It’s finally time to announce the winners of this year’s 10 Most Beautiful Women competition. It’s been an inspiring journey. Editors narrowed down the 20 finalists from 60 entries we received last spring. From there, our readers voted for the 10 winners. We’ve heard their stories of success and determination and been inspired by their goodwill and loving nature. We’re thrilled to now share their stories with you. Each of these 10 women is truly beautiful inside and out, but what shines through the most is the charitable work they have all accumulated. And that’s what this competition is all about—finding 10 women who emulate beauty in their lives and who strive to spread their passion and goodwill in hopes of making 417-land an even better place to live.
Each woman has selected a charity of her choice, and the woman who received the most online votes will have a portion of the ticket sales from 417 Magazine’s Indulge event go to that charity. The winner is announced at Indulge, where you can also see these 10 women strut their stuff on the runway.
Written by: Ettie Berneking | Photos by: Christian Gideon | Styled by: Harem & Company
As the resource development director of Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation, Alice Wingo is a professional fundraiser. OACAC has seven programs that help provide financial assistance along with education and training to families in need, and each of those programs needs promotional materials, donors and a social media platform. Alice is the go-to person for all of that. “Our goal at OACAC is to work with the entire community to help families become economically self-sufficient,” Alice says. Even outside the office, Alice and her husband, Ron, continue this mission, offering work to those who need a helping hand, pointing others in the direction of financial assistance and even volunteering as Mr. and Mrs. Claus in the Fair Grove Christmas parade. “I was raised in a family that taught me to always give back,” Alice says. “We’ve found that when we reach out to others, it can solve so many issues in our own lives.” Alice’s philanthropic work began with the Rainbow Network, where she headed to and from Nicaragua to work with families living in extreme poverty. “During my tenure, the organization helped about 40,000 people,” Alice says. “Over the years we got to know some of the families we were working with, and Ron and I got to know one man in particular. He was an older high school student that we started sponsoring to help fund his education. We’ve maintained contact with him, and now he’s an attorney. We were really pleased to share in that journey.” Through her work both overseas and in 417-land, Alice has continued to lend a helping hand, remembering that compassion and generosity are what make someone beautiful.
Dressed by Harem & Company | Shot at Landers Theatre
As the Executive Director of the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks (BCFO), Crystal Webster’s definition of beauty has widened beyond the traditional textbook definition. Every day, Crystal works with women struggling to beat breast cancer. She’s seen women young and old (her own sister was diagnosed with cancer at just 29) seek financial assistance from BCFO, which helps cover everyday expenses of life so women can focus on survival. As a result, Crystal, more than most, appreciates her own healthy body and knows how giving back to the community and leading a healthy lifestyle can blend to create a beauty inside and out.
“As we grow older, our views on beauty tend to mature,” she says. “It becomes less about hairstyles and makeup and more about a positive attitude and living a connected and engaged life.” Crystal herself made a bold leap several years ago after deciding that her decade-long career in restaurant management wasn’t rewarding enough. In 2006, she went back to school and got a masters degree in health care administration. “I wanted to do something more significant that would help people,” Webster says. “BCFO has been a logical extension of my goal to contribute to improving our community.”
One of the biggest accomplishments on Crystal’s list is expanding BCFO’s mammography program. In 2007 there were just two mammography contracts, both in Springfield. Now there are 13 facilities around 417-land that offer free mammograms through BCFO.
Dressed by Harem & Company | Shot at J.O.B. Public House
Growing up, it wasn’t Cinderella or any other Disney princess Stephanie Woodall idolized. It was her grandmother—her nearly deaf, kind-hearted grandmother “She was always a giving person,” Stephanie says. She taught Stephanie that beauty was being kind and giving to others, and today, Stephanie teaches her own son and daughter the same definition. A stay-at-home mom, Stephanie is constantly running around helping with the needs of Major Don’s Army, an organization that provides all-expenses-paid weekend trips to Branson to families dealing with life-threatening illness or cancer. Stephanie packs up her two kids and heads to the store to buy groceries the families will need during their stay. “The kids each get a cart, and they get a sense of the importance of charity work,” she says. On top of the three to seven hours a week Stephanie volunteers for Major Don’s Army, she and her husband Chip, a cancer surgeon at Cox Hospital, started the Colo-Rectal Awareness Program (CRAP) four years ago to help raise money to pay for colonoscopies for those who can’t afford them.
