I am Nicole Elizabeth Rash, a 27-year-old model, actress, and spokesperson and the current Ms. America 2012. I am originally from the small town of Plymouth, Indiana, and was actually Miss Indiana 2007 and 1st runner-up to Miss America 2008, but I recently moved to St. Louis, Missouri with my fiancé and love of my life, Grant Cook. Besides pageants, I enjoy spending time with family, playing board games, singing karaoke, sewing, cooking, and playing with our family dog, a Jack Russell Terrier mix, Roscoe P. Coltrane. Some fun facts about me are that I have my motorcycle license and have owned 3 motorcycles, I grew up on a farm in rural Indiana where my family raises cows, and I was a Presidential Scholarship Winner and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Ball State University with a 3.89 GPA.
What’s your current profession?
As I mentioned, I am currently employed as a model, actress, and public spokesperson. For modeling and acting, I was previously represented by MSA Agency in Los Angeles and Urban Talent in Salt Lake City, but am currently self- represented and partnered with Images Agency in Saint Louis. I was also a corporate spokesperson through Gail & Rice for the past 2 years but relinquished my position to complete my bachelor’s degree.
Although I enjoy my work as a model, actress, and spokesperson, it is because of my positive experiences in pageants that I have decided to build a career as a public speaking coach and/or pageant consultant. I am especially grateful to pageants because they have truly transformed me from a shy, timid person to a more confident and dynamic speaker and performer, and I have continued competing in pageants due to the valuable life skills that I have learned and the service opportunities they have provided. By helping women be successful in pageants, I hope that they will be able to transform themselves as well and gain the skills necessary to be successful in all facets of their lives. I plan to fully launch my business, mentoring other women of all ages in the art of public speaking and competing in pageants, once I complete my year of service.
Do you have a website?
Yes, my personal website is: www.nicolerash.com and my personal facebook page is: www.facebook.com/nicolerash13
You can also follow me on twitter: @nicole_rash
The Ms. America website is www.msamericapageant.com and the facebook page for the pageant is: www.facebook.com/msamericapageant
You can also follow Ms. America on twitter: @MsAmerica
What are your top 3 achievements?
1. This may seem cliché, but after living in Los Angeles for several years, chasing my ‘dreams’ of becoming famous, and seeing how fame can seriously impact people in such a negative way, I consider my top achievement as deciding to move back to the mid-west, finding God and my purpose again, and realizing what is really important in life – God & faith, family & people who truly care for and about you, and having & fulfilling a purpose.
2. Finally graduating from a university, and with honors, considering my crazy path to get there, I am really proud of my bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Ball State University. It proved to myself, and everyone else, that I complete what I start, that education is truly important to me, and that attractive women, even those that compete in pageants, are intelligent too.
3. Of course, winning a pageant such as the Ms. America Pageant is a huge accomplishment that I am very proud of, but the best part of an achievement such as this, for me, is inspiring other people to better themselves and change their lives in a positive way. Whether it be a middle-aged women who decides to compete in a pageant for the first time or a 15-year-old boy who decides that he doesn’t have to smoke to be ‘cool,’ these are the real achievements that a crown and a title give a “beauty queen” and they’re what I’m most proud of when it comes to being a multiple pageant winner.
Tell us about your educational background?
My educational path has been an interesting one because I have had so many amazing ‘interruptions.’ First, I didn’t enter college straight out of high school, but instead decided to participate in a study abroad program called AFS (America Field Service) where I lived with a host family in Bolivia, South America for an entire year. I attended school in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, learned about the culture, became fluent in Spanish, and became a much more culturally diverse, independent, and worldly person.
Upon returning to the U.S., I enrolled at Ball State University and started my college career majoring in Theatre and Dance, with a minor in Spanish, but returned to South America my 2nd semester through a college-run study abroad program at UNIACC University in Santiago, Chile. After my experience in Chile, I took a job as a medical Spanish-English interpreter at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in my hometown and even traveled with doctors and nurses from the community to translate for a free clinic program in the city of Santiago de Capitiro in Mexico. When I returned to Ball State, I changed majors to Fashion Merchandising and Apparel Design due to my success in designing my evening gown for my first year competing in the Miss Indiana Pageant, a preliminary to the Miss America Pageant. Though I didn’t win that year, I went back the following year, as Miss Ball State, took the title, and went on to place 1st runner-up at Miss America (where I also designed my evening gown).
My success in the Miss America Pageant prompted me to move to Los Angeles, California where I attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM). However, after a couple of years in California, and a brief stint in Salt Lake City for a job opportunity, I decided to finish out with a degree in Spanish at Ball State University where I graduated on May 5th, 2012. So, although my educational path was an interesting one, I finished with honors, and I was able to finish debt-free because of the scholarships that I won through the Miss America Organization, another reason I am so grateful to pageants.
