Well on her way to earning a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Washington State University, newly crowned Miss Idaho USA Kimberly Layne is no person’s idea of a stereotypical beauty queen — though she says the stereotypes themselves are problematic.

Born and raised in southern Idaho, Layne, 25, said her interest in medicine and a love for animals may have been hereditary.

“I’m from a rural community originally, and I grew up with all the animals around us,” Layne said. “My dad is from a farming family so he loved animals. Therefore, I loved animals and we always had animals. My dad was a medic in Vietnam, so I grew up being exposed to a lot of medicine concepts with him — I grew up with his anatomy textbooks and everything in our house.”

Layne said she was first introduced to beauty pageants in as a teenager through some friends who encouraged her to participate in Miss Idaho Teen USA — which she won. After taking home the crown, Layne said she did some modeling in nearby Boise and by the end of high school she was being scouted by modeling agencies in California and New York.

But she had bigger plans. Layne accepted a full-ride scholarship to Cornell University.

While she “dabbled in modeling” during that time, Layne said it quickly became apparent that she would have to choose between her studies and a career in modeling.

“It turns out that trying to get a graduate degree and trying to get into graduate school in the sciences — scheduling for that does not work well when you’re modeling,” Layne said. “For example, when I was 18 and I was in college, they were like, ‘can you come to Atlanta from Tuesday to Friday?’ and I’d say, ‘No, because I have a chemistry lab and I can’t miss that.’ ”

While she continues to receive offers from top modeling agencies, Layne said she is committed to finishing her doctorate.

Even though she has decided to emphasize her academic career over modeling and pageants, Layne said it is not a reflection of the competitions themselves. She said there are many misconceptions about pageants the organizations that support them.

While popular portrayals of pageants tend to depict the participants as vapid and clueless, Layne said this bears little resemblance to her experience. She said not only are these women beautiful and talented, many are also serious, sincere contributors to various humanitarian movements and to their respective professional fields.

During the Miss Idaho USA competition, she said even the environment behind the scenes was largely supportive. From her perspective, she said competitions are “a celebration of talented women who are … going to succeed in life and are going to make a difference in society.”

“Backstage, you would see all of us helping each other out — like fixing the hair and making sure that you don’t have lipstick on your teeth and keeping the girls’ morale up when they felt like they made a mistake on stage,” Layne said. “It was a very supportive environment, and I would just say that if you think that pageants have a negative connotation to them, I would just really disagree.”

Moving forward, Layne said she has numerous public events scheduled as Miss Idaho USA and will eventually compete in the national Miss USA pageant — though dates and locations have yet to be disclosed.

Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to sjackson@dnews.com.

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