Miss Arkansas 2019 Darynne Dahlem
By Glenda Graves
Portrait photos by Hudson Photography
Arkansas is a really special state – a grid of small, often rural, unique towns that come together to create an amazing whole. This is certainly true of our Miss Arkansas contestants as well. The Miss Arkansas pageant is filled with amazing young women from small towns – each unique woman working toward the goal of representing the entire state in the Miss America pageant. Darynne Dahlem competed in the Miss Arkansas pageant this past summer as a small-town girl from Greenwood. Now, she is representing her entire state Dec. 19 in the Miss America pageant, which will be held this year in Connecticut.
What does it take to become a Miss Arkansas? Darynne says, “I was raised to never give up, but winning wasn’t everything. In fact, I would say winning was the last thing on my mind.” She grew up outside the Greenwood city limits and says she loved being raised in a rural area. “I rode horses every weekend or every day it was possible. Horseback riding and reading were really what I spent time doing. We didn’t have neighbors.”
Darynne says that Greenwood is well known for its athletics, but that was a bit of a problem for her as she hit junior high and high school. “I am not an athlete,” she says. “I tried out for cheer over and over again and could never make it, so I became the school mascot. I enjoyed playing that role, though.” She says she was picked on a lot during high school. “Everything I did was just not mainstream. I put a target on myself. I would talk to people even if they weren’t nice. But that experience shaped me and helped me to develop what would eventually become my platform – Know Who You Are.”
When Darynne was 13, her mom wanted her to take her determined mindset, get out of her comfort zone a little and try a pageant. Darynne says, “I never wore heels or dresses or anything girly. I also have very severe eczema. But I agreed to try the Miss Western Arkansas Outstanding Teen as my first pageant. I hated it. I think I came in last. But what I did love was interview. It didn’t intimidate me at all. I didn’t get nervous. I said I would never do another pageant again, but when I was 16, I changed my mind and entered the Miss Sebastian County pageant.”
Quickly, her pageant experiences became something she looked forward to, and she became fully committed to the dream of someday becoming Miss Arkansas. “My parents always said don’t give up, and I am a very tenacious person. It took 11 preliminary pageants before I actually won. If I had given up along the way, I would have never won. I went to Miss Arkansas Outstanding Teen and it was a hot mess! But I won the interview portion, and that was very important to me.”
When she was 18, she went back to Miss Western Arkansas and won, and that was her first year competing in the Miss Arkansas pageant. She says, “My name was constantly called that year. I made the top 10. But then I went back the next year and didn’t even make the top 15. I think I was trying too hard to do what everyone else wanted me to do. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do.” In her third time to compete in Miss Arkansas, in 2017 she got first runner-up as Miss University of Arkansas.
As a college student, Darynne pledged Delta Delta Delta Sorority. She says, “Greek life was a fantastic thing for me. But I didn’t know anything about it going in. No one in my family had gone Greek. My parents didn’t even go to college. I didn’t know anyone in my sorority at first and felt a little lost. But I did what I do best, I adapted. My pledge sisters were some of the biggest supporters during Miss Arkansas. The entire chapter really rallied around me.”
In 2018 she competed again as Miss Northwest Arkansas. After her fourth time competing, she decided she didn’t want to quit and look back and wonder what could have happened if she had gone back just one more time. Darynne made the decision to go back in 2019 for a fifth time, when she was 22 years old, as Miss Apple Blossom. And, this time, her dream came true. Darynne was crowned Miss Arkansas 2019. She says, “This was just the year. I had experienced so much growth. My life experience as a college graduate to a high school graduate just isn’t comparable. I’ve become so comfortable with myself.”
Darynne says that it’s quite a commitment to fulfill the duties of being Miss Arkansas, but it’s a role she feels comfortable in and considers it an honor. “I feel like I’m just the most normal Miss Arkansas. I’m so grateful and honored to be an ambassador. Everyone on stage wants this opportunity, and I don’t take that lightly. The reason I started this dream in the first place was to pay for college and, over my five years of competing, I’ve received almost $95,000 in scholarships. Anything I can do to not have to take out a loan is helpful. Miss Arkansas is about lifetime success.”
This month she will travel to Connecticut to compete in the Miss America pageant. She says, “I don’t think I’ve ever been so relaxed for a pageant. I have goals and I want to experience it for what it is. It’s an experience so few women get to have. Sure, I’d love to make the top 10 and finish as Miss America – but I just love being Miss Arkansas and I’m excited to continue carrying out those duties for the rest of the year.”
To watch Darynne compete for the Miss America title, tune in to NBC on Thursday, Dec. 19. The pageant is scheduled to air live from 7-9 p.m., CST.
Q & A with Miss Arkansas Darynne Dahlem
1. What modern convenience would you most like to do without? I think we would all be better off without social media. It can be so consuming, thinking about posting photos or watching what others are doing.
2. What is your most valued material possession? Probably my laptop! It has my research files and every class assignment I have ever done stored on it. I don’t know what I would do if those files disappeared.
3. If you had to live outside Arkansas, where would you live? I would love to live in D.C. Being in a political hub surrounded by our nation’s history every day would be amazing.
4. I wish I had met…I would love to have met Sherlock Holmes or whoever inspired his character! I would have loved to sit and speak with him or even just follow him around while he worked a case.
5. Do you like to talk politics or religion? I adore speaking about politics and learning about religions. I will always be able to learn about both of those topics from people who have a different viewpoint than I do. I also believe that it is important to create an open dialog around these topics so that we can continue to promote the diversity of thought.
6. What do you do to unwind? I either curl up with a novel or I lace up my sneakers and go on a long run.
7. What is your favorite food? Thai Green Curry. Or ice cream.
8. How would you describe yourself? Enthusiastic and Curious!
9. What are you most proud of? My research was recently published in a journal! That project took a lot of work and a lot of adaptation, and knowing it paid off is so rewarding.
10. What do you dislike most about yourself? I will overanalyze something down to the molecule. While that can be incredibly good for conducting research, it can be difficult to handle on a daily basis.