Here she is…

Alumna Amelia Mugavero competes for Miss Illinois 2017


Photo provided by A. Mugavero

Pooja Krishna, Editor

Amelia Mugavero maneuvers her baton with a whip-like fluidity. She is a lion tamer and her baton is the ferocious beast she controls with elegance and poise. Her flips and spins cut through the fast-paced music that drapes the stage. The audience is mesmerized.

A baton twirler since the age of 4, Amelia, class of 2012, was the feature twirler at the University of Illinois before she graduated last December. Football fields were her stage and football fans were her audience until three years ago when she decided to try twirling on a new platform: a pageant stage.

Amelia’s mom, Angelia, had thought being the feature twirler for the Marching Illini, the band of U of I, would be the height of Amelia’s twirling career, but seeing her daughter twirl on the respected grounds of the Miss Illinois stage was “just so surreal.”

Photo provided by A. Mugavero

Amelia has been crowned Miss Central Illinois 2015, Miss Central Illinois 2017, Miss Springfield and 1st runner up to Miss Illinois 2016.

“I came so close that I really feel like I have a chance this year, God-willing,” Amelia said with unmistakable determination.

Pageant director Sherri Winters said pageantry is not for the faint of heart. The expectations of contestants range from keeping up-to-date on current events and honing professional interview skills to maintaining a fitness routine and spending hours practicing and perfecting their talents.

“I think my talent is honestly my strongest part of the competition because it’s where I really stand out. There’s never been another baton twirler for the past couple years in the pageant,” Amelia said. “It’s a lost art, but you see them on the football field and that’s where they gain their popularity.”

Performing on a football field differs vastly from performing on a competitive platform. Whereas there are hundreds of other band members accompanying her performance on the field, on a pageant stage she is the sole performer.

“On the field I try to push myself and bring to the table my hardest tricks,” she said. “However, [on the stage] I love the fact that I can be more theatrical for my pageant performances and that the audience can see my musicality up close and all the detail I put into my tricks.”

Mugavero twirled with the Marching Illini. Photo provided by A. Mugavero

Angelia said she has never had to “micromanage” her daughter to practice; Amelia’s self-motivation work ethic and “laser focus” are what fuels Amelia’s fire.

A former baton twirler herself, Angelia took up the sport again when she enrolled Amelia into classes at Calico Kids in Garland. Then together they competed in and won the 2002 Texas State Dance Twirl Pairs Championship.

“If it wasn’t for my mom, I would not be a twirler,” Amelia said. “My mom is the one who took me to each lesson, who worked with me in our backyard to perfect new tricks, who traveled with me to every competition, who held my hand when I tore my hamstring after a routine, and shared my joy when I got my first Gold Medal at a world competition and was selected as the Feature Twirler for the Marching Illini.”

Now, Amelia said she looks to the motto of the Marching Illini for inspiration: “Where it started. And never stops.”

“Whether that may be twirling, pageantry, or anything in between,” Amelia said, “You always have to start somewhere, but you can never stop learning, never stop trying, and never stop achieving.”