By Heather Leszczewicz Special to Published Dec 05, 2006 at 5:16 AM
To win the top prize, evening gowns, swimsuits and talent are required. It's beauty pageant season and many of Wisconsin's lovely ladies are out to capture a crown.

However, Marquette University seems to have a tight hold on Miss Milwaukee. Marquette alumna and St. Francis native, Janel Mayer added Miss Milwaukee 2007 to her list of crowning achievements. She's actually the third Marquette-affiliated woman to hold the position in the past three years. Miss Milwaukee 2005 was Marquette alumna Meghan Coffey, who is currently Miss Wisconsin 2006, and Marquette junior Ashley Spingola just relinquished her title as Miss Milwaukee 2006 to Mayer.

This will be Mayer's third crown, already having been Miss St. Francis 2002 and Miss Coulee Region 2006.

"The job of Miss Milwaukee has always been a goal of mine," Mayer says. "I have been part of the Miss America Organization for five years now. There is no other experience like it! It offers great opportunities for personal growth, professional skills and scholarships."

Mayer was awarded the title mid-November with a platform of blood donation. She chose this platform after seeing the response after Sept. 11.

"We must rekindle these feelings and do our part. I am committed to educating the public about blood donation and its significance in everyone's day to day life," she says. "I want to minimize the myths about donating blood by giving the facts. I hope to reach as many people as possible so they can help this worthy cause."

She also showed off her talent for piano playing by performing "Prelude in G Minor" by Rachmaninoff.

"I started studying piano at the age of 5. I love music and I've finally learned the art of losing myself in this song," Mayer says. "I heard it three years ago and fell in love with it. Rachmaninoff's pianism is generally considered among the finest of the 20th century."

With her new role as Miss Milwaukee, Mayer plans to bring the entire pageant circuit into the focus of the public.

"I think people don't know about it because it gets lost in the shuffle. People don't understand the difference between all the pageants," she says. "It is my goal to spend my year promoting the pageant as a public servant for Milwaukee. I want to be at as many events as possible to reach out to the community."

She says that people might have negative feelings towards beauty pageants, but the Miss America program is the largest provider of scholarships to women in the world.

"(A) majority of the public do not know what the Miss Milwaukee organization is about," Mayer says. "They have no idea that this program is about service and scholarship. I'd also like to invite the women of Milwaukee to participate."

The positive aspects the pageants have only led Mayer to want to promote the program more.

"This program has given me confidence, poise, public-speaking and a competitive edge in the business world," she says. "It has also helped me to gain a voice in the community, which not only helps me but helps the Blood Center of Wisconsin."

At the moment, Mayer will be promoting the programs to the public through different events, but she also has another title to look forward to, Miss Wisconsin. This will be her third trip to the statewide event that gathers the other city winners.

But she's not too focused on winning, even though she has the opportunity to compete to be Miss America if she did.

"With every year I gain experience and work to improve my performance and my platform exposure. This year, I'm not worried about winning," Mayer says. "My focus is to serve the Milwaukee community to my fullest potential to show I'm ready for the job of Miss Wisconsin. I'd love to promote both the Miss Wisconsin program and my platform statewide."

Mayer will only have one more year where she would be able to compete, but she plans to stay involved.

"After this year, I have one more year to compete. After that I plan to stay involved as a volunteer," she says. "That is another unique aspect of this organization -- all of the people involved are volunteers. I am very thankful for my present and past directors and all the volunteers."

The one thing Mayer would really like to do is be involved with events that allow her to speak.

"I'm happy to help with any events!" She says. "I'd like to have the opportunity to speak at schools, volunteer and promote Milwaukee's businesses."

But aside from all the pageant talk, Mayer is thankful to Milwaukee.

"I love Milwaukee. I grew up here, chose to go to college here and started my career here. It is my goal to take this year to promote the program and my platform."
Heather Leszczewicz Special to

Originally from Des Plaines, Ill., Heather moved to Milwaukee to earn a B.A. in journalism from Marquette University. With a tongue-twisting last name like Leszczewicz, it's best to go into a career where people don't need to say your name often.

However, she's still sticking to some of her Illinoisan ways (she won't reform when it comes to things like pop, water fountain or ATM), though she's grown to enjoy her time in the Brew City.

Although her journalism career is still budding, Heather has had the chance for some once-in-a-lifetime interviews with celebrities like actor Vince Vaughn and actress Charlize Theron, director Cameron Crowe and singers Ben Kweller and Isaac Hanson of '90s brother boy band Hanson. 

Heather's a self-proclaimed workaholic but loves her entertainment. She's a real television and movie fanatic, book nerd, music junkie, coffee addict and pop culture aficionado.