yarlagadda. Miss Indiana USA. That could certainly be said of her parents. They were born in India, but their studies took them to the United States, and they ended up settling in Amish country in America's heartland.

Ms. Yarlagadda has a name that may sound exotic to many, but she was born and raised in Indiana, and she's about as American as a woman can be.

When she talks about her quiet hometown, where the land is rich and "folks are friendly," you can almost see the flag waving over the little schoolhouse.

Pratima Yarlagadda
Photo by
Benjamin Gibbs / PNB
Her father is an agronomist, an expert on agriculture. He teaches the science of farming and certifies other agronomists in the area. "My parents have really been supportive of my pageant career," says Ms. Yarlagadda, who first competed at age 17 and has tried her hand in both the Miss America and Miss USA systems.

Her own career preference is for the law. She's studying to become an advocate for children in the legal system. But a victory at Miss USA might push her toward a different career, and she's philosophical about that. As a beautiful woman once said, "You never know . . ."

Small town in the Midwest. Close to the land. Studying the law. Hoping to do big things for others. Please excuse us if we make Pratima Yarlagadda sound like Abraham Lincoln. Fortunately, there's no way we could ever make her LOOK like him.

Photo courtesy of Sanders & Associates
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