Local teen wins state pageant title

November 4, 2016

Growing up, Vanessa Matheson would spend her free time outdoors, hiking, camping and fishing. She was far from the stereotypical “girly girl” and had no desire to wear dresses or experiment with make-up.

When her older sister began competing in beauty pageants her junior year of high school, she encouraged Vanessa to do the same thing, but she was hesitant. Matheson couldn’t see herself on stage and the process of being a beauty queen was all too daunting.

Years later, as a freshman at Henley High School, Matheson competed in her first pageant and “fell in love.” She won the title of Miss Klamath County’s Outstanding Teen. Since then, she hasn’t stopped.

On Oct. 16 in Portland, Matheson was crowned Miss Oregon Teen USA 2017. Although she has competed in eight regional pageants, Miss Oregon Teen is her first state title and one she intends to make the most of.

“There are so many opportunities I am looking forward to this year,” she says. “It’s so surreal, it feels like a dream.”

Focus on service

Now a freshman at the University of Oregon, Matheson says she hopes to make as many appearances as possible this year as Miss Oregon Teen, helping out at different organizational events.

Through her college sorority, Delta Delta Delta, Matheson wants to use her new title as a platform to raise money for a charity the sorority actively supports, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

During high school, Matheson made the most of the opportunities offered to her. She took classes through the Oregon Institute of Technology, tallying up 35 college credits before her first semester of college. She plans to continue competing in pageants with the hope of winning more scholarships to help with her college expenses.

Although Matheson has yet to declare her major, she says she wants to go into medicine because “she loves science and helping people.”

She spent much of her free time in high school volunteering with the Start Making A Reader Today program at Henley Elementary School, helping children with reading difficulties. She also traveled internationally to Trinidad and Tobago in 2015 and Macedonia earlier this year with Klamath Basin Youth Without Borders to help build homes with Habitat for Humanity.

Matheson is hesitant to make a firm decision about her future career at this stage in her education, however she says she is considering nursing and eventually wants to work for the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders.

Out of the spotlight

Away from the stage and the spotlight, Matheson enjoys keeping active, something instilled in her at a young age when she started playing tennis. Throughout high school she was a two-sport varsity athlete, becoming state champion in 2015 after winning a doubles tennis tournament. That same drive led Matheson to try out for the University of Oregon club team. She was one of two freshman girls to be accepted.

Following in the footsteps of her older sister, Stephanie, Matheson will compete nationally in the Miss Teen USA pageant next summer. She hopes to receive more scholarships to complete her education and spend time volunteering with community projects, such as helping Klamath Basin Youth Without Borders fundraise for their Spring Break trip to Thailand.

Matheson has become somewhat of a celebrity at college in Eugene and says people are starting to recognize her as Miss Oregon Teen.

“It’s a bit overwhelming when students I’ve never met come up to me,” she says. “But, it’s definitely a fun conversation starter.”