Dan Moreno

UMKC graduate student and Kansas City native Morgan McMichen was crowned the 2014 Miss Czech-Slovak US Queen on Aug. 4, the first queen from Missouri in the pageant’s history. The pageant was founded in 1986 by John and Lois Fiala, and more than 300 women from across the country have competed since its implementation

McMichen, pursuing her Master’s degree with a dual focus in foreign language and literature, additionally won Best Oratory and Authentic Kroj (costume) during the pageant.

McMichen grew up in Independence, Mo., but her first Czech relatives, Jan and Anna Pečenka, emigrated from Litomyšl, Pardubice to the U.S. during the American Civil War.

“I have always had a love for culture, language and heritage,” McMichen said. “I have fond memories of my grandmother reciting poems and folktales in Czech and teaching me about my family’s ancestry.”

McMichen’s Czech relatives originally settled in Marysville, Kan., and to this day, the family’s old farm remains intact.

“The more I learn about my heritage, the more enthusiastic I become about preserving it,” McMichen said. “I encourage other young women to continue to grow their knowledge and pride in their Czech or Slovak backgrounds, and I know the importance of passing on Czech and Slovak customs and culture to future generations.”

McMichen is the current Zumba instructor at UMKC and at other locations across the city.

Currently, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wisconsin hold state pageants where state queens are crowned and proceed to represent each state at the national competition.

“I found out about the competition on Facebook in 2010,” McMichen said. “I competed once in 2010 as an at-large candidate, and again this year where I became Missouri queen in March, leaving little time to prepare for competition in August.”

Preparing for the Miss Czech Slovak US pageant was not an easy task for McMichen, who began with research involving various documents, books and photographs.

“I studied the histories of the Czech and Slovak Republics from demographics to landscape to famous heroes, and much more,” McMichen said. “I also attended different festivals to watch and experience other state pageants, which was really helpful for my national pageant presentation.”

McMichen achieved her bachelor’s degree in Spanish with a minor in Cultural Anthropology at UMKC, and has decided to continue her academic pursuits after receiving her master’s degree this fall.

“After my one year reign as national queen is over, I plan to take the GRE and eventually pursue a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology in New York,” McMichen said. “With that, I would like to focus on foreign diplomacy and be a diplomatic advisor to world leaders.”

McMichen’s hard work and preparation paid off at the moment she was crowned pageant queen.

“’It simply couldn’t be,’ I thought. This was one of the greatest honors in my life,” McMichen said. “There were many sensations that went through my head all at once. Upon hearing my name, I simply put my head in my hand and began crying tears of joy. I knew my mom in heaven must be very proud along with the rest of my family and friends who supported me the whole way.”

In order to win the competition, McMichen overcame a number of obstacles including not having an entire year of preparation, having to find her own sponsors, working and studying full time and even taking finals on the very day she left for the pageant.

“The odds were truly against me, but needless to say, I really made history that day. My disbelief quickly turned into pride.” McMichen said. “Co české, to je krásný, which means what is Czech, is beautiful.”