Dressed by Harem & Company | Shot on Campbell Ave. & Walnut Street
Looking over Crystal Reynolds’ lengthy resume of charitable work, you’ll see everything from raising funds for Alzheimer’s disease to serving as president of Friends of Abilities First. It all began with her first job, where she was able to attend several charity events. “I saw all these people who were donating their time, and I wanted to be more like them,” she says. “I thought, ‘What better way to become a better person than this?’” Since then, she’s served as a board member of Abilities First and served three years on The Network Leadership Council, and now she’s a member of The Network and active in the Springfield Chamber of Commerce. She volunteers for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Taste of the Ozarks, the MDA, Rock’n Ribs and several more organizations.“Helping others has always been a desire of mine,” Crystal says. It’s a desire she’s passing on to her own daughter, Libby. “I try to lead by example,” Crystal says. “I tell her every day that she’s beautiful and that she’s my favorite person,” Crystal says. “What I really want her to know is that she can do anything.”
Dressed by Harem & Company | Shot at Coffee Ethic
With grandparents and parents immersed in mission work, Kara Edson grew up in some of the poorest regions of the world. At age 9, she was sitting alongside her dad as he helped heroin addicts in Pakistan. She moved from city to city, stopping along the way in Asia and Europe. Living all over the world gave Kara an idea of beauty far removed from other kids her age. “Beauty couldn’t be about brand names or what you wore or what you looked like,” she says. “People just loved each other for who they were on the inside.”
After graduating from high school in Spain, Kara returned to Pakistan for an internship at a drug rehab center. “It was the craziest, best experience of my life,” she says. “These women all came from poor families, and their addiction was the result of inhaling smoke as their husbands overdosed on the drugs. Hearing their stories and watching their recovery and their trials really cemented in my heart that these are the people I wanted to work with my entire life.”
Working with Convoy of Hope was a natural fit for Kara. Not long after starting in administrative work, she graduated to managing international programs. Today she’s the director of Women’s Empowerment, a program she helped start in which she and the staff work with women truly in need—the poorest women in Ethiopia—to provide them with skills to open their own businesses. “Growing up around people who don’t have a lot, you learn to treasure the less tangible things,” Kara says. “Love and goodness, people who show those kinds of loyalty, that’s beauty.”
Dressed by Harem & Company | Shot at Studio 417 Salon
As one of 10 siblings coming from a broken home, Sara Forhetz wasn’t concerned with beauty much as a child. Instead, she dreamt of stability and a solid marriage. “I love my parents very much, I just didn’t want the same relationship they had,” she says.
Years later, Sara found herself starting at KY3 and building a successful career, meeting and marrying her fellow news anchor, Ethan, starting a burgeoning family and anchoring herself in a lot of charity work.
Naturally, this has demanded an incredible work ethic from Sara, and looking back, she credits her mom for her determination and her sisters for her drive. “All of my sisters, and there are six of them, really helped me,” she says. “Most of them are older than me, and I relied on their strength a lot.”
Through KY3, Sara has been able to get involved with several charitable organizations, including the Delmina Woods Youth Facility that helps troubled youth. “Having some of the experiences I had during my childhood, I connected with them,” she says. “A lot of them come from really challenging childhoods, and I wanted to let them know this doesn’t have to be their destiny.” Sara has also emceed fundraisers for her charity of choice, Cherish Kids. “They help with foster care and adoption,” she says. “Sometimes these kids don’t have a stable home... It’s such a worthy cause.”
Car courtesy of Nelson Knapff | Shot in front of Demi Creative on Market Avenue
Cristal Dawn Hedrick and her best friend, Michelle O’Day, have always been close, so it was no surprise that Cristal jumped in to help when Michelle’s daughter Shaylee was diagnosed with autism. “When Shaylee was diagnosed, her mother and I researched foundations for autism,” Cristal says. “Generation Rescue was the only foundation we found where we knew the majority of money raised was given directly to the families of children with autism.”
