It takes more than just a pretty face to win a title in the Miss America Pageant system and Katherine Putnam, the new Miss Louisiana, is not just pretty, but pretty smart!

I first met Katherine at the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas this past January.  I spoke to hundreds of people there when I was launching my book, Pretty Smart: Lessons from our Miss Americas.  But Katherine stood out.  Not only was she charming and articulate, but I could sense the fire that burned within her to pursue her goal of becoming Miss Louisiana and then Miss America as a springboard to her future.

Me and Katherine Putnam at the Miss America Pageant

Me and Katherine Putnam at the Miss America Pageant

In April, my email held a Facebook message from Katherine.  In it she wrote: “You may not remember me, but we met at Miss America.  I am currently on Lesson 8 of ‘Pretty Smart’ and I simply can’t put it down!  It’s like you wrote it just for me. Like the remarkable women you wrote about, I have had big dreams since I was a little girl, and, for the first time I feel free to go after them with all my heart.”

Katherine is a senior at the University of Louisiana at Monroe as a piano performance major and was Miss Shreveport.  Growing up she felt looked down on because she was smart and focused and had bigger dreams for herself than many of her classmates. 

Katherine asked to keep in touch with me while she prepared for the Miss Louisiana pageant this on June 20th.  Over the next couple of months I would hear from her, sometimes looking for a word of encouragement, or an opinion about an interview question or just to share what was happening with her preparations. 

I loved our back and forth.  I wrote Pretty Smart, not because I feel compelled to write, but because I believe so strongly in the message I wanted to convey – that it is easy to seek success, but never simple.  Without discipline, perseverance, resilience, focus and a good dose of courage, success will elude even those with the highest IQ.  Katherine showed all in abundance.

She wrote, “The lesson that has really applied to me over the past two weeks is to constantly keep the passion and the dream in front of you.  Win or lose, I know I have a purpose to impact lives and this journey through the Miss America system has changed my life for the better. There have been many days when my ‘motivational dial’ has hovered just above zero and your inspiring book has helped me dust myself off and keep moving. You are such an encouragement to me.”

Katherine understands that success is not just the destination but finding joy in the journey and the importance of commitment to a goal.  I wish her continued joy on her journey to be Miss America.