Bringing The Crown HomeIt had been more than four decades since a Kauai titleholder brought the Miss Hawaii crown to the Garden Isle — until Stephanie Steuri did so last month. The Kalaheo resident, who intends to use the scholarship funds she also won to become a veterinarian, next competes for Miss America Sept. 14
Stephanie Steuri exudes such elegance, it came as no surprise when the Kauai girl was crowned Miss Hawaii 2014. She is well spoken and has an inspirational natural poise.
“Even if I hadn’t won, just the changes that I’ve seen in myself — the way that I carry myself, more confidence — is amazing,” she says during an interview at Kalapaki Bay.
She already is a role model to keiki, and the crown she places on her head is like a beacon to little girls with whom Steuri was gracious enough to take photos that day.
“As a child, like everyone, I looked at these crowns and thought, ‘I wanna be a princess too,'” she says.
The Island School graduate remembers being drawn to the crown her mother Charlene, Miss Maui 1977, proudly displayed in their home. Still, the idea of entering a pageant didn’t actually occur to Steuri until last year. The more she researched the competitions, the more she realized just how beneficial it would be for her to enter, not only financially (the system provides noteworthy scholarships for college), but mentally and physically as well.
“It’s not about competing with everyone around you; it’s about competing with yourself and always working to better yourself,” she says. “If somebody says you can’t do it, brush it off your shoulder and keep going.”
It is this positive outlook that makes Steuri such an exceptional model for others, and it’s likely one of the many reasons she initially took the title of Miss Paradise Kauai 2014 earlier this year to qualify for the statewide pageant. But the path to her crowning success came with challenges, including finding the time to juggle her studies with pageantry. She just completed her junior year as a biology major with a German language minor at University of Hawaii-Manoa and intends to become a veterinary doctor.
Though she focused on academics last semester, she still found time to maintain her health and made sure she exercised at least 30 minutes every day, even when her schedule was at its busiest.
“You make time,” says Steuri, who loves food and prefers fitness activities like running and lifting weights to regimented diets.
“A healthy body is a healthy mind,” says Steuri, who won the swimsuit portion of the Miss. Hawaii contest.
The Kalaheo resident, who also won the talent portion of Miss Hawaii for her hula performance, is most excited to be able to work with students on her platform of growing stronger S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) across the nation. She wants to build the level of interest keiki have in these fields, as it is something she’s been passionate about her entire life. Steuri has been involved in organizations like FIRST Robotics, Science Olympiad and Math Counts, and continues to attempt “breaking down the stereotype of the nerd,” she says.
“Robotics really is a sport, just like football or soccer. Maybe it’s not as physical, but it’s a sport of the mind and it’s just as important.”
Promoting the fields of science and technology isn’t all that she’s been doing with her new title. The day after she won, she received a call from her director at 7 a.m., telling her to get ready for the flood of interviews that would start pouring in. She admits she’s learning how to remain in a calm state of mind and not lose herself in the whirlwind of newfound attention.
Despite the chaos, Steuri says it’s an honor to “bring the title home,” especially since it’s been more than four decades since a Kauai title holder won the competition and 10 years since Kapaa resident Olena Heu was crowned Miss Hawaii after winning Miss West Oahu.
“It’s just nice to be able to bring that sense of pride back to our island,” says Steuri.
She is currently gearing up to represent the Garden Isle in the Miss America pageant Sept. 14 in Atlantic City, and is polishing up her leadership skills and life as a public figure. But when she isn’t focusing on pageantry or studying, Steuri likes to hike, hunt and fish. She also enjoys spending time with her family — Chris, her father who manages Koa Kea Hotel; Charlene, who is involved with the Kauai Robotics Alliance, and her brother Benjamin, who is attending the University of British Columbia, as well as her dachshunds Buttons and Zipper and her Beta fish Skittles and Popper.
Her future plan is to return to Kauai at some point after college and practice veterinary medicine.
“Nothing is impossible — follow your dreams,” she says. “If you put your mind to it and you are doing anything for the right reason, you are going to walk away victorious.”