Callaway Hills Elementary students had a chance to pull aside the green curtain Friday morning and take a peek into the life of Shelby Ringdahl, Miss Missouri 2013.
With an innate sense of humor and more than a dash of style, Ringdahl - who showcased her talent by performing "Defying Gravity," the signature solo from the musical "Wicked" - makes being Miss Missouri look like a wiz.
But under the sash and tiara, Ringdahl is just a 21-year-old girl who still loves macaroni and cheese, her two yellow Labradors and singing.
On Friday morning, she spoke to all of Callaway's female students in the school's library.
Her goal was to encourage the girls to think about their own "bucket lists" and to dream big.
Ringdahl said having her own personal bucket list encouraged her to attempt the pageant circuit. At Rock Bridge High School, Ringdahl was more interested in sports and musical performance than pageants. (People joked her car was always in the parking lot because she participated in so many school activities.)
But when she went to Texas Christian University - at the behest of her parents, who wanted her to experience more of the world - her voice teacher suggested pageants as a way to earn scholarship money. Even without the high heels and crown, Ringdahl at 5'8" is taller than most women. Her height, combined with her talent, is a boon for winning pageants.
"I'd always had my own bucket list," she told the girls. "I knew I wanted to travel to Paris, audition for "American Idol' and perform on Broadway. So I added "compete in the Miss Missouri pageant' to the list."
Soon her vow to "compete" in the pageant had transformed into "be" Miss Missouri.
"And all because it was on my bucket list," she told the girls.
Ringdahl also asked the smaller girls to consider how they want to be remembered. "Do you want to be remembered as a good sibling? A good daughter? A hard worker?" she asked.
Ringdahl noted during the time she spent preparing for the Miss American pageant, she vowed to be the kindest and most-gracious person she could be - no matter how hungry, grumpy and exhausted she felt.
Her goal was to make it to one of the Top 15 slots. (She did.)
"I was in my talent dress, ready to sing, but I wasn't called," she remembers. "And Miss Wisconsin, who also wasn't called, was sitting right next to me. And she said, "There's nobody else I'd rather be with than you.'"
Soon Ringdahl was asking students to share their own wishes for how they'd like to be remembered and their dreams for the future. The girls' list included ideas such as: "good friend," "famous athlete," "good cook," "traveler," "artist," etc.
"Dream big!" Ringdahl advised. "Because I think you can never dream too big."
After one small girl asked her to sing, soon many in the room were pleading for more. Ringdahl indulged them in several selections. For their part, the girls looked a bit star-struck by Ringdahl's glamour and confidence.
"I didn't expect her to be that tall ... or that pretty!" said fifth-grader Ashley Henderson.
Asked what she would remember from the experience, 10-year-old Madison Reeves answered: "Knowing that she is the nicest person."
"It made me think that I want to do a bucket list," Reeves said.
"It's a very good idea," added Henderson. "I've been getting bad grades in math. But I'm going to try harder now."