Katie at home with Dexter
Katie at home with Dexter

Archived Story

Katie ‘open-minded’ about trying new things

Published 10:23am Monday, March 1, 2010

By JOHN EBY
Dowagiac Daily News

Look for Miss Dowagiac Katie Haneberg to ride atop an Alice in Wonderland float during her reign as the 71st community queen.

Her dog Dexter – she’s had him half her life, since she was 9 – will be costumed as her Cheshire Cat.

Her court, who can go together to see Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s new movie, could ride in teacups.

She’ll wear the blue dress she might have worn in her first pageant had she not found that sequined purple gown third while trying on six.

She imagined herself wearing coral or orange.

“I don’t tan and I’m very fair-skinned,” Katie said. “I wanted as soon as I walked out for people to need to put on their sunglasses. I wanted that effect.”

When Shelby Willis set her crown on her head, “I felt my knees buckle,” Katie said. “I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited.”

Winning “hasn’t sunk in yet. The day before the pageant I was doubting myself. I didn’t think I’d be in top five, and I wouldn’t have said I was in it to win it – that sounds bad – but I would not go out and spend money on a dress if I really didn’t want to win.”

Later this month Katie will show her mean side as the bully Rizzo in the spring musical “Grease.”

“She’s a nasty person,” Katie says. “I get into two fights in the play,” which features Kaye Swartz as Sandy.

“Make yourself at home,” she says, welcoming a guest to her home Sunday morning.
She lives near Marcellus, where her mom, Kim, the secretary at Division Tire in Dowagiac, found her “dream house.”

“No more walks to Twistee’s,” she said. “Yes, the drive sucks and the (muddy) roads are crappy, but it’s so beautiful in the spring and the fall when the leaves are changing colors, we’re so blessed to have the house we do.

“We have deer walk through our front yard and come up to the window. We have hummingbird feeders in front. If you put your hand out, they’ll land on your finger to drink the sugar water. It’s so cool.”

The first question judges posed to her the weekend before the pageant was, “So, Katie, what should we know about you?”

“I literally went blank,” she recalled. “The first thing I said was, ‘I paint.’ That was the worst question. They asked me for my thoughts on a world event. I brought up Haiti and how I wished I could be there, helping out. Then Chile had a huge earthquake.

“Another question they asked me was why should we pick you? Why do you want to win Miss Dowagiac? I want to be able to show people you can do anything you set your mind to. If you tell yourself you can do it, you can do it. Right now, I’m a perfect example of that. It was all so surreal.

“They asked me who they should pick other than myself. I told them that was an unfair question. In reality, I would have had to say (Elisabeth Gokey). I felt like every time you looked at her, she had a glow to her face. I’m so glad with the top five because we’re all so close. I was bawling for Taylor (Gross, first runner-up).”

Though she and Taylor sing together in choir, “We grew up together. I met her at Fitch Camp.”

Katie, who attended Justus Gage Elementary School when her family lived on West Street and she wore her blonde hair in pigtails, can even remember she was wearing pink overalls and a yellow-flowered shirt when she and Taylor met.

Spoken like a true future fashion designer.

They were in different classrooms, however, with Taylor in Cari Soderbloom’s and Katie in Lynn Konopinski’s.

“(Miss Congeniality Marissa Tidey) I’ve known since fourth or fifth grade,” Katie said. “Alyse and I got really close in eighth grade in a choir class.”

Katie impressed judges with her platform enough to win the communication award, in which she chastised her peers, students at DUHS “who are not allowing themselves to see the possibilities in their lives,” like the Norman Vincent Peale quote about “possibilitarians.”
“One thing I wanted to do in my platform was I was afraid I was talking too much about myself,” she said. “I didn’t want to say ‘we’ as in me and somebody else, I wanted to say ‘us’ as a whole, as a community. I really wanted to make that clear, that I’m talking to every single person out there. Really I was trying to address it to seniors because a lot of people are changing what they want to do because of money or people telling them they can’t do it.”

After graduation, Katie plans to attend Western Michigan University to double major in fashion design and drama.

After her freshman year, she will live in Italy for the summer and work as an au pair. She can stay with a cousin who lives in Rome. She will return to WMU for a year, then transfer to The Art Institute of Chicago.

“You can’t doubt yourself” to double major in fashion design and drama, Katie said. “I’ve thought about it for a while and it’s just now clicking into place.”

She consulted art teacher David Baker and English teacher Michael Collins at Southwestern Michigan College for advice about her decision.

Katie only attended two pageants prior to competing, but she remembers listening to it on the radio with her neighbors, Becca and Courtney Mattix.

Katie, who turns 18 April 25 and is a Taurus, has a 19-year-old brother, Kurt, and a 2-year-old brother, Ian.

Her father, Kurt, lives in Cleveland, where he works in aviation.

Her birthday last year fell on the same day as the prom.

“My dad is a bike nerd,” she said. She decided she wanted to join him and 30,000 people who ride 42 miles through the five boroughs of New York City on Sunday, May 2.

“I have an aunt in New York and I go to there almost every summer and I’ve been there for Christmas. My Papa on my mom’s side has a house in Thailand and a house in St. Croix.”
Her friend, Britnee Allerton, confirms Katie’s iPod contains every imaginable kind of music, from classical, Peggy Lee and Etta James to Frank Sinatra and the Grateful Dead.
“My dad got me into Ray Charles, Sammy Davis Jr., the Rat Pack. My mom is the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin. There’s no music I don’t listen to.”

While the Spice Girls were her childhood heroes, with their platform shoes and British accents (she had the movie, a poster and Spice Girl Barbie dolls), around sixth grade Marilyn Monroe “was my girl.”

Monroe “would be who I would bring back from the past to meet. I hoped they asked me about that in my interview. Despite all the bad things said about her and all the foster care homes she was in, she didn’t let that get in the way of her possibilities. She was determined. She’s probably my hero now. In my room, there are pictures of her and Twiggy and Audrey Hepburn. Twiggy, I have positive and negative things about. (The skinny model) made thin in. Marilyn Monroe was a size 12, but she was beautiful and on the covers of magazines. My mom and my dad, how different they are, kind of forces me to be open-minded. My dad’s sister came to Cleveland last summer for an organ tour. Never did I see myself doing that, but I got to see a silent movie where the guy played the organ and I was into it.”

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