The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Lifestyles

July 19, 2012

There she is, Miss America on on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON — Like so many other things in life, becoming Miss America and being Miss America are two different things.

The 2012 titleholder, Wisconsin's Laura Kaeppeler, spent the past two days in Washington like any other lobbyist - albeit a rhinestone-tiara-toting one. Halfway through her year-long reign, she spends most of her time on planes and talking about pet causes.

The 24-year-old brunette, a zeitgeisty cross between Kate Middleton and Kim Kardashian, won the crown with an Italian aria, a killer swimsuit body and a platform of mentoring children of incarcerated felons - her own father did time for mail fraud. "I experienced what it's like to be in those shoes and the need for support systems," she told us. "That was my main reason for competing."

But winning the crown meant signing on as well to the pageant organization's slightly less edgy causes: STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programs in schools, the USO and military, the Children's Miracle Network. "Every day I'm talking about something different," she said.

On Wednesday, Kaeppeler spent the morning at the Department of Education reading to children and the afternoon on Capitol Hill visiting Wisconsin's Sen. Herb Kohl and Rep. Tom Petri. Accompanied by her chaperone and two reps from Americans for the Arts, she made a pitch for adding arts (she majored in music in college) to the STEM curriculum.

The meetings were short and sweet - funding for anything being in short supply these days - but being Miss America got her in the door. "That's the power of the crown. It's so empowering to say, 'I'll take that meeting and talk about something important to me.' "

And some not-so-important things: The meeting also provided a running gag for Kohl, who has spent the past few months trying to fix Kaeppeler up with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. During the January pageant, she gave a playful shout-out ("Call me!") to the then-reigning Super Bowl champ, and the two were introduced during a Milwaukee Bucks game a few weeks later.

But then . . . nothing from Rodgers, despite Kohl's matchmaking efforts. Still want a call?

"It's been six months," Kaeppeler said, laughing. "He's left me hanging for quite some time, so I'd have to think about it."

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