Jillian Richardson, a senior communication major at UMSL, will compete in the Miss Missouri pageant in June. (Photo by Lance Tilford)

Jillian Richardson hopes the third time’s the charm when she takes the stage at the Miss Missouri pageant this June in Mexico, Mo.

“I actually went to Miss Missouri when I was 17 … I went last year and then I’m going back again this year,” said Richardson, a senior communication major at University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Richardson, a resident of Louisiana, Mo., entered her first pageant when she was 17 years old as a way to earn scholarship money.

“I’m not like ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ by any means,” she said, referring to the show on TLC that showcases the competitive world of child pageants.

She won that very first competition and has been doing it ever since. Most recently she was crowned Miss Hannibal, Mo., on Jan. 21.

When asked how she balances pageants and school work, Richardson said, “It’s all a juggling act that I’ve really gotten down.” But she does admit lately she’s “looked at her Google Calendar like a million times just wondering how I’m going to fit it all in.”

Richardson said in the lead up to Miss Missouri she’ll take vocal and walking lessons and meet with her personal trainer. But ultimately it’s not so much about what she does on stage, but about her community service work offstage. Richardson’s platform is “No Sticks and Stones,” an anti-bullying program.

“How children bully now is crazy,” Richardson said.

She credits her parents with instilling in her self-confidence and motivation, something she hopes to share with kids who maybe didn’t grow up with the same support system she had.

“Sticks and Stones isn’t so much about tattling on bullying, but about overcoming bullying through yourself and through your own self-confidence,” she said.

While Richardson has won on many occasions, she’s also left empty-handed.

“It’s painful but I don’t see it as a personal defeat,” Richardson said.

She expects to graduate in May and hopes to take her talents to Sesame Street, doing educational outreach for the program.

“I want to be able to high five Big Bird on a daily basis,” she said. “That’s my dream.”

Richardson said her UMSL family figures big into her pageantry.

“I stay grounded because of this school and because of the people that I’m associated with,” she said.

Richardson said a lot of her professors have been a huge support system for her these last couple of years.

“I feel that UMSL has a heart that a lot of people don’t see.”

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