Among the five fundraisers Cristal organizes for Generation Rescue and all the traveling she does to meet other families with autistic children, Cristal’s volunteering has become a full time job, but she has no desire to quit any time soon. In fact, she and her husband even started Rock the Spectrum, a fundraising event that benefits Generation Rescue, and she actively works with her own two children, neither of whom has autism, to instill a desire to help others and to accept people’s physical and mental differences as gifts rather than obstacles. “I think that the most beautiful people are actually autistic,” Cristal says. “It doesn’t matter what you or I think about them. On the inside, they are the happiest people in the world. Seeing their struggles and their achievements has helped me define beauty. You see what they go through in a day, and they still have amazing personalities and a smile on their face.”
Dressed by Harem & Company | Shot at Rogers & Baldwin
Growing up in the shadow of her dad, Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers, young McKenna Medley was singing by the time she was 5, and she quickly became aware of the physical nature of beauty. From the time she was young, she has struggled with her weight. “You go to an audition and they say, ‘You’re great, but you need to lose weight,’” says McKenna.
After transplanting to Branson to perform with her dad, McKenna soon fell into a hectic work schedule that helped her drop extra weight, and after several years of performing on the road, McKenna learned a few tricks about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To share her knowledge and document her diet, she started the blog arighteousfit.blogspot.com.
Still hitting the road with her dad, who is now 73, McKenna has settled into her role as performer, writer and singer. She’s also dropped 80 pounds and is now happy to have her shapely curves. “As a little girl, I wanted to dress and look like the Spice Girls and No Doubt,” she says. “But now I don’t want to be like anyone else. I just want to be what I am. I think that’s more beautiful than imitating something else.”
Dressed by Harem & Company | Shot at Ophelia’s
Dawn Davis is more than a police officer. She’s a sergeant in the military, a mom of four and a tireless volunteer for CASA, where she serves as a child advocate for abused children. For years, Dawn was a single mother struggling to put herself through school, but now, she is one of just 21 female police officers (and 316 total officers) in Springfield. On every journey in her life, Dawn has always considered the glass half full, and that’s the beauty in her. She’s an optimist, and in a line of work where you see the absolute worst in people, that says a lot.
Dawn got connected with CASA in 2009. As a police officer, she had seen the results of child abuse too many times. After seeing case after case of child abuse, Dawn decided to play a more active role in ending the cycle of abuse. “In my job, I never see the end results,” she says. “I see all the bad stuff and all this trauma. I wanted to be a part of something good.”
Now Dawn devotes 20 to 30 hours a month to CASA as she goes to home visits and meets with the child, the child’s day care, doctors and parents before recommending to a judge whether or not the child should be reunited with his or her parents or if termination and adoption is best. Being able to help a child in need is the beautiful part of Dawn’s work. It’s her glass half full.
“This isn’t one of those jobs where you dress up or put makeup on,” Dawn says. “It’s very hard to be in touch with any sort of femininity in myself, especially being in a male-oriented world. Beauty to me is focusing on the things you do have and being your own kind of beautiful.”
Dressed by Harem & Company | Shot on McDaniel St. & Market Ave.
It was Kristen Bergman’s grandmother who first got Kristen connected with her charity of choice, Least of These. The older role model helped support the charity when it first began, and when she passed away three years ago, she had everyone donate to the charity in lieu of flowers. “This was her last wish, and I wanted to be able to keep that going in my family,” Kristen says. Fortunately for Kristen, working at Midwest Radio has allowed her to take on as many charitable roles and fundraisers as she can handle. Last Christmas she received a wish list from one family in need and had listeners donate the funds to purchase the gifts. Bringing along her coworkers, Kristen drove to meet the family and deliver the gifts. “The house was in the middle of nowhere and didn’t even have a floor or heat,” Kristen says. “This woman was raising her family and literally had nothing. She was the most grateful woman I’ve ever met. The things they asked for were shampoo, toothbrushes and a space heater. It was heartbreaking.” A few weeks later, Kristen received a thank you letter and a photo of the family inside. “That really stuck with me,” Kristen says.
Carrying her grandmother’s passion for charitable work, Kristen is now passing it on to her daughter and teaching her that beauty comes from within. “I describe beauty by the people who have influenced my life—my cousins and girlfriends and grandmother and mom,” Kristen says. This is what Kristen hopes her daughter is learning, that pretty is as pretty does. “She knows that saying,” says Kristen of her daughter. “If she’s doing something wrong, I just say ‘pretty is...’ and she’ll finish the saying.”
Dressed by Harem & Company | Shot at College Station Parking Garage