Faith, service are their crowning achievements

Appleton’s Mazier sisters see pageant crowns as opportunity to help others

APPLETON — “I think you can become Miss America someday.” Those words were life-changing for Katrina Mazier, a member of St. Bernadette Parish and a 2016 graduate of St. Francis Xavier High School in Appleton.

They may also be prophetic as Katrina, 19, was crowned Miss Green Bay Area on Jan. 20. That same evening, her sister, Anika Mazier, 16, a junior at St. Francis Xavier High School, was crowned Miss Green Bay Area’s Outstanding Teen. Both will compete for the Miss Wisconsin title in their respective divisions in June. If they win at that level, they move onto the Miss America pageant.

Katria Mazier, left, was crowned Miss Green Bay Area on Jan. 20, while her sister Anika, was crowned Miss Green Bay Area’s Outstanding Teen. The sisters are pictured at their home parish of St. Bernadette in Appleton. (Brad Birkholz | For The Compass)

“I had never thought about pageants before. I didn’t know what they were,” said Katrina. She was encouraged to enter the competition by her hairdresser, Michele Hepfler, who is also a member of St. Bernadette Parish. The Miss Green Bay Area Scholarship Organization is an affiliate of the non-profit Miss America Organization — the nation’s leading advocate for women’s education and the largest provider of scholarship assistance to young women in the United States.

Katrina recalled what Hepfler told her about the pageant. “It’s a scholarship pageant and you can get money to go to school and you get to pick a platform. It’s a way for you to travel Wisconsin and speak about something you’re passionate about.” Those words struck a chord with Katrina.

She decided to enter competition because having a crown and sash would open doors so she could speak about teenage suicide prevention. Katrina is the survivor of a suicide attempt.

“In second grade I (started experiencing) a lot of anxiety,” she recalled. “Bullying started in elementary school with the girls in my class. I never felt like I fit in. I hung out with the boys a lot.

“My eighth-grade year I was sexually assaulted by one of the boys in my class,” added Katrina. “I think the girls thought I was asking for it. All the words they said were so hurtful and I began to believe them. I was self-harming because I hated myself.”

In the summer of 2015, Katrina decided she didn’t want to live like that anymore.

“I just wanted to be done,” she said. “I found out later that I had overdosed. I spent four or five days at St. Elizabeth Hospital getting the help I needed. I talked to reps at Catalpa Health. They really helped me get through a tough time.”

Catalpa Health is a mental health and wellness center for children founded by Affinity Health System, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and ThedaCare.

The experience motivated Katrina to help other teens.

“I wanted to do pageants to raise money for teen suicide prevention because I didn’t want anyone else to feel the way I felt,” Katrina told The Compass. She was appointed Miss Appleton’s Outstanding Teen in 2015 and spoke to students at St. Francis Xavier Middle School and High School on behalf of Catalpa Health. “It gave me the opportunity to grow and to do something good.”

The first title Katrina competed for and won was Miss Fond du Lac 2016. “That year I did 86 appearances as Miss Fond du Lac. I worked with a lot of different organizations to get my voice out there and tell the world that we needed to help those teens who were suffering.”

Anika has her own story of how she got involved with pageants.

“I started off volunteering at TouchMark on West Prospect, a retirement community in Appleton, with my friend and my (twin) sister Emily,” she said. The girls developed a project where they created playlists of favorite songs for Alzheimer’s patients, which proved to have a calming effect on the residents.

“Three years into volunteering, Katrina came home from a rehearsal and said, ‘They need more teens to have a teen pageant.’ I decided it was something I wanted to do. I thought it would be great to have a scholarship and service opportunities and just grow in myself,” said Anika.

The first time was the charm for Anika. “My platform was ‘Music and Memory, Reconnecting with Alzheimer’s Patients.’ I decided to do that because of the huge connection I have with the residents at TouchMark,” she said. “I want people to know that just because someone doesn’t remember you or your name, they’ll remember how you made them feel and they are still people.”

Faith has been an important part of the sisters’ pageant experiences.

“For some reason, God has kept me here,” said Katrina. “That has made me grow in my faith even more because if God believes in me so much — he loves me so much to give me a second chance at life. How can you not believe in the faith and how can you not move forward with it and share his word and let the Holy Spirit speak from you? I love speaking at churches and speaking at schools and reminding kids that who they are is very important because that’s who God made them to be.”

“Having faith makes you think differently about the world and remember that you should respect all sorts of people,” said Anika. Her Catholic faith is so important that Anika is open to becoming a religious sister someday.

“It’s always been something that’s going through my head,” she said. “I had a really great theology teacher last year and listening to her lectures I got very inspired again and felt that I was getting a call from God. I’m not afraid if that’s what God is calling me to. I’m open to it.”

Time will tell where the pageant path will lead the sisters, but Katrina intends to make a difference in the world by this experience.

“I hope to become Miss Wisconsin and Miss America to spread my platform even more and to show our community that mental health stigma needs to end and our teens are suffering and remind them that there’s hope.”