Lincoln County’s Distinguished Young WomanPublished 12:00pm Sunday, July 13, 2014
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Madeleine Meilstrup was just in 11th grade when she was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet syndrome, a disease in which nerves become compressed between your collarbone and upper rib. What should have been a year in the height of teenage health turned into hospitalizations and a surgery to remove a rib.
After missing weeks of school, she was just starting to feel better when she heard about the at-large Distinguished Young Women competition.
“I was late for deadlines; it was a mess,” Meilstrup said.
Representing Lincoln County as a Distinguished Young Woman, formerly Junior Miss, has long been a dream of Meilstrup’s, so she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compete in the at-large pageant.
The at-large pageant differs in that if a county does not hold a local pageant, girls in that county can participate by traveling to the competition held in Meridian. The girl is judged in the same categories by a panel of five judges. The panel then decides if she qualifies to represent her hometown at the state level. Meilstrup will travel from Lincoln County next Sunday to compete at the state pageant in Meridian July 25 and 26.
When Meilstrup entered the competition, she did not even think about the state pageant, but she is grateful to be able to represent her home county.
“If you try hard enough, if you want something bad enough, you can get it,” she said.
After being named Lincoln County’s Distinguished Young Woman, Meilstrup did not have the time to focus on her next step. Instead she had to return to a mountain of make-up work for school.
“I finished all my make-up work the day school ended,” she said.
As soon as school let out, she immediately shifted gears to Distinguished Young Woman. She only had about a month to get everything in line before leaving for Africa for three weeks. But her days were packed with talent rehearsals, fitness and mock interviews.
Meilstrup will be singing “Bring him home” from the musical “Les Miserables” as her talent.She said it’s her father’s favorite song.
“I was really surprised it’s a song I recognized, and I really liked it,” she said.
Meilstrup feels most prepared for the interview portion because of her past experience with speech and debate at Brookhaven High School. However, she has still had a learning curve. She has learned to adapt to unexpected questions and think on her feet.
“I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be,” she said. “I’ve come to expect the unexpected. You never know, and that’s one of the most challenging aspects of the competition.”
Meilstrup’s dress came from Laura Ann Walker, who collects prom dresses to loan out to those who cannot afford one.
“What I like about it is if anyone asks where I got it, I can tell about her project and work in the community,” she said.
One of the things Meilstrup is looking most forward to is meeting the other competitors. One of the girls shares a mutual friend of Meilstrup’s, and she is excited about finally getting to meet the girl. The mutual friend attends Super Summer at Mississippi College each year. Each year, Meilstrup and the mutual friend would take a photograph with a picture of the other girl.
“I’ve taken a picture with this girl two years in a row, and I’ve never met her,” she said.
Now, they will finally be able to meet in Meridian.
Before Meilstrup got sick, one of her favorite hobbies was cooking.
“I did a lot of cooking,” she said. “I love to cook.”
Meilstrup described learning to cook as a necessity.
“My mom’s not the best cook, but she’s the best mom,” she laughed.
Meilstrup also enjoys singing and dancing. The Brookhaven Little Theatre is a second home for her, and she has participated in about five productions.
Meilstrup views her journey to Meridian as a group effort. Serving as Lincoln County’s Distinguished Young Woman is more about those around her who have provided support along the way.
“It makes me proud, not only for myself, but for the people who have helped me get here,” she said.
Meilstrup is the daughter of Duane and Jennifer Meilstrup and will be a senior at Brookhaven High School in the fall. She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering, possibly at Mississippi State University.
Her dream job would be an Imagineer at Walt Disney World. She was inspired to become an Imagineer while at Disney World during World’s Competition for cheerleading. At school, she was taking physics and the combination of the creative and technical sides clicked for her.
“The two kind of connected for me,” she said. “I want to make things that make people smile.”