Corridor DJ Becomes Miss Iowa USA
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS 2/Fox 28) - Listeners of a local radio station have come to know Jenny Valliere on the afternoon drive. She's the DJ for Z102.9 Monday through Friday. She is also the new Miss Iowa USA. But success has not come easy for Jenny, and that is why she appreciates it that much more. Valliere has come a long way from her first time behind the mike, starting on the overnight shift only hours after graduating from Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. She says her late night audience was grateful for a friendly voice in the hours before dawn. “In the middle of the night, you do have loyal listeners. You never think about all the overnight people, like nurses, newspaper carriers who are up at two or three in the morning to start work."
Work is something Valliere knows a lot about. She started at 14, and by 18, was paying for her own health insurance. She says she had to grow up faster than others her age. "Growing up, I battled the effects of parental substance abuse. And as a result, in my 8th grade year, my grandparents took me under their wing to raise me. It was a devastating time in my life. But I had a mentor in my life who encouraged me to shoot for a higher education, to go after my dreams, and set goals for myself."
That mentor was her second cousin, Joanne who sponsored her first beauty pageant at 17. Valliere says, “I just got hooked. I was surrounded by these women who had aspirations and goals, and I thought this is something I want to do for myself, and I loved it! From then on, it was a roller coaster ride." Part of preparing for a pageant means practicing public speaking, something a winner must do, and something that's part of Jenny's job description. She says, “Being in front of people for Z102.9 has definitely helped me be in front of large crowds, especially in pageants, because it's something that I was forced into." Earlier this month, it all paid off. She remembers seconds before finding out she had won Miss Iowa USA, and then the victorious moment she was crowned.
Valliere instantly made history as one of the first Asian-American winners. She says, “It has boosted my self-confidence and really made me feel that I was able to do something with my life, and be successful, and have a job someday, and now I have a career that I love." Jenny will now represent Iowa through 2018. Next year, she'll compete for the title of Miss USA. If she wins, she will move on to the global competition for Miss Universe.