It’s finally time to announce the winners of this year’s 10 Most Beautiful Women competition. It all started last spring when the glowing nominations rolled in from 417-landers suggesting their wives, sisters, friends and moms for the honor. The 417 Magazine staff narrowed the playing field to the top 20 finalists. Their Q&As were posted on 417mag.com, so readers could get to know them and vote for their favorites.
Now we’re so excited to introduce you to the 10 winners—every single one of them gorgeous both inside and out thanks to their giving natures, goodwill, inspiring personalities or community involvement. Each woman has selected a charity of her choice, and the woman who received the most votes during the online voting process will have a portion of the ticket sales from 417 Magazine’s Indulge: An Evening for Women donated to that charity. The winner is announced at Indulge, where you will also get the chance to see these 10 gorgeous women strut their stuff on the runway. Now turn the page to meet this year’s 10 Most Beautiful Women.
Fall fashions provided by: Harem & Company
Hair and makeup by: 417 Blow Dry Bar
Shot on location at: Historic Firehouse no. 2
Styled by: Kaye Lee
Produced by: Jessica Kennon Spencer
Faculty in the Department of Counseling, Leadership, and Special Education, Missouri State University
Charity: Ozarks Counseling Center
Always the student, Marci Dowdy considers her classroom at Missouri State University to be an admirable open forum. There, she works alongside her counseling students as she engages them with lessons from her career as a professional school counselor.
“I consider myself to be a servant leader to my students,” Marci says. “Rather than just giving advice or telling someone how to do something, I think it’s best to lead by example, and I do my best to show my students how to be involved in their community and their schools.”
Marci leads the way by making positive contributions to her community and profession. For six years, Marci has been a member of the board of directors for Ozarks Counseling Center and has been involved with a variety of professional counseling associations. But her top priority is clear. “Mental, physical and spiritual health, they sort of all work together,” Marci says. “You have to make yourself a priority. That’s something I teach in my classes: Whatever you need to do to take care of yourself, do it, so you have a richer and fuller cup to share with others.”
Executive Director of HealthCare Services at Oxford HealthCare
Charity: Junior League of Springfield
Shallina Goodnight is driven. It’s a quality she learned at an early age from her parents, who encouraged her to dream bigger and reach higher every day.
“I never grew up thinking of limits,” Shallina says. “[My parents] would always say, ‘You’re pretty on the outside, but that’s not what makes you special. What makes you beautiful is your heart, brain and your ability to dream.’”
Shallina hopes to foster that mindset in her leadership team at Oxford HealthCare. As executive director, she oversees the nonprofit and its 300 employees, who serve 3,000 of the community’s most vulnerable citizens. And when she’s not in her office or spending time with her husband, Marty, and their kids, she volunteers as a board member for The Hamels Foundation and Don’t Meth With Us and is a member of the Southeast Rotary Club and Junior League of Springfield.
“It’s so important to create a world that I want my children to grow up in,” she says. “I can’t really expect other people to do that, but if every one of us does something, we can have a really big impact and create a better world together.”
Council director of Girls on the Run of Southwest Missouri
Charity: Girls on the Run of Southwest Missouri
Trish Hopkins has always been an athlete. She ran track and briefly was a certified personal trainer, staying fit because she thought it was the right thing to do. Then she thought that volunteering was the right thing to do, too, so in 2008, she started a local branch of the national Girls on the Run organization.
“I was initially attracted to Girls on the Run because of the running aspect,” says Trish. “I was so excited to teach these girls about fitness. But then I learned about the organization’s message for girls, and I started crying because the lessons about learning to love yourself were lessons I needed to hear, myself.”
As director of the Southwest Missouri council, Trish uses her years of quiet self-doubt, depression and her ability to overcome it all as an empowering example for local girls. “We talk to the girls a lot about balance. We want them to be very emotionally healthy as well as physically. In that way, my definition of beauty is being true to you and being okay with yourself. If I can teach that life-changing lesson to other girls, then I’m becoming better, too.”
