OHIO VALLEY — The first runner-up in the Miss Ohio pageant isn’t out showing off her sash or riding in a parade (though those are all fun things to do) — she’s teaching first graders at Meigs Primary School.
Megan Wise of Gallipolis, Ohio, may not have the typical day job of a beauty queen but then again, describing beauty queens, or anyone for that matter, as “typical,” is unfair.
Wise came in first runner-up at Miss Ohio for two consecutive years and has placed as a Top Five finalist in the Miss Ohio competition for five years — a feat which is anything but typical. Only a small group of people have ever achieved this Top Five placement and an even smaller group have placed as a first runner-up consecutively. To many, this is a huge accomplishment, and to Wise it’s also an honor to represent the area at that level of competition.
Wise has ties to not only Gallia County where she lives and Meigs County, Ohio, where she works, she also has family ties to Mason County, W.Va. She is the daughter of LaTonya and Kevin Wise of Gallipolis, the granddaughter of Sherry McBride of Gallipolis, formerly of Point Pleasant, W.Va. and the late Wayne Kincaid, Jr., who was from Point Pleasant, as well. She is also the great-granddaughter of the late Wayne and Margaret Kincaid who were also of Point Pleasant. So, when Wise says it’s an honor to represent the “area,” that area casts a wide net of people and places.
As for what it’s like to be a heartbeat away from going to compete in Miss USA, twice, Wise said it was different both times. The first time she came in first runner-up, she said she didn’t know what to expect when the winner was announced. The second time she placed as first runner-up, Wise said she used her experience to step back and enjoy the moment, thinking about all the people who were there to watch and support her, including some of her students, and understood it mattered more how she reacted to the news than actually being crowned. She said that’s a skill pageantry gives people — the ability to be composed and poised no matter what circumstances. This is also a skill that comes in handy when teaching first graders.
“You never know what kids are going to say to catch you off guard,” Wise joked. “You just have to smile and move forward.”
Though some people might focus on the disappointment of coming so close to winning Miss Ohio, Wise does not. She said she placed first runner-up to two “amazing” people, including a Miss Ohio who went on to be second runner-up at Miss USA and who received a job offer from Donald Trump.
“I feel very appreciative,” Wise said about her placement and opportunity to compete alongside 68 girls from across Ohio this year, as well as in previous years.
Wise is also appreciative of the other unique opportunities pageantry has brought to her life, including $40,000 in scholarship opportunities; becoming a show model for Sherri Hill, one of the largest gown retailers in the world; appearing on a MTV “Made” episode; and nearly making it to the final cut of the reality show “America’s Next Top Model.”
Of course nothing worthwhile or unique is ever handed to anyone, and Wise said competing in pageants is more than showing up in a gown and winning an award. She said when she prepares for a pageant, it takes her 365 days to get ready, including dieting, working out, deciding on wardrobe and getting herself into the head space where she’s prepared to be judged.
“That’s hard in itself,” Wise said. “Pageants are 99 percent mental … you mentally have to be on your game.”
For this reason, Wise said she feels girls should wait until they’re a little older to get into pageantry so they can comprehend the criticism which will invariably come their way — as well as that tough interview question. As with most things in life, when it comes to that interview question, Wise said “you win some, you lose some” and advises using “spunk and personality to answer and you’ll make it through.”
As for how her students responded when they found out she lost the Miss Ohio title, she said her kids thought she won.
“They all thought I won because when you say you’re first runner-up, they only hear ‘first place,’” Wise laughed.
Wise said she’s going to sit out a year and decide how to proceed with her career in pageants — the age limit is 26. In the meantime, she’s currently enjoying her reign as not only a first grade teacher, but Miss Heart of Ohio which she won in 2012.