Tell us more about your family, with whom you are closest?
My entire family has always been very close, and thankfully we have great relationships with each other, something that I think is very important and that I value very much. My parents, after almost 30 years of marriage, have been great role models, not only in their relationship with each other but in their relationships with their own family & friends, through their hard work and dedication in building a good life for us, and the role they played in our growth and development. I only have one sibling, my sister Brittany who is 2 years my senior, and our parents have always been 110% supportive of everything we have ever wanted to do; we have been able to experience and accomplish a lot because of that love and support. We were also fortunate enough to have a very loving extended family including grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and “adopted” family members such as family friends and exchange students. I was closest with my sister growing up, and though she lives in Indianapolis and I live in St. Louis, we still find time to talk & support each other however we can, and I have enjoyed being a part of my niece and nephew, Lydia and Telly’s, lives.
Now, I am even more fortunate to add on to my amazing family with my upcoming marriage to my best friend and true soul mate, Grant Cook. Our two families already get along famously and have the most bizarre things in common, and ironically we only grew up 2 hours away from each other when we were younger and then lived minutes from each other when we both lived in Los Angeles. My life changed completely when I met Grant, and I can now truly attest to God’s love and plan for us and I look forward to becoming closer to his and my family through our marriage in September.
What kind of modeling/spokesperson projects have you done?
My modeling career started at 3-years-old when I appeared in a department store ad with my sister through a local agency in Mishawaka, Indiana called AAA Modeling Agency. Since then, I have been represented by modeling agencies such as Ford, Elite, MSA Agency, Urban Talent, Images Agency, and Supermodelos in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Salt Lake City, Saint Louis, and even South America. I have modeled in advertisements, magazines, commercials, and on runways and billboards for Kohl’s, Calvin Klein, Esprit, Pepsi, The Knot Magazine, Joico Hair Products, Gold’s Gym apparel, and more, traveling all over the United States and the world. I have also had many acting opportunities and was featured in two television shows in South America and even the 2011 Lionsgate feature film, “Warrior.”
Thanks to the public speaking skills that I learned through pageants, I first became a spokesperson for Porsche Cars North America through “Productions Plus” in California. I was a product specialist for the brand at auto shows and special events all throughout the United States, and even became a “Porsche Sport Certified Driver” through their driving school in Birmingham, Alabama. I later became a product specialist and spokesperson for Chrysler Group LLC through “Gail & Rice Inc” where I worked for 2 years as a model and spokesperson at auto shows in the U.S. and even Europe! For Chrysler, I would actually present 10-15 minute memorized speech on a specific vehicle to patrons a few times an hour, and I was able to help launch Chrysler’s new vehicle line-up and re-establish their place in the American automobile market.
What kind of philanthropic/fundraising work have you done?
Besides pageants and work, I am also an avid philanthropist and have advocated for many different causes and organizations including Children’s Miracle Network, United Way, Rotary, Elks, Kiwanis, the Indiana Society of Chicago, March of Dimes, and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, among others. I have done everything from volunteering my time, donating my own money, fundraising, creating programs, modeling for, and even traveling as an interpreter with doctors and nurses for free clinics in foreign countries. I am always willing to help bring attention to important causes and help make other’s lives better in any way that I can, and I have found that there truly is no wrong way to give to those in need.
What are your favorite platforms or which charitable organizations you admire most?
First, I have been a long-time advocate for cultural acceptance because of my fluency in Spanish and experiences living and traveling abroad. For this platform, I have spoken at many different schools and organizations about the importance of learning a foreign language & culture and keeping foreign language programs in schools. I have also praised study-abroad programs and their importance as a requirement in higher education, and I have even helped start a Latino Festival in my hometown, through the “Heart and Hands” organization, and hosted a “baby beauty contest” to get all ages involved.
I have also remained involved with “Children’s Miracle Network” since my time as Miss Indiana in 2007 (CMN is the national platform of the Miss America Organization), and have visited, volunteered, and helped raise money through fundraisers and radio-a-thons at CMN hospitals including Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis and the St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri. I even volunteered by working at a Dairy Queen on “Miracle Treat Day” and served pancakes for “IHOP” for their fundraising efforts with Children’s Miracle Network. From taking pledges over the phone to making spring crafts for children in the chemo ward, I will do anything to help brighten the day of the children and families who are struggling at these hospitals.
