She came, she pageanted, she conquered. At 19, Kirsten Haglund snatched the shiniest crown of all after competing in only two pageants in her lifetime: the county and state ones that precluded Miss America.
In a culture that fosters a dust-your-gown-off-and-try-again mentality, Haglund's pageant experience was undoubtedly the exception to the rule.
The reigning Miss America's formula was simple. "I never put Vaseline on my teeth or put roll-on glue on my butt. I never bought into or learned all those pageant secrets," she says. "I went into everything just being myself."
She claims the reality show on TLC, "Miss America: Countdown to the Crown," supports the same authentic approach. In her opinion, the show is about encouraging contestants to be themselves and not about modernizing the Miss America image.
During her reign, Haglund underwent a makeover of her own. When she took her victory walk at Planet Hollywood a year ago, the former Miss Michigan sported dark roots and a gown that left little to the imagination. Today, a chic, short cut and designer wardrobe have polished the scuffs.
She may not apply Preparation H to undereye bags like some of her pageant peers, but Haglund has a few beauty secrets she counts on to maintain her refined look. "I've learned that the quality of tools you use is what makes the finished product so good," she says.
Investing in the right makeup, a quality flat iron and high-performance brushes made all the difference in her appearance.
The one standard she tries to follow with both beauty and style is highlighting her best features. Haglund never used false lashes during pageants or personal appearances because she "inherited long eyelashes." She counts on Dior Diorshow Iconic mascara to play them up.
As for wardrobe, the reigning Miss America puts the focus on her long legs with Betsey Johnson cocktail dresses. The funky Johnson and Marc Jacobs, who Haglund says "makes great tailored garments that accentuate the female form" earn her top style praises.
As for her favorite sources of retail therapy, the beauty queen heads to Barneys New York, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Her taste is a little more discriminating since her first pageant.
"My talent costume for my local pageant cost $5," says Haglund. "I got it from Salvation Army."
The Miss America pageant runs on TLC, Saturday at 8 p.m.