Beauty queen gained confidence through platform

Staff writer

Shannon Tajchman seems like a person who has confidence to spare.

She is a beauty pageant veteran, winning her first competition, Miss Teen Great Bend at 17 years old.

The Ms. United States Pageant has four main competitions — the opening interview, swimsuit portion, evening gown category, and on-stage questions. Some women have nightmares where judges inspect their bikini bodies beneath the bright spotlights of a national stage.

After winning Miss Hawaiian Tropic, Wichita and Kansas City, in her 20s, Tajchman said the swimsuit competition is her favorite contest.

She does not think this is vain or sexist. She works hard to stay fit — two Pilates classes a week, intense aerobics, and plenty of time on Elliptical and Stairmaster machines.

“I want to look my best and feel my best,” she said.

Her personal trainer was one item on a busy agenda Thursday. She also worked both of her jobs, first as a hair stylist at Salon Safari and as a server at Oakwood Country Club in Kansas City. In the back half of the day’s schedule, Tajchman had a meeting with her life coach. The life coach’s task is to improve Tajchman’s confidence, specifically in public speaking. One of the coach’s methods is hypnotherapy.

“I know somebody who quit smoking with that,” Tajchman said.

Improved confidence helps with the nerve-grinding interview portions of the pageant — stuttering through the statistics involved with her platform could cost her a placement.

The life coach is also important because Tajchman was not always the beauty queen ready to compete and win.

When Tajchman was a freshman at Marion High School, she spent one lunch period huddled in the bathroom. She was avoiding bullies; the isolation only intensified a feeling of loneliness.

“When you go through things in life, looks can work against you,” Tajchman said. “I was bullied because I was a cheerleader. I was told I was a ditz.”

She was an all-star cheerleader, earning a spot on an elite squad that same year. She quit cheerleading because she was tired of the abuse from classmates. She still regrets this decision.

Tajchman’s confidence issues go deeper. They can be explained by her platform. She is competing in the Ms. United States Pageant to combat physical and sexual abuse.

There are multiple levels of the Miss United States pageants including teen, miss, and Ms. At 35, Tajchman competes in the Ms. competition. Were she to win, she would want to use the crown to raise awareness and funding, especially for the Synergy Foundation, which has shelters in the Kansas City area. Tajchman is promoting a clothing and supplies drive for Synergy Services in April.

As a child, Tajchman was sexually abused by a baby sitter. She moved to Great Bend when she was a sophomore in high school to be closer to her sister who was sexually abused by her stepfather.

Being a victim of sexual abuse hindered Tajchman’s confidence. She was also affected by her parent’s divorce. She was raised by her father, Mark, and grandmother, Angela.

“The last couple of years I had to figure out who I am,” she said.

That personal search led her to Los Angeles but then back to Kansas City. Tajchman was not sure how much longer she could compete in pageants; she was sure the window was closing, as she got older. She had the opportunity to work at an A-list salon, called MG Studios.

She only stayed in Los Angeles three months.

“LA was a tough city for me,” she said. “I really needed my family. You have to be pretty strong and independent. I ended up coming back and feeling like a failure.”

Eventually, she turned back to the pageant world. A former Ms. Kansas, Celine Ziller, introduced Tajchman, 35, to the competition for women between the age of 28 and 55.

“I don’t think any 55-year-olds,” she said.

Tajchman said the Ms. United States pageant is providing her with a purpose, which is to spread her platform against child abuse. According to statistics she compiled, one in every three women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. In the United States, a woman is beaten every 15 seconds. A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds. Four children per day die because of abuse.

She has always found the relationship with other contestants to be friendly. She is still close with some of the competitors from that first pageant in Great Bend. But, every girl wants to win.

There is an exception, something other girls have pointed out — when the contestant’s strength is in her platform.

“She has something she has to do with that crown,” Tajchman said.

Tajchman is confident a national win as Ms. Missouri would do a lot for her platform.

Tajchman is set to compete in the Ms. Missouri competition on April 20. She is on Twitter, @ShannonTajchman.

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