Bonnie Bing

Miss Kansas ready as big pageant nears

Becki Ronen will soon be packing her bags and heading to Las Vegas to blow her horn. Becki is our stunning current Miss Kansas who is leaving her home in Hutchinson Jan. 21 for the Miss America pageant.

"I'm ready. I wish I could leave today," she said.

And she feels confident that she'll be ready for the talent portion when she performs "Stars in a Velvety Sky," her trumpet solo.

Yes, trumpet.

"I was very shy when I was a little girl. I tried all instruments. Then my friend told me to try playing her trumpet. I picked it up and basically have never put it down. That was in the fifth grade," she said.

She said she was such a quiet child she wanted to learn to play a loud instrument. As she was growing up (8 inches in one school year!) she learned and played so well she earned many No. 1 ratings at music festivals. She has played in Europe including at the L'Oratoire Du Louvre Cathedral in Paris and St. Anne's Cathedral in London.

The 21-year-old brunette is the first Miss America contestant to play the trumpet in the talent portion in 26 years.

Her parents, Mike and Lisa Ronen, and her only sibling, a sister, Mandy, also are musical.

When she won the Miss Kansas title in June, she was attending Kansas State University on music, academic and leadership scholarships.

"I have taken the year off because the duties of Miss Kansas are a full-time job. I've driven about 15,000 miles all over the state," she said.

And she says her travels have taught her a lot.

'There is still a strong stereotype with the Miss Kansas title. Once I got the job, I learned a lot about myself. I wanted to embrace the job and I started learning about everyone else. It's about giving, giving and giving some more," she said. "I'm not complaining, but I haven't seen my K-State friends for four months."

It didn't take her long to learn she can't skip working out five times a week and she can't let practicing her trumpet slide.

"Even a few days not playing I can really tell a difference. These are muscles that have to stay in shape too," she said, putting her hands on her jaw muscles.

But it's those other muscles that will be on display in the swimuit competition.

"I get asked about that part of the competition quite a bit, but I live a healthy lifestyle, I work out, eat good food and take care of myself, so I just think that's what I'm showing people."

For a super-trim 5-foot-10-inch contestant with great legs, the black two-piece bathing suit won't be a problem.

All contestants choose two suits from the Miss America Pageant selection of suits, which has one- and two-piece suits to choose from.

Becki sent her measurements and two preferences of swimsuits. "You don't get to try them on, so I hope it fits and looks all right. Both of the ones I chose are two-piece," she said.

I couldn't get a word out of her about her evening gown. "It's a secret. It was designed just for me by Lenz Boutique in Frisco, Texas."

Color? "Can't tell. I told them that I wanted something very classic with a little twist, sophisticated. And they did sketches for me to look at, and got it exactly right. It's beautiful," she said.

She graduated from Buhler High School and is determined to graduate from K-State regardless of what her pageant future holds.

"If I win Miss America, I'll have the money to get a master's and even a doctorate degree," she said.

She says her ideal job someday would be to play in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the New York Philhamonic.

"But more realistically, I would be happy teaching at the college level and performing," she said.

And before you guys in Readerland start calling me to get her number, take note that she has a significant other she has known since they attended rival high schools. He graduated from West Point, is a second lieutenant in the Army and has a degree in international law and business.

"He's definitely in my future," she said, grinning.

Cheer for Miss Kansas, Becki Ronen, while you watch the Miss America pageant (7 p.m. Jan. 30 on TLC).