When Hurricane celebrated Independence Day earlier this month with its annual parade, Katie Riedel was happily situated in her comfort zone.
No, it wasn’t on her comfy couch at home. It wasn’t even in a camp chair lining the side of Main Street.
Her comfort zone was in the back of a black Jeep, where she stood, waving, at crowds of parade-goers in the blazing sun, wearing red heels, a heavy crown, and a smile.
Perhaps not everybody’s idea of a comfort zone. For that matter, there was a time in Riedel’s life that being on display before a crowd would have terrified her.
“I was a very shy child who lacked confidence,” she admits.
Riedel didn’t accept that about herself; instead, she started doing pageants.
“I first began competing in pageants when I was 10 years old thanks to the encouragement of a family friend,” Riedel explains. “She thought it would help me with my self-confidence.
“She was right!” Riedel adds. “Pageants really brought me out of my comfort zone. Pageants broke me out of my shell.”
So much so that, 11 years later, Riedel is fully at home waving to crowds from the back of a Jeep and appearing on stages.
And she has appeared on a lot of stages over the past 11 years. The list of her pageant titles, consequently, is notable.
“My very first pageant title was 2010 WV Pumpkin Festival Princess,” she recalls. “After that pageant, I began competing in pageants mostly at fairs and festivals.”
She was 2011 Cabell County Fair Pre-Teen, 2012 Cabell County Fair Pre-Teen, 2013 WV Pumpkin Festival Teen Queen, 2014 Cabell County Fair Teen Queen, and 2014 Barboursville Fall Fest Teen Queen.
All of that while Riedel was a full-time high school student at Cabell Midland High School.
She didn’t stop there.
“In 2014, I started chasing my dream of becoming a state title holder with my first state pageant being Miss WV Teen USA,” she recounts. “I was fifteen when I first competed for that title and won 4th Runner Up. In 2017, I competed for the title of International Junior Miss Teen as Miss WV IJM in Nashville.”
Meanwhile, in 2017, Riedel graduated high school. She attended Marshall University for a year and then attended Cabell County Career and Technical Center. While working to earn her LPN certificate, she was still working the pageant stage.
“In 2018, I held the title of Cabell County Fair Queen and represented the fair at the West Virginia Association of Fairs and Festivals,” she says.
She adds, “Pageants make me happy because they have taught me both self-confidence as well as interview skills.”
Perhaps those interview skills helped her land her first position after graduation: LPN at Thomas Memorial Hospital.
She will have to take a few days off her job later this month, though, when she participates in the Miss All-Star United States pageant.
“Currently, I am Miss WV All-Star United States and I will be competing for the national title on July 31 in Savannah, Georgia,” Riedel says. “I have always enjoyed the friends I make through pageants and am especially excited to spend the week with my sister queens, Taylor Miller (Teen WV All-Star United States) and Bryanna Williams (Mrs. WV All-Star United States), as well as meet the other state title holders.”
A lot of preparation goes into participating in a national pageant.
“I have prepared by working on interview skills and by becoming the best version of myself both mentally and physically,” Riedel explains. “But the majority of my time has been spent giving back to my community and state.”
Riedel has spent her free time donating food to blessing boxes, cooking meals for a domestic violence shelter for women, donating to Ronald McDonald houses, and making fleece blankets for cancer centers.
“My grandmother was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and she is the person who inspires me most,” Riedel says. “No matter what life has thrown at her, she always seems to adapt and overcome. She has taught me to never let anything stand in my way or discourage me from chasing my dreams.”
One of Riedel’s dreams is to be a Registered Nurse. Another dream is to continue challenging herself to grow in confidence.
“One thing that pageants have taught me about life is that you can do anything you set your mind to — even if it is initially out of your comfort zone.”
To follow Katie Riedel’s journey, check out her Facebook page (Miss WV All-Star United States 2021) or her Instagram (@misswvallstarunitedstates2021).