Jennifer Vannatta - Miss Kansas 1998
Jennifer Vannatta grew up in Texas, where she developed an interest in pageants at an early age. She remembers watching all of the pageants on television as a little girl. Her favorite was the MISS TEXAS USA Pageant. Despite her passion for pageantry, she never became involved in them while she lived in Texas. There was a different plan for her life as far as pageants were concerned!
In 1988, her father was transferred to Kansas, where she eventually graduated from Blue Valley North High School. Following High School graduation, Jennifer took a vacation to Texas to visit her childhood friends. While she was gone, her brother John entered her in the Miss Kansas American Coed pageant. He was already a State Director in the MISS USA & MISS TEEN USA system, and since that precluded her from competing in those pageants he found another one for her to do. John knew pageants had a lot to offer young women, and he wanted his sister to gain the benefits of competition.
The pageant was a wonderful experience for Jennifer, and she even finished first runner-up. You often hear of getting "Bit by the Pageant Bug," and that's exactly what happened to her. Thus, Jennifer decided to compete again the next summer. She won the title of Miss Kansas American Coed 1993, as well as the talent, speech, and photogenic competitions. Two months later, Jennifer traveled to Hawaii to represent Kansas at the national competition. There, she finished second runner-up. Jennifer met some new friends through her 'pageant beginning,' and many of them remain her closest friends today.
During college, Jennifer stayed focused on school, and starting her career. She graduated from the University of Kansas in 1996 with a degree in Journalism. She went on to work at KQTV as an anchor, reporter and producer from 1996-1998.
In 1997, Jennifer won the title of Miss KU-Lawrence, and went on to be a top ten semifinalist at the 1997 Miss Kansas Pageant. In 1998, she won her first local of the year, and became Miss Greater Kansas City. Then, on June 6, 1998, her dream came true. Miss Greater Kansas City was announced as the new Miss Kansas! Jennifer was also a Preliminary Swimsuit Winner, the Interview Winner, and received the Tara Dawn Holland Community Service Award for her work with the Kansas City Promise Alliance for Youth.
Jennifer was blessed with the opportunity to represent Kansas in the 1998 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. Even though she did not win Miss America, she was not about to let that stop her from making the most of her year. During her reign as Miss Kansas, Jennifer traveled nearly 75,000 miles speaking in schools. She shared with over 10,000 children, the importance of living their dreams, volunteering in their communities, as well as the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Her platform was "Reach Out to Reach Up," and as a result of her continued involvement with America's Promise, Jennifer received a letter of recognition from General Colin Powell. She calls her year as Miss Kansas the most special year of her life, and feels incredibly lucky with the way God has blessed her life through all of her pageant experiences. "Through each experience, I improved my self-esteem, communication skills, and talents. I also learned a lot about my faith, and just how much Jennifer Vannatta can really handle."
Because of the positive ways Jennifer's participation has impacted her life, she desperately wanted to stay involved in pageantry. When she gave up her title in 1999, she joined the VANBROS staff helping her brother John. She and John work as a team to build the program, and make it a positive opportunity for young women all over Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. "This isn't about dresses, heels, jewelry, or the 'stuff' at all. It's about providing young women a way to step out of their comfort zones that will inevitably help them grow. It's about providing an opportunity that helps to enrich their lives, through building more self-esteem, interview skills, friendships, physical fitness, and making valuable contacts. It's about making an impact, and encouraging them to make an impact as well. The "PAGEANT," is just our vehicle in which to do all of this!"
On February 7, 2004, Jennifer married her long-time love J.C. Fisher. They met at the 1997 Miss Kansas Pageant when she was a contestant and he was a featured performer. The wedding was classy, elegant and romantic. It was a wonderful moment for Jen and J.C. who patiently waited for the right time to finally marry. Many friends and family were able to attend the ceremony, including Miss Kansas 1997 Lesley Moss, Miss Kansas 2000 Amy Shaw, and Miss Kansas 2001 Kim Grice-DesJardin who was a featured vocalist. Jennifer and JC make their home in Overland Park, Kansas. She continues to work for Vanbros and Agape Marketing while he travels the world as a classical vocalist (www.jctenor.com). When their schedules permit, they love taking trips together.