The youngest competitor in this year’s drama-filled Miss USA pageant is Alexis Railsback, a 19-year-old from Shawnee who graduated from Shawnee Mission Northwest just last year.
In May, the Miss USA organization sent a film crew to Kansas City to make a “Road to the Crown” video — something new this year — about Railsback.
She was one of a handful of contestants to get a hometown visit. The pageant interviewed her at home and shot footage around town for a video that will be shown during the pageant.
Before she takes the stage in Baton Rouge on Sunday, here are 19 things to know about Miss Kansas.
She’s a newbie in the pageant world. She won Miss Kansas last year on her first try — only her third pageant ever. She tried twice, unsuccessfully, to win Miss Kansas Teen USA. “I thought about doing it since middle school. But I was really shy growing up, so I was kind of afraid to do it ... but I knew I would regret it if I didn’t try.” She was determined to win that crown. If she hadn’t won Miss Kansas, “I would have gone back every year until I won. I was thinking ... ‘You’re 19. The good thing is you have eight more years to compete.’”
She’s a twin. “And we don’t look anything alike,” she says of her fraternal twin sister, Ashley. “She’s 4-foot-10 and she’s (fair) with green eyes. Same hair. My brother (Jordan) looks like her, too. I’m the only one who looks Mexican.” Alexis is third-generation Mexican-American on her mom Robin’s side; her father, John, is of German descent.
Her Miss Kansas prize package included thousands of dollars in scholarship money: $57,600 for traditional undergraduate study is one option. She plans to finish an associate degree at Johnson County Community College before working on a four-year degree in business administration. She wants to be a professional makeup artist in the entertainment industry and “own my own makeup line one day.”
Her first and middle names — Alexis Selena — come from Joan Collins’ character Alexis Carrington on “Dynasty” and slain Mexican-American singer Selena.
She feels her age around the other contestants “when they are talking about their boyfriends ... and the weddings they’re going to have. I’m just like, ‘I have nothing to contribute to this.’”
On stage she’ll wear 7-inch heels to bridge the height difference between her and the other contestants. At 5-feet-5, she’s often one of the shorter contestants.
Her pageant role model is Olivia Culpo, who was crowned Miss USA and Miss Universe in 2012. “She was kind of like the underdog of the pageant. She was one of the shortest contestants, she was 20 years old, that was only the second pageant she ever did in her life. Then she went on to win Miss Universe. So I really admire that she accomplished so much at such a young age. And it didn’t really affect her personality, either. She always stayed down to earth.”
She doesn’t like the phrase “butt glue” — the body adhesives contestants use to keep bikinis and evening gowns from riding up in all the wrong places. “I just think it sounds weird. I’d rather not call it that.”
She has “sister queens”: Miss Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Illinois and Nebraska. They are all represented by the same director who owns and runs those state pageants. In Baton Rouge, she is rooming with Miss Illinois Renee Wronecki.
She is a hostess at Carlo’s Copa Room restaurant in Lenexa, where her co-workers gave her a send-off party. She worked as many as 30 hours a week there while going to school so she could pay her pageant expenses. The Miss USA organization pays for most things, including her national pageant competition wardrobe. But for the state pageants, “It’s all on your own. And it’s a lot. But it was worth it. It taught me a lot of responsibility.”
Heavy lies the crown: The Miss Kansas crown can give her a headache. “It’s pretty heavy on your head.” She retrofitted it with extra combs to keep it from falling off. The crown and sash are hers to keep. She also won: waxings and spray tans, cosmetic dental services, shoes, jewelry, a faux white mink coat, a designer watch, Miss USA pageant clothes, a vacation to Panama, etiquette training, photo shoots, haircuts and a one-year subscription to Pageantry magazine.
No bananas for her! “They’re very high in sugar. I’m on a high protein, low-carb diet. So all of my carbs are fibrous vegetables and whole grains. Fruits are a healthy carb but they’re very high in sugar, so I try to avoid a lot of sugar.” Also on her can’t-eat list: “Pretty much everything. No fast food, no sweets.” And she can’t eat the pasta at Carlo’s. “I have to look at food that I can’t eat every day. It’s not very fun.”
She’s been working out 21/2 hours every day, by herself. Because her personal trainer lives in Oklahoma — she’s only met him in person three times — he emails a workout schedule to her every week. “I have to send him a picture of myself in a bikini once a week so he can keep me on track. That’s how he knows I’m doing what I’m (supposed to be) doing.”
Contestants are required to be active on social media. “It’s a big part of your job as Miss USA to be social media savvy. We have to post every day on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It actually makes you look better if you do that. They want you to put yourself out there and let people see what you do with your title and let people see who you are.” Her Twitter handle: @RealMissKSusa.
If she wins, her life will change in a heartbeat, beginning with a post-pageant press conference alongside Donald Trump. The next morning, officials from the Miss Universe pageant will sort through her luggage, ship some of her things home and decide what she will wear to meet the media later that day in New York. She will move into an apartment in the Trump Towers for one year with Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA. A few weeks after being crowned she will come home to see her family and do local media interviews, but she won’t see her loved ones often during her one-year reign.
She was the first Miss USA contestant to publicly sound off on the controversy created by pageant co-owner Trump’s comments last month referring to Mexicans as rapists and criminals. She appeared on CNN after she spoke to The Kansas City Star. Latina magazine this week spoke to all the Hispanic contestants at the pageant, including Railsback, who said: “Well, I didn’t agree with his comments. I was offended by what he said; my family, they were also offended. I definitely understand why people are reacting the way they are. What he said was very hurtful. I mean, it’s caused a lot of problems, not only for the pageant, but for people across the nation.”
She will be shadowed at Miss USA. “We are not allowed to go anywhere without a chaperone. We have bodyguards and chaperones and security guards … we’re pretty much being watched all day. Even to go to the bathroom we have to take a security guard with us. They have to wait outside.”
She would love to throw out a first pitch at a Royals game. She threw one at a T-Bones game and it would have landed in the catcher’s mitt … if she had thrown it just a little harder.
Yes, she’s expecting to hear “Wizard of Oz” jokes, and she’s ready for them. “We always practice questions like that in our mock interviews because there will be people who will ask you, ‘What do you like about Kansas?’ and ‘Do you have a Toto dog?’ and all that. I always just try to say something sincere and not too funny. But I always like to say that I like Kansas because there’s no place like home.”
Where to see the show
NBC dumped the pageant’s national broadcast after Donald Trump’s comments about Mexicans. However, the Reelz network will air the show at 7 p.m. Sunday. Check your cable provider for availability. The pageant will also be live-streamed at missusa.com.