I am especially passionate about my current platform of service, “Breath Easy – Keeping our Youth Smoke and Tobacco Free,” as well. After losing 3 of my grandparents to smoking related illness, this cause is very close to my heart. So far, I have spoken to over 25,000 students through the “Right Decisions, Right Now” program in 2008, and I continue to find other platforms to impact children’s lives in a positive way. I have even created presentations to show to students, community members, business owners, and even lawmakers with the goal to get state- or nation-wide smoking bans implemented throughout the U.S.
Now, as Ms. America 2012, I also have the opportunity to work with the “Guard a Heart Organization” which stresses the importance of hearth health, and since smoking is a leading preventable cause of heart disease I’m happy to serve for this cause as well.
Do you have any interest in politics?
I have always been aware of politics and have been registered to vote since I was 18-years-old. I think it is an important part of being an American citizen, to voice your opinion by voting, and I believe that every vote counts. Most importantly for me, however, and something that my parents have taught me from a young age, is that you cannot simply choose someone as a candidate because of their gender, age, or especially their political party. Instead, you must make an educated decision by doing your research, reading up on the issues, and choosing the person you think will do the best possible job.
What’s your dream job?
My dream job has changed throughout the years depending on where I have been in my life and what I thought I wanted, but most recently my priorities have changed and my idea of a “dream job” has radically shifted. Now, instead of fame or riches I dream of love and family, and I feel like this is a sign of maturity and realization of what is really important in life. I am looking forward to being married and starting a family, and I truly do want to help other women gain the valuable life skills that I have gained through public speaking and pageants. So, my dream job would include being a great wife, an excellent mother, and truly helping others realize their dreams through coaching and mentoring.
Who is your favorite role model?
I have many role models, but those I admire most are closest to me and have been there for me no matter what. A role model isn’t necessarily famous, rich, or well-known, but is someone who has the faith, integrity, and willingness to help those in need in any way that they can. If we had more “everyday heroes” like my parents, my fiancé, my future in-laws, my sister, my grandparents, and some of my other friends and family members that are involved in their communities, go out of their way to help a neighbor, treat others with respect, treat their surroundings and environment with respect, live within their means, work hard, have faith, and have the honor, courage, and dignity to do what’s actually right rather than what’s right for just themselves, then the world would truly be a better place.
Ten years from now where do you see yourself?
In ten years, I see myself loving life with my husband, children, and family. I hope to continue to learn and grow as a person, pursue my passions and discover new ones, and raise our children to be good, respectful, contributing members of society. I want to grow my business and continue to help others become better people as well and hope to truly make a difference in the lives of others through my faith and life.
Favorite Book (s):
“Soul Cravings,” “The Secret,” “Everything You Need to Know, You Learned in Kindergarten”
Favorite Musician (s):
Grant Cook (my fiancé), Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Al Green, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Lauren Hill, Sheryl Crow, Carrie Underwood, Jewel, Rihanna …
(I love and have a passion for music, so it’s impossible for me to list them all, but this is a good start anyway)
Favorite Movie (s):
Anything Disney, comedic, or action-packed! I really dislike scary movies.
Favorite Actor (s):
Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Julie Andrews, Julia Roberts, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Johnny Depp
Favorite Sport (s):
I’m not a huge sports fan myself, but I enjoyed playing volleyball and running track in high school and I like watching the Olympics whenever they’re on.
Favorite Athlete (s):
Peyton Manning, Venus & Sirena Williams, Olympians
Favorite TV Show (s):
“House,” “American Idol,” and, shamelessly, “Ice loves Coco,” and “Khloe & Lamar”
Favorite Place (s):
My parent’s house (there’s no place like home), Half Moon Bay, California (where Grant and I got engaged), and I love the city of Chicago.
Favorite Website (s):
I am admittedly a facebook-a-holic, I love finding things on pinterest, and I’m constantly listening to music on Pandora.
Favorite Restaurant (s):
I love food, but my favorites are probably sushi, Italian, and anything my mom or sister makes. Some favorite restaurants are: Sunda – Chicago, IL; Nick & Sam’s – Dallas, TX; Café Napoli – St. Louis, MO; Coalvines – Dallas, TX; Niche – St. Charles, IL; Hana Yori – South Bend, IN
Do you have any pets?
I grew up with all kinds of pets and I absolutely love animals. Growing up we had everything from hamsters, rabbits, and fish, to cats, dogs, and eventually cows and horses. Now, we have one family pet that lives with my parents. He’s a 2- year-old Jack Russell & Rat Terrier mix named Roscoe P. Coltrane and I think he’s the best dog on the planet (I might be biased). My fiancé, Grant, and I have talked about getting a little dog of our own, to name Boo Radley, but we’re probably going to wait until after we get married.