Crowning achievement: Tonganoxie hairstylist is newest Mrs. Kansas
Donna Hoegler stood on the Folly Theater stage ready to answer a judge’s question.
“What is your state’s natural resource?” the host asked.
Hoegler’s mind was racing.
“Sunflower oil, duh,” she said with a laugh.
After more pondering, she chose ethanol.
Hoegler was participating in the Mrs. Kansas pageant March 1 in Kansas City, Mo., when she was posed the question.
She later was told the correct answer was the people of the Sunflower State. But when you’re on the spot as Hoegler was, it’s not always so simple to come up with the answer.
In the end, though, the answer was just right.
The Tonganoxie resident was named Mrs. Kansas and now will advance to the Mrs. America pageant.
“I grew so much over that weekend,”: Hoegler said. “And it was one of the best experiences I ever had.”
Hoegler actually had signed up for the 2013 pageant, but two surgeries sidelined her.
The 1998 Tonganoxie High School graduate has battled a rare brain disorder known as Arnold-Chiari Malformation. It causes part of the brain to hang too low, cutting off the flow of spinal fluid to the rest of the body. Her condition can cause a side of her body to go numb. When she was younger, it was thought she had carpal tunnel syndrome or even multiple sclerosis, based on her symptoms.
The disorder has required various surgeries, but it also has made her stronger. And it's what inspired her to compete in a pageant, she says.
Through the Mrs. America pageant, Hoegler hopes to bring awareness to her brain disorder.
“If I wasn’t a self-advocate, I probably wouldn’t be bringing awareness to Chiari,” said Hoegler, who also has made breast cancer awareness her state platform.
Hoegler competed against two other Kansas contestants — one from Louisburg and the other Newton — and alongside the Mrs. Missouri contestants.
Interviews counted for 50 percent of the scoring, while swimsuit and evening gown competitions each accounted for 25 percent.
For the evening gown, Hoegler, now 33, thought about wearing the dress she wore to prom — which she attended with her future husband, Nick Hoegler.
She was excited to be able to wear the dress, but she instead opted for a gown from BCBG at The Legends.
Hoegler also won the title of Miss Congeniality for both state pageants.
“That was the biggest honor,” she said. “I felt like I had fun and stayed true to my integrity and really soaked in the experience.”
Hoegler, who owns H Ave. in Tonganoxie, said she eats healthier and “listens to her body” more these days.
She credits chiropractor Samantha Ford with helping her with nutrition and fighting the disorder during the past two years.
“I’m fueling my body, just feeding my body,” Hoegler said.
Hoegler, who is a hairstylist, credits Ford’s treatments with helping her stand all day and cut hair.
“She’s a Godsend,” Hoegler said.
Now, Hoegler must make appearances and prepare for the Mrs. America pageant.
She’ll be in both the Tonganoxie and Lawrence St. Patrick’s Day parades and will get ready for the national pageant, which will be in late August or early September in Tucson, Ariz.
Hoegler, though, isn't satisfied with a forever career as a pageant contestant.
When she “grows up,” she wants to be an inspirational speaker.
“God didn’t put me through everything he put me through just to sit back and do hair,” she said.