UM student wins Miss Montana
Miss Montana USA and UM student Tori Rae Wanty is competing in Donald Trump’s Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas on April 11. Wanty is taking this semester off to focus on Miss USA pageants before taking classes again next semester to graduate from UM with an exercise science degree. (Hugh Carey / Montana Kaimin)
Story by Trevon Milliard | March 20, 2008
Tori Wanty, 21, is Miss Montana USA, but she isn’t your run-of-the-mill pageant queen. She goes camping, has broken bones and even needed plastic surgery after a boat-tubing accident.
When Wanty was 15 years old, she and her cousin were riding separate inner tubes roped to a speedboat that jetted across Bull Lake near Libby, Mont. In one swift movement, Wanty fell off her tube and onto her cousin. Her face hit his elbow.
The impact pressed Wanty’s lips against her braces, ripping the skin of her mouth. And the tip of her nose was pushed to the side.
“My drunk uncle tried to fix it,” she said.
Wanty’s nose was crooked but her parents waited it out until three weeks later, hoping it wasn’t broken. But three weeks later, her nose had swelled beyond belief. It was broken. After plastic surgery, she had to wear a white face cast for three weeks, she said.
That was six years ago, when Wanty was 15 years old. Her nose is still slightly askew, but now she is Miss Montana USA and a UM senior studying exercise science. She won in October and is now heading off to Las Vegas for Donald Trump’s Miss USA pageant on April 11.
Wanty didn’t grow up a pageant queen but an outdoorsy girl in Shelby, Mont., where her graduating class consisted of about 35 students, she said. She played sports like basketball, cross-country and track, and played the trumpet in jazz band and concert band.
“I’m not the typical pageant girl,” Wanty said, “…but I am representing Montana.”
During high school, she dislocated her shoulder twice while playing basketball.
“The first time, I put it back in myself,” she said, “but the second time it was too bad to do it.”
Competing for Miss Montana USA seems out of character, but she does it because of who she is.
“I honestly missed being on stage and competing,” she said.
Her family and friends were shocked when they heard Wanty was to enter her first beauty pageant two years ago. But she ended up winning Miss Congeniality and was first runner-up for Miss Montana USA.
“My family teases me pretty bad,” she said.
This fall, she went all the way and won Miss Montana USA, but the track record for this state isn’t favorable. The last time Miss Montana placed was in 1958 as a semi-finalist.
“Montana’s not really a pageant state,” Wanty said. “A lot like me.”
Since Wanty won Miss Montana USA, she’s had to sacrifice her student life at the University of Montana. She’s taken this semester off, but she’ll still graduate next fall with a degree in exercise science with an emphasis in nutrition, she said.
“I tried to do work, school and Miss Montana,” she said. “That was hell…four out of seven days, I’m doing something. I just got back from Boise and an 11-hour-photo shoot.”
She attends events such as the Special Olympics. She also speaks to students and is involved with groups like the American Diabetes Association, she said.
Being pageant royalty isn’t very plush, she said. The position doesn’t bring any scholarships or funding unless she wins Miss USA. She has to finance traveling to most of the events she attends, often through fundraisers, she said. She’s used $3,000 of her own money.
“You assume they pay for everything,” she said.
The trip to Las Vegas for Miss USA will be different. For two weeks, almost everything is paid for, from food to her hotel room.
“When down there, we’re treated like royalty for sure,” she said.
It’s even better for the winner of Miss USA, who will live in Trump Towers for a year, she said. But Miss USA’s life is restricted.
“You’re their property,” Wanty said. “You can’t get a haircut without them.”
After Miss USA 2008 has been decided, Wanty can’t compete in this pageant again. She can only win Miss Montana USA once.
Next semester, life will return to normal. Wanty will go back to school and graduate from UM before heading to Oregon State University for graduate school. That is, if she doesn’t become Miss USA.
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Posted by Jason on 03/20/2008 at 8:25 am
Shelby is proud of you!
Posted by Tammy on 03/20/2008 at 8:54 am