Jenny Valliere of Cedar Rapids crowned Miss Iowa USA
26-year-old is afternoon radio host for Z102.9 KZIA
CEDAR RAPIDS — Jenny Valliere is the voice on your radio on weekday afternoons.
And now, she’s your Miss Iowa USA.
Valliere, 26, of Cedar Rapids, the afternoon drive personality on Z102.9 FM KZIA, won the 2018 crown Sunday during the pageant at Newton High School.
She’ll go on to vie for the crown of Miss USA next year in a pageant televised live on FOX. The winner of that pageant goes on to compete for the Miss Universe title.
“I’m still trying to process this all,” Valliere said Monday while taking a break from her afternoon DJ duties. “I’ve been dreaming about this moment for eight years. My phone has been blowing up with kind words and positivity. It’s been amazing.”
Valliere said she’s been vying for the Miss Iowa USA crown since she was 19 years old. She’s been second runner-up once and third runner-up three times, including the past two years.
“I was in shock,” she said about hearing her name called Monday as this year’s winner. “I couldn’t even cry or gather my mind to know this was really happening.”
Also on Sunday, Isabella Russell of Marshalltown was crowned 2018 Miss Iowa Teen USA.
The competitions, held annually, consist of three segments: evening gown, swimwear/active wear and interview. Eligible young women must be between the ages of 14 and 27 and be unmarried residents of Iowa in order to compete.
Valliere was born and raised in Cedar Rapids and lived for one year in Hawaii. Her mother, Angela Kim, and her younger brother Justin still live there. Her older brother Josh lives in North Liberty.
Valliere said her grandparents, Dick and Liz Valliere, of Cedar Rapids, raised her beginning when she was in eighth grade.
She graduated from Kennedy High School in 2009 and earned her bachelor’s degree in communications and public relations in 2013 from Mount Mercy University.
She joined KZIA in 2012 as an intern and maintains a blog on her Z102.9 profile page.
“I have been competing in beauty pageants since my junior year of high-school,” she writes on her profile page. “I started out with a national pageant system called National American Miss and worked my way up to the Miss Universe system.”
This year’s pageant featured 13 contestants.
“We had 13 really great girls,” Valliere said. “And those 13 girls were very competitive.”
Contestants are not required to have a platform, but Valliere said many are dedicated to some type of passion for helping others.
“One of the things I’m passionate about is children facing adversity,” she said, adding she serves as a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters and has been paired with a little sister the past three years.
“She’s in seventh grade now. I’ve been with her since she was in fourth grade,” Valliere said. “Hopefully, I can inspire her with my story.”
In addition to setting her sights on next year’s Miss USA pageant, Valliere said she has dreams to one day work in a large radio market, perhaps as a morning show host in a city like San Diego.
“I never thought I’d want to try a morning show or be a morning person, but I started waking up at 5 a.m. to work out for Miss Iowa, and it has opened up a whole new way.
“Now, I’m a morning person.”
For now, she’s excited to represent the state as Miss Iowa USA.
“I can’t want to make a difference in the community and statewide level and maybe nationally,” she said.