MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --
Reserve Citizen Airman Maj. Monica Riggs briefly traded in her flight suit and combats boots, donning an evening gown and six-inch heels to be crowned as Mrs. Kansas United States 2018.
The 18th Air Refueling Squadron pilot beat four other Kansas contestants. This was Riggs first time competing in the pageant world, something she had only had experienced vicariously through one of her best friends, Sam, the previous Mrs. Kansas.
“She had done a lot of pageantry before, and I got to watch her perform and pick her platform, of adoption,” Riggs said. “Just watching her spread awareness and push herself was really inspiring.”
According to the Mrs. Kansas United States website, a pageant platform is a cause that a contestant chooses to volunteer their time to either bring awareness to, raise money for implement a program they have created to help address the problem.
Riggs saw the upcoming Mrs. Kansas Unites States pageant as a way to raise awareness about Autism, a platform which she and her family of five are passionate about. Brecken, Riggs’ five-year-old daughter, was diagnosed with Autism at an early age.
The pageant was also a chance for Riggs to get out of her comfort zone.
“We are always trying to get her out of her comfort zone whether it be through therapy or just going to the grocery store,” said Riggs. “For me, competing in the pageant really just meant, ‘alright mom, time to practice what you preach.’”
Riggs began preparing in the fall last year by collecting sponsors for her chosen platform.
“My family and I already live and advocate Autism daily, so that part of the preparation wasn’t really a change, but finding ways to get out there and put that message into the community was different,” Riggs said.
She had a short amount of time to gather sponsors, especially since she was due to deploy in December. Fortunately, when the deployment did come around, Riggs achieved enough sponsors to enter the competition.
When she deployed, she focused most of her downtime on her diet and fitness, which was part of the competition she felt comfortable in. The part of the competition she was less familiar with was the judge interviews, which she practiced extensively with her friend Sam.
When they day of the competition came in late April, Riggs admits that she was more nervous after the competition was over.
“I was more nervous after the competition than I was during because at that point it’s out of your hands and the judges have to decide,” said Riggs. “The most intimidating part was being with the five judges during the interviews. You are alone with them, but you only get about four minutes to talk to them, and show them the essence of you, so it’s a little nerve wracking.”
Despite her inexperience with the whole process, Riggs was named Mrs. Kansas. A victory she shared with more than 15 friends and family members present, including her eldest daughter, Tenley, age 7, and husband Tim.
“When she won, I had two reactions: pride and shock,” he said. “It was shock only because this was her first time competing and she won.”
Tim, who had originally been slightly skeptical of his wife’s decision to enter the competition, was quickly converted to becoming her biggest supporter, especially when he realized the opportunity the competition would give her to discuss her platform.
“Seeing how hard she had to work, and all she was able to do, I was so proud of her,” said Tim.
Riggs admits that while on the surface her roles as an Air Force officer and Mrs. Kansas seem very different, at the core, they have more similarities than people might think.
“It was an overall great experience. I got to meet awesome ladies and learn about their platforms, and what I can do to help them spread their messages,” said Riggs. “It definitely started as a ‘get yourself out of your comfort zone thing,’ but in the end, it was a lot of a fun.”
She also encourages anyone who is considering going into pageantry.
“All I can say is go for it,” said Riggs. “I think that there are a lot stereotypes about it, but when you really get into it, you realize it’s really about a bunch of driven women that have something they are passionate about and want to make people aware of. It’s not just about being dolled up in heels.”
Riggs’ victory means she will go on to compete nationally for Mrs. United States. The competition is slated for the first week of July in Orlando, Fla.