Erin is a beautiful girl (with a brand new crown to prove it). But this beauty queen is more work than waltz,  motivated by an unbreakable dedication to her platform and doing her part to end domestic abuse. There is a proverb that states, “A man grows most tired when standing still,” and Erin…essentially…isn’t. Busy in her preparation for Miss Illinois 2013 (Miss America Organization), Erin may not have much time these days, but gave a few minutes to 5 Questions to describe her whirlwind experience as Miss Kankakee County 2013.

1)Congratulations on being crowned Miss Kankakee County 2013! What will be your next competition and how have you been preparing?
The Miss Kankakee County Organization serves as an official preliminary pageant for Miss Illinois within the Miss America Organization. For me, the upcoming months are booked with appearances in the Kankakee area, talent rehearsals, wardrobe decisions, and most importantly, the coordinating of two fundraising events that are very near and dear to my heart! 

I’m absolutely thrilled to begin promoting my platform, “Learning to ACT: Domestic Abuse Awareness,” sharing my story as a victim of domestic abuse and encouraging victims statewide to empower themselves and hold steadfast to their dreams. Becoming Miss Kankakee County has given me the ability to truly make a difference in the realm of abuse, and for this I’m most excited!

I’ll be working with the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence this year. They’re seriously great people and they boast several different shelters and programs throughout the state, one of which is located in Kankakee County! Their state hotline is 1-800-942-0333 and their website is
2)What sparked your interest in pageants and how did you break into the industry?
A friend of mine was a reigning town queen in the Lake County Community Pageant system. She and I had been discussing my hometown’s lack of representation at the county level when lo and behold, we came across a local advertisement for the Miss Gurnee Pageant – its first time back in 12 years! I competed and went on to win the county title. Needless to say, I was hooked! I’ve competed in five pageants since, served as the Promotions Manager for The Pageant Planet, and currently work for The Examiner as their Chicago Pageants writer.
3)What was the best piece of advice someone ever gave you, and what advice do you have for any girls getting into pageantry?
Over the years, my Great Aunt Shirley has not only taken on a motherly role to me, but she has quickly become my confidant and best friend. Amongst all of the priceless advice she’s given me (sometimes without my asking, haha!), the greatest is undoubtedly: “A beautiful outside cannot make up for an ugly inside.” It’s frank, but it regularly reminds me to look inward for beauty as opposed to looking outward. Especially in pageants, it’s easy to become wrapped up in crowns and gowns, but without a spirit of service and scholarship, no woman can tap into her genuine style and achieve utmost success!
For girls just beginning their “pageant careers,” know that each opportunity you will come to you for a reason (whether you win or lose). Take the time to appreciate your adventures, reflect on your triumphs and tribulations, and make friends with the girls. I found my bridesmaids in pageantry! Work hard, take too many pictures, and cherish the company around you. People will forget your title, your gown, and your crown, but they will never forget how you made
them feel! Leave a legacy that is unforgettable!
4)With Christmas festivities upon us this week, what is your go-to beauty secret during the holidays?
I swear by Pssssst! Instant Dry Shampoo! As any busy girl knows, taking an hour each day to wash, dry, and style hair is an hour too long. In between washes, Pssssst! sprays evenly and without making my baby-fine light, blonde hair dark or limp, and keeps it looking fresh all day! I also swear by anything Kiss My Face, Smashbox, and Urban Decay, and have a loyal devotion to Trish at Salon Blue in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood for keeping my cut and color beautiful.
5)What has been the best showing of support toward your run for Miss Illinois (America) thus far, and how can supporters help you on your journey?

 I have the most incredible support system in the world! My grandparents, aunts and uncles, and best friends have all sacrificed so much to help me succeed. Brittney-Jade is always double-checking my paperwork and talent material, and Melissa was my official hair/makeup artist, chauffeur, photographer, luggage holder, and morning alarm for Miss Kankakee County. And, although “my boyfriend hates pageants,” that hasn’t stopped him from helping me sift through gown choices, choose photos, and “say no to chips” and junk food! My directors and training coaches regularly keep me on track, focused, and motivated.

The greatest support has been found, however, in the way my friends and family have encouraged my coming forward as a domestic abuse victim. The biggest hurdle in overcoming abuse is acknowledging it in the first place, and for a long time, I was afraid of sharing my story. Now I’ve realized that it is my responsibility and my job to do so to allow other men and women to recognize and prevent abusive relationships, and most importantly, so that victims can begin to believe that they do not need to let their abuse define their life – instead, their life can define their abuse. Seeing how many strangers in the community have taken to my story has encouraged me to continue to speak for those who have been silenced, and this support is what will allow us the chance at an abuse-free future.
Quick Facts!
Name: Erin Baynes
Hometown: Gurnee, Illinois
Education:DePaul University, Public Policy and Urban Studies; Warren Township High School
Titles:Miss Kankakee County (Miss America Organization 2013), Miss Lake County 2009, Miss Gurnee 2008
Organizations:Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Kankakee County Harbor House, Children’s Miracle Network, Spotlight Youth Theater
Contact info: