Young pageant princess has love for people in need, for her faith

Mother of Avrianna Artus instills in her daughter importance of giving back

APPLETON — Julie Artus was raised in an impoverished area of the Philippines, yet her family had an incredible faith life. Twelve years after moving to the United States, Artus, a member of St. Pius X Parish, is grateful to live a life of abundant blessings with her husband, Steve, and their three children, second-grader Kal, first-grader Avrianna (who goes by Kate, her middle name), and 22-month-old Kingston.

Avrianna Artus, 6, the Miss Wisconsin Princess 2019 winner, hands out worship aid pamphlets to parishioners at St. Pius X Church in Appleton Sept. 22. (Brad Birkholz | For The Compass)

Having lived on both ends of the economic spectrum, Julie understands the importance of giving back and is passing that lesson on to her children. When Avrianna, 6, was crowned Miss Wