Miss Mustang pageant: Edmond woman captures local crown

By Carolyn Cole

Published on February 28, 2008

A few moments before Ashley Baumgartner was crowned the first Miss Mustang, four young girls hugged her Saturday during the pageant intermission.

The girls crowded around her, she said, and told her she was beautiful.

“I was so flattered, they were so cute,” Baumgartner, 21, said, and she made room for them on stage after the pageant for one more photo.

Baumgartner will represent Mustang in the summer Miss Oklahoma pageant. The University of Central Oklahoma junior is majoring in kinesiology and dance and plans either to become a physician’s assistant or own a dance studio after college.

She faced 13 other women in the Miss Mustang pageant, giving interviews, performing her talent and modeling a swimsuit and evening gown. Baumgartner said this is the first year she’s competed in pageants, but Miss Mustang was her seventh competition this season.

She won first runner-up in Miss Keystone Lake, second runner-up in the UCO pageant and fourth runner-up in Miss Bricktown, Queen of the West and Miss Piedmont. In all, she won $3,100 in scholarships, including $1,200 in the Miss Mustang pageant.
Other top finishers included Cameron University student Cassy Hill, who finished as first runner-up, winning a $500 scholarship. Brienne Vandiver, a UCO student, won second runner-up and a $200 scholarship, and Tiffany Legg, a University of Oklahoma student, won the $100 scholarship third runner-up prize.

Two Canadian County residents also competed. Skye Dawn Couts, a Mustang High School student, danced to “You Know How I Feel,” and Yukon High School graduate Brittany Whitman sang “Sunday Kind of Love” during the talent competition. Both were first-time pageant competitors.

“They had a really strong showing,” pageant director Rita Tate said.

Tate organized the event with her daughter-in-law, Christy Tate, who plans to compete in Mrs. Oklahoma in April. Miss Mustang became a family effort as her husband, Richard Tate served as master of ceremonies, and their company Tate Publishing served as a corporate sponsor. Her granddaughter, Courtney held up a bowl for contestants to fish out questions to answer on stage.

“It went fabulous,” she said. “I am so proud of the community and turnout. We have a great representative for the state pageant.”

About 300 people cheered as Miss Oklahoma Makenna Smith bobby pinned the crown to Baumgartner’s head as she grasped a bouquet of roses.

In her onstage question, when she was asked how she defends competing in pageants to her friends, Baumgartner said she wants to be a role model for children and later added receiving those hugs meant a lot to her.

“I feel it (Miss Oklahoma) is a stepping stone to be able to do more in my life on the national level,” she said onstage.

Baumgartner said she sees herself in those four girls, each slightly younger than she was when her parents’ divorce shook her foundation at age 12. To cope, she threw herself into dancing, which has been a central part of her life since age 2. Then a coach told her to lose weight to fit into a costume, and she said she lost confidence in herself.

“You look at yourself in the mirror, and ‘you know, I’m not pretty,’” she said.
Baumgartner started hating her pale skin, freckles and “plain” brown eyes. Most of all, she wanted to lose weight. In middle school, her dieting got out of control, and by the eighth grade, she said she started purging after meals.

By age 14, Baumgartner said she weighed 89 pounds at 5-feet 6-inches tall and hid her bony arms and legs under baggy clothes.

“When you are in that position you don’t want anyone else to know,” she said. “You don’t think you have a problem.”

Baumgartner said she didn’t face her eating disorder until her friends confronted her and told her they were worried. In that moment, she said she realized she wasn’t just hurting herself but her friends and family who cared about her.

A few days later, she said her mother noticed she had become sicklier, and she confessed her bulimia. As a ninth-grader, Baumgartner said she started to regain her health and struggled to reach a healthy weight. She said she realized when she wasn’t eating, her whole life suffered because she didn’t have the energy to dance or to do her schoolwork.

“I was going away and being nothing,” she said.

As Baumgartner struggled to find self-worth, she said her faith in God grew stronger. She performed a ballet en pointe dance she choreographed to “I Get on My Knees” during the Miss Mustang pageant.

“I am who I am from the trials and tribulations I’ve been through,” she said.
As Miss Mustang, Baumgartner will carry out her platform “Hunger for a Perfect Body,” educating youth about the dangers of eating disorders and teaching parents how to recognize the signs. Society can set impossible standards for beauty as shown by models and celebrities, Baumgartner said, adding youth need self-confidence and to learn to love who they are.

“There is no reason to starve yourself,” she said. “You can do everything in a healthy manner.”


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