Miss Quincy 'confident, prepared' heading into Miss Illinois competition

Kayla Power
Posted: Jun. 10, 2014 10:18 am Updated: Jul. 1, 2014 11:15 am
Miss Quincy, Celeste Niemann
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Miss Quincy Celeste Niemann says she's ready for the next step in her quest for a statewide crown.

Preliminary competition begins Wednesday for the Quincy native at the Miss Illinois Scholarship Pageant in Marion.

Niemann will compete Wednesday in swimsuit and answer an onstage question about her platform, promoting volunteerism throughout the community. Niemann will perform Thursday in the evening gown competition and do a "showy hip-hop" tap dance to "Ain't Nothing Wrong With That" in the talent competition.

The Miss Shawnee Sweetheart pageant put another Quincyan in the competition. Kayla Power of Quincy won that title in a pageant in southern Illinois. The Miss Shawnee Sweetheart title was added to the Miss Southern Sweetheart Scholarship Pageant, conducted in November in Marion, because of the high level of contestant entries and sponsorships. Power is a Quincy Notre Dame High School graduate and Quincy University student.

Her platform is volunteerism, and her talent is speed painting.

The Quincy area also will be represented by Miss Gem City Melinh Nguyen. The Almaden, Calif., native will perform Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" on the piano as her talent and promote her platform of mental illness awareness and treatment.

Nguyen, who is pursuing a masters degree from the University of Chicago, drew on personal experience with her father's mental illness to develop three main focus areas for her platform -- awareness, destigmatization and promoting treatment.

The top 10 contestants compete Saturday night for the Miss Illinois crown.

The winner of Miss Illinois will spend the year touring Illinois speaking at schools about Character Counts and appearing at community and charitable events. She will be Illinois' goodwill ambassador for Children's Miracle Network, the official platform of the Miss America Organization, and will promote State Farm's teen safe driving program while also promoting her personal platform.

She will compete with 52 other titleholders from across the country in the 2015 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.

Niemann, 22, is a daughter of Ted and Suzanne Niemann. She graduated in May from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in English and plans to attend law school.

Niemann was crowned Miss Quincy in February, taking the title two years after being named Miss Gem City, which also took her to the statewide pageant. She is the only woman to have won Miss Quincy and Miss Gem City.

"When I was Miss Gem City 2012, Megan Ervin took the state crown. I was excited to be alongside her," Niemann said. "I always dreamed of being Miss Quincy -- I was born and raised in Quincy -- so even if it doesn't turn out to be a victory, I still rejoice to have the title for the rest of my reign."

Making a second trip to the Miss Illinois pageant has added to the fun for Niemann.

"I feel more confident, more prepared," she said. "I'm having so much fun getting to meet new contestants this year and rekindling relationships with some from two years ago."

Working with a Habitat for Humanity project Monday tied in with Niemann's platform, "Make Your Minutes Matter: Volunteer."

If she wins the crown, she hopes to partner with businesses statewide to develop a program where employers and employees build camaraderie by working together on volunteer projects. If employees volunteer a certain number of hours, the employer then will make a donation to a charity chosen by the employees.

Niemann said she was inspired by a similar program at Dot Foods in Mount Sterling.

Miss Quincy's Outstanding Teen Kira Eidson and Miss Quincy's Outstanding Pre-Teen Neely Humphrey will compete for state titles at the Miss Illinois Scholarship Pageant in Marion. Preliminary competition began Monday for Humphrey, who will be a seventh-grader this fall at Payson Seymour Junior High School, and Tuesday for Edison, who will be a junior at Payson Seymour High School.

Winners will be crowned after final competitions Friday. The winner of the Miss Illinois Outstanding Teen Pageant will compete for Miss America's Outstanding Teen in August in Orlando.

Little Miss Quincy Alexis Lucie will participate in the Miss Illinois Princess program. Participants ages 5 to 12 are mentored in the noncompetitive program by one of the local titleholders who will be competing for Miss Illinois 2014.