Oregon has a new representative: a 25-year-old engineer, armed with a passion to demonstrate Miss America Organization and its affiliated state and local programs can be an outlet and platform for women with diverse interests.

“I’ve been working for this goal for four years, and to finally have it come to fruition and to be able to set into action all the plans I’ve been dreaming of for years is so exciting,” said Miss Portland Shivali Kadam, who was crowned Miss Oregon on Saturday night.

Kadam and 24 other Miss Oregon candidates competed in preliminary competitions Wednesday through Friday before the final contest and crowning at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center.

Setting, achieving goals

For the talent portion of the competition, Kadam sang a rendition of the song “Reflection” from Disney’s “Mulan.” However, her emphasis throughout the competition was promoting Science Technology Engineering and Mathematic subjects and discussing how she will help contribute to growing the next generation of female engineers and scientists through her platform: STEM to Bloom.

“Anyone can be in the Miss America organization,” said Kadam, who graduated from Oregon State University in 2018 with a degree in chemical engineering and works as a construction manager in semiconductor manufacturing for Jacobs Engineering Group. “It doesn’t matter what your goals are, personal or professional, we are here to support you in all of those goals.”

Kadam first became familiar with the Miss Oregon Scholarship Program when she saw her friend and fellow collegiate a cappella group member Emma Wampler, Miss Linn-Benton County 2015, at an appearance.

“When she described the program to me, the emphasis on service, I was like, ‘I’m all in, I want to do this,’” Kadam said. “I’m so grateful for the last four years in this organization. It has brought me a second family and so many mentors I respect so much who have been guiding lights in my life.”

During the final day of competition, Kadam and the other top 10 candidates competed for a second time in the categories of talent; evening wear and social impact; and onstage interview. Those candidates included Emily Warren, Miss Sunstone; Stephanie Magee, Miss Meadow Lark; Claire Sparks, Miss Central Valley; Rylee Young, Miss Southern Gem; Sarah Blum, Miss Linn-Benton County; Josie Carstensen, Miss Capital City; Rose Sheldon, Miss Coos County; Allison Burke, Miss Northwest Wonderland; Hannah Garhofer, Miss Tri-Valley; and Danielle Cormier, Miss Emerald Valley.

Once the field was narrowed down to the top five — Kadam, Sparks, Magee, Burke and Garhofer — the contestants had an onstage discussion with emcee Kari Virding Christensen, Miss Oregon 2007, about their qualifications for the job that accompanies the crown.

Garhofer, who attended Seaside High School and was Miss Clatsop County in 2017, took second runner-up and Burke was first runner-up.

Moving forward

Under the Miss America 2.0 initiative, the program made several changes to competition and judging criteria, the most prominent of which was the elimination of the swimsuit category. The change was met with some mixed reactions, as the competition originated as a bathing suit revue. However, Kadam said she “is so excited to be the first Miss Oregon 2.0 and really move the organization forward in that direction.”

During the onstage interview segment, Sheldon also was asked her opinion about whether the swimsuit segment should be reinstated or stay removed. Sheldon responded she was in favor of eliminating that portion of competition.

“Time and time again, I’ve talked to women — strong, philanthropic, capable women — who have not competed, simply because they do not feel comfortable in a swimsuit onstage,” Sheldon said. “At no point in our time as Miss Oregon, or Miss Coos County, or Miss America, do we make an appearance in our swimsuit. We are here to make an impact in our community, our state, and our country, and looking good in a swimsuit is not a requirement for that.”

Also during the evening, Marin Gray, of Roseburg, was crowned Miss Oregon’s Outstanding Teen. Gray, who took fourth runner-up last year, was Miss Umpqua Valley’s Outstanding Teen.

“I went into it this time just wanting to bond with my sister queens, because I realized last year that there was such a good sisterhood,” said Gray, whose platform is Building Respect, Alliances, and Value for Everyone, or BRAVE. “I came in here with the mindset of just spending time with those people who are so amazing and having a lot of fun, and it just worked out for me this year.”

She will spend the next three weeks refining her performance in the various categories of competition to prepare for the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Competition in Florida at the end of July.

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