10 Most Beautiful Women 2018 presented by Bharat Shah

Jennifer Miller, 33

Lives in: Republic, MO
Human Resource Manager, Family Medical Walk-In Clinic; Founder, Team A.N.A. 417
Charity: Team A.N.A. 417

The woman who receives the most online votes and brings the biggest crowd to Indulge will donate a portion of the event proceeds to her local charity of choice. The winner will be announced at Indulge on October 3.

What is your local 417-land charity of choice, and why is it important to you? 

Team A.N.A 417 is my 417-land charity of choice! This nonprofit holds such a special place in my heart because it has helped recreate my identity. When I had to have surgery at the age of 22 to remove a brain tumor, I felt an enormous amount of loss. Not only did I lose my balance, my hearing and my facial nerve functions on the right side of my body, I also felt as if I lost my identity. Waking up from surgery with my life forever changed, I was at a loss as to where to go from there. Together, Team A.N.A. 417 and this amazing community have created a whole new life for me and helped me to recreate myself into someone who is more grateful and driven than ever before, and for that I could not be more thankful. A.N.A. stands for Acoustic Neuroma Awareness. An Acoustic Neuroma (AN) is a benign brain tumor that sits on the eighth cranial nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brain and affects one’s hearing and balance nerves. There are over 120 types of brain and central nervous system tumors, and it is time to start talking about them! Our community needs to understand that although benign tumors aren’t considered life-threatening, that does not mean they aren’t life-changing. Team A.N.A. 417 is working hard to bring awareness and education into our local community, and I love being a part of an organization that helps define who I am. 

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations? If so, what are they, and what do you do?

I founded Team A.N.A. 417 and currently serve as the board of directors’ president. This local nonprofit organization serves acoustic neuroma patients and their families right here in southwest Missouri. I am beyond involved with this organization, as I know firsthand what it is like to be diagnosed and live with the aftermath of an acoustic neuroma. When I was working on the developmental stages of starting this nonprofit, writing the mission statement was extremely important to me. I wanted the mission statement to always stand as the foundation as to why I started Team A.N.A. 417, no matter how far our branches blossomed out. [The organization’s mission statement says,] “We strive to inspire patients and their families, educate communities and drive research to find answers for a rare brain tumor.” The mission statement stands for what my current role is in this organization: inspire, educate and drive further research initiatives. Take away the fancy titles, and I am just a woman who believes in the good of people and through her own personal experience wants to help others who are hurting physically, mentally and financially due to these life-changing tumors. I truly hope to help AN patients recreate their own identity through our organization. I am also southwest Missouri’s support group leader for the National Acoustic Neuroma Association. I coordinate and lead a support group meeting for the association two to four times a year. 

Communication is such an important piece of my life, and I cannot imagine losing hearing in my left ear as well—this would leave me completely deaf—so the thought of not knowing how to communicate to my family and friends really scares me. So instead of living scared with the “what ifs,” I have decided to do something about it. I am volunteering my time to work with a local, licensed American Sign Language (ASL) instructor to put on a 10–12 week course for Acoustic Neuroma patients and their families—or anyone who wants to learn—to learn the fundamentals of sign language.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

Their grit. No matter if it is a 3-year-old little girl who wants to wear her fancy Christmas dress to T-ball practice or if it is a 61-year-old woman who wants to run her first marathon but has numerous health problems. Grit is unique because it combines one’s passion, resilience, determination and focus to maintain discipline and optimism throughout the stages of discomfort, rejection and lack of progress. Women are amazingly beautiful in the sense that if someone tells them they can’t, they definitely will and will probably do it with 180 percent effort just to prove the inconsistencies in the theory itself. So, to me, that is real beauty; that is grit.

What has been your proudest moment? Or, what are you most proud of?

Becoming a mom! It definitely takes the win for what I am most proud of in my life. I have two little girls; Juliet is 3 years old and Ada is 6 months. Seriously though, I pass out on point with the sight of blood, so I am very proud of myself that I made it through those two deliveries!

What was one particularly defining or life-changing moment in your life?

When I woke up from a 9-hour surgery and the neurosurgeon asked me to smile. I tried to smile as big as I could only to realize that all facial functions had shot out on the right side of my face. Then remembering the doctors telling me before the surgery that if that happened there was nothing they could do to save it. Yeah, that changed my life.

Bharat Shah MD FACS

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman? Why?

My mom! I have always thought that and always will. When I was younger, I always envied her for her happy personality, contagious smile and her skill for multitasking. Now that I am grown, her beauty shines through in so many other ways. My mom was a school teacher and then stayed home to raise me and my four brothers. I praise any man or woman who stays home to raise their babies. That job is no joke, and there is never a clock out time. It is round-the-clock work; rain or shine, sick or not. Being a mom now myself, I can better understand my mom’s own sacrifices to raise good, honest kids, and that makes her even more beautiful to me. 

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Be nice to yourself. I always have and always will tell my little girls that. Life is going to come at you, and it is going to come at you hard. Some days harder than others. Through it all, don’t forget about what makes you, you. What you see in the mirror isn’t what makes you beautiful. Resilience, grit, faith and love are what make you beautiful.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

I am a huge healthy food advocate, and love to run, but I have a slight addiction to my La-Z-Boy chair, heating pad, pizza, craft beer and Live PD. Combine all of that into one day, and, well, that is pretty much perfect! 

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Family. I have been blessed beyond measures to have a big supportive family. All their grace and generosity inspires me each and every day. My father is a physician and an entrepreneur and has done amazing things in this community to bring in and provide affordable healthcare for nearly 22 years. His vision for innovative healthcare is and always has been inspiring to me. I love learning from him and talking to him about life. Every conversation I have with him leaves me with the feeling that I can change the world. Now I know that isn’t realistic, but I sure can try!

My husband is also a huge source of inspiration to me; he has taught me more about myself than I ever thought possible. He taught me the power of communication and taught me to make myself vulnerable if something is important to me. Without his guidance, I don’t know if I would have ever found such grace in what had happened to me at the age of 22. He has been my rock and inspires me every day. 

Where do you find beauty in 417-land?

The pavement. Sounds odd I know, but I am a big runner, and every day that I go out for a run, I look for new concrete being poured. Two reasons: new places to explore and more ground giving me the opportunity to cover it. God’s country and our local economy are truly gifts, and I am thankful for every day that I get to live in it.

What do you think is the biggest issue or challenge 417-land is facing right now, and how would you tackle it? 

A challenge that 417-land is facing right now is space. It’s a good thing because 417-land is growing, but it can also turn into a negative if we grow so big that the place so many of us call home turns into something different than it once was. New housing developments and commercial property are popping up on every corner monthly, if not weekly. I think we as a community, really need to push 417-land’s mission and keep it top of mind for those who currently live in 417 and for those who are moving into the area. We could create social media campaigns, hang signs around our community, print it in our publications, include it on our restaurant menus, wrap it on our police cars, etc. Get people excited! The biggest thing is creating awareness and then keeping it top of mind.

Fill in the blank: Friends would describe you as “The _____ One.” 


See the winners in the September issue!

Get to know our 10 Most Beautiful even better. Then, watch them walk the runway at 417 Magazine's Indulge on October 3 at Oasis Hotel and Convention Center.