First grade teacher at Mathews Elementary School
Charity: Care to Learn
Every morning at Mathews Elementary School, Katie Hoesch greets each of her 22 first graders with a smile. Her eyes sparkle as she promptly begins her morning lesson, laughing with her students as she teaches math, English and reading. But she loves teaching one subject in particular: compassion.
“Each year, the kids and I find a local cause that needs attention,” Katie says. “I make sure that it’s a cause that the students relate to, and we try to hit compassion around Christmas and maintain it throughout the year.”
One year Katie’s classroom raised money for a student whose brother had passed away from cancer. Another year her class donated supplies for a local animal shelter. Last year, her students raised money for the kindergartners down the hall who couldn’t afford to purchase milk at snack time. “It’s so important for the students to learn compassion, but it’s also a good way for my students who do get assistance to understand that it’s okay; we all need help sometimes.”
Her philosophy of patience and persistence guides her in and out of the classroom while raising her three children: Henry, who attends Mathews Elementary, and Campbell and Caroline who will eventually attend as well. Katie can’t wait.
Family advocate at the Arc of the Ozarks
Charity: Dynamic Strides
When Elizabeth Obrey talks about her five children, she glows with pride. She’s so proud of everything Nicole, 21; Brooke, 19; Samantha, 14; Nathan, 12; and Chase, 9, have accomplished so far in their lives. And Nicole, Nathan and Chase have faced more than most.
“Nicole was a fighter,” Elizabeth says. “She was diagnosed with classic autism and didn’t speak well until her fifth birthday. Chase is high-functioning now with his autism diagnosis, but he didn’t start out that way. It took a lot of intense therapy, and he also has a form of epilepsy. Nathan is considered nonverbal, and he has a lot of other diagnoses that inhibit him. But I’m teaching him how to type, so he can communicate through technology. We haven’t given up on him.”
Elizabeth hasn’t given up on her family or other families struggling with a disability. She uses her unique experience of raising three children with autism to inspire others at the Arc of the Ozarks and online with her blog, The Bailiwick Project. “I really want to give hope to families, to show them that families with disabilities still have lives,” she says. “The glowing smiles in our family pictures are the same as theirs.”
Stay-at-home mom and professional volunteer
Charity: Landan’s LegOcy
Vivacious, genuine and friendly are the three adjectives Jennifer Corbett uses to describe herself, but it’s obvious that she embodies one title: Super Mom. “I am most proud of decorating our entire house in Christmas lights while being very, very pregnant,” Jennifer says. “I climbed my 32-weeks-pregnant self up on that roof and strung 10 strands of white twinkle lights. I had that baby right after Christmas.”
Jennifer spreads cheer year-round by donating her time to St. Agnes Cathedral School and serving on the board for a nonprofit close to her heart, Landan’s LegOcy. The charity was created in honor of her son James’s friend, Landan Bland, who was diagnosed at 3 with a brain tumor and died before his fourth birthday. “This charity directly impacts the families battling cancer together, which makes a big difference,” Jennifer says. “Landan’s family showed me that the most important lesson I can teach my two kids is to never give up.”
Jennifer’s infectious optimism sparkles with her constant smile. “My friends certainly make my life beautiful,” she says. “And I do my best to be kind and respectful to everyone I meet. Hopefully my children will do the same.”
Regional recruiting manager at Wyndham Vacation Ownership
Charity: H.O.P.E. Foundation
Heidi Bleil’s job is to find people bursting with potential and give them the tools to succeed at Wyndham Vacation Ownership. From interview to promotion, Heidi encourages her employees at the Branson branch.
“I get to watch them grow, succeed and be fulfilled in their jobs, while I also get to give back to Wyndham by growing their charitable donations locally,” Heidi says. “We were one of the top in our company for fundraising and volunteer hours last year, and that’s something that makes me very proud.”
Last year, Heidi spearheaded volunteering and charitable donations, hosting the Christel House Open to benefit the international Christel House organization. The event raised $36,000 to benefit schools in impoverished areas, like the school she visited in Mexico City in 2012. The trip changed her life and led her to want to give back more to other charities, including the H.O.P.E. (Helping Overcome Pediatric Emergencies) Foundation.
“It’s my second family, the H.O.P.E. Foundation,” she says. “And between the two, I just try to raise as much money as I can. I just have to remember to smile more; I get too serious sometimes.”
Co-founder and administrative coordinator of Jesus Was Homeless and serve leader at Gateway Branson Church
Charity: Jesus Was Homeless
In 2008, Amy Stallings and her husband, Bryan, felt a little too complacent and a little too comfortable. They wanted to do something to give back to their community, so the couple made Thanksgiving dinner for 50 working poor individuals in Branson.
“We both worked full-time jobs, and after that first Thanksgiving, we started making 50 sack lunches on Thursdays,” says Amy. “We’d come home after work, make the lunches and deliver them to area motels, and it just kept growing by word of mouth. Now, we prepare more than 1,300 meals a week for people.”
In addition to making hundreds of sack lunches on Thursdays, Amy encourages more than 130 volunteers every week to prepare, bag and deliver meals to the working poor. But Amy feeds more than their bodies. Jesus Was Homeless now features programs that provide job and life skills and free health care services four times a year, and the organization works alongside people as they overcome overwhelming challenges.
“I believe in people,” she says. “To me, that means seeing them for who God created them to be, that they’re a valued, beautiful creation. But we don’t preach; we don’t push our beliefs on people. We just pass out a meal and love people. That alone changes lives.”
Fifth-grade teacher at Disney Elementary, co-owner and educational consultant for Impact Educational Services, Club Z! In-Home Tutoring Services of Springfield, co-owner and educational consultant for The Impact Center for Enrichment
Charity: Care to Learn
Leisha Baker hopes to inspire her fifth-graders at Disney Elementary School to believe in themselves. Two years ago, Leisha was faced with the same choice: hide who she was, or embrace a diagnosis that would change her appearance forever. “Losing my hair to alopecia was devastating,” Leisha says. “I was horrified and ashamed of my appearance, and my teaching and business always focused on the student, not me. I truly had to come to terms with the fact that my hair does not define who I am as a person.”
Alopecia universalis is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to reject hair and can inhibit future growth. Instead of hiding its impact with wigs, Leisha wears hats and uses her diagnosis as an opportunity to teach the lesson of overcoming adversity.
“I always tell my students that we don’t get to choose our challenges, but we get to choose how we respond to them,” Leisha says. “Every child is important and has amazing potential, and I want them to know that I believe in them and for them to believe in themselves.”
Co-owner of Springfield Macadoodles and ORECK Clean Home Store
Charity: GYN Cancers Alliance of Springfield
For nine years, Kim Lorenzen worked as a single mom in Springfield, doing it all while raising her daughter, Haley. She eventually left her 60-hour-a-week thriving career in social work to be the best role model she could be for her daughter. Now, she says her past has made her more empathetic and understanding of the many single moms she employs at Macadoodles and ORECK Clean Home Store.“The only thing that got me through that was a lot of prayer,” Kim says. “But my experiences help me to understand what my employees are dealing with and what challenges they’re facing.”
Kim hopes to be a mentor for her employees, in the same way one of Kim’s best friends, Cyndi Sullivan, was for her. Kim met Cyndi after she had left the social working world behind and watched as Cyndi mentored women who were struggling to overcome gynecological cancers both physically and financially. After Cyndi died of cancer three years ago, her legacy was honored with a new annual fundraiser. In May, Kim organized the third annual Cyndi Sullivan Memorial Golf Tournament, which has raised more than $250,000 in three years. All of the tournament’s proceeds meet the needs of local women struggling with cancer. Helping to carry on her friend’s work is something Kim is incredibly proud of.