Hey everyone, welcome to my blog! For those of you who stumbled upon my page, thanks for being here! I’m Annika (like Hanukkah without the “H”) and I was born in Kansas, grew up in Virginia and moved back to Kansas for college, and never left! Some of you may know me from my time as Miss Kansas 2019 + 2020. It’s been a wild ride and I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. Let’s start from the beginning!
I was born in Kansas but we moved to Virginia when I was five years old for my dad’s career. Growing up, I loved fairies - reading about them, storytelling, painting them, all of it! (I will even swear to this day I saw one in my backyard) It probably comes as no surprise that I grew up in the arts and was always surrounded by music, markers, colored pencils, paint, and theater. I was heavily involved in community theater growing up and so many of those experiences helped my creativity flourish.
My dad is an entrepreneurial businessman and very creative, which makes sense because his mom (my grandma) is a fine arts painter. His entire family is so musically talented, it’s unreal. And then my mom is a graphic designer and sings and plays guitar, so having two parents with this many creative skills really allowed me to believe in my talents and try everything at least once.
In elementary school, I had a teacher named Ms. Bryant. She was the first person to recognize something different in me. She gave me a book on Georgia O’Keefe, a famous female painter, because she recognized that spark I had to learn more in the realm of art. She would always give me special projects outside of class and even asked me to design and paint a mural for the teacher’s lounge. The Teacher’s Lounge! I felt like the coolest kid in the school! The mural turned out amazing and I’ll still never forget that first moment that someone put stock in my talents and gave me a platform to make my own mark.
Two of my biggest mentors in high school, Keith and Kenji, really took the time to invest in me and focused on feeding my fire. They are still some of my best friends and gave me so many opportunities to lead by designing lights in our theater productions, set design, and just being an integral part of the shows that we put on. I loved having that leadership responsibility within my niche.
I graduated high school in Virginia, but always felt so connected to Kansas (Rock Chalk!). When it came to looking at colleges, I had big dreams of going to New York City for art school, but ended up being set on going to an art school close to home. I ended up looking at the Kansas City Art Institute as a wildcard and wanted to tour the campus. When we arrived, my dad asked to go down the road a little way to Lawrence, Kansas to show me around his old stomping grounds at his alma mater, the University of Kansas. As soon as I stepped foot on the KU campus, I knew that’s where I was meant to be.
It wasn’t until that moment that I really knew what I wanted in a college campus. I learned quickly that I wanted the community that I had experienced growing up and the “campus feel” I was sensing. I was craving the classic college experience and instantly knew this would be my college home. I’m so glad I went to KU and met the people I did and had the experiences of a lifetime; I can look back and confidently say they shaped me into the person I am today.
Alright - fast facts!
I’m a wide-open book and I can’t wait to get to know you all a little better as well. My favorite number is 11 (I still look at the clock all the time at 11:11). My favorite quote is, “As you go the way of life, you’ll see a chasm. Jump. It’s not as wide as you think.” I have the word “jump” tattooed on my ribs. It’s from a book called Reflections on the Art of Living by Joseph Campbell and is focused on taking a leap. My favorite food, hands down, is Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese, I’m in love with my cat named Goose, and I drink my coffee black (My go-to is a black Americano).
I’m also big into astrology! I’m by no means an expert, but I do look up my Aries horoscope every single day. I’m stubborn but I’m always on time. I’m a fire sign so I’m true to my ginger stereotype - fiery, passionate, and headstrong. I have wild dreams that are so vivid, detailed, and crazy. I have six tattoos. I have a younger brother - we’re two years apart but we joke that we’re twins.
My favorite place is anywhere with windows. I love bright natural light that freshens my soul, and it’s on my vision board to live in a house with windows on all sides so I can see the sun rise and set. I love road trips! My mom will tell you I’m an extrovert, but I swear I’m an introvert – does that make me an extroverted introvert? I really do need my alone time to recoup which is probably why I love driving long distances so much. I love legitimate conversations. I love grabbing coffee with friends. And I love hearing people’s stories.
Now that you know a little bit of my story and some fun facts about me, where am I now?
I recently rounded out my term as Miss Kansas 2019 and 2020 in the Miss America System - pandemic queen! I ultimately served for two years, but it took me seven years to achieve. I competed for Miss Kansas every single year that I was eligible, and I’m so glad I have that experience in this amazing leadership organization. As I rounded out my term of service, I wasn’t sure what kind of career I wanted, but I knew I wanted to create a lifestyle similar to the experiences I enjoyed and valued in the role of Miss Kansas. My professional career has been one of my favorite landing spots.
Now, I am the Director of Operations with an incredible organization called Lead for Kansas, an organizatoin that supports Kansas communities in bringing back their homegrown young leaders, adding transformative capacity to address their most significant challenges, and building the next generation of civic leadership. I get to travel across the state to support our fellows and advocate for the organization. It’s community-facing and I get to be creative on social media, with my marketing, and for all design aspects too. It checks all my boxes (:
In a future blog, you’ll find out why I competed seven years in a row for Miss Kansas, why I put my hat back in the ring for Miss Kansas USA, and what my mission is with a platform in pageantry. Thank you all for being here, I am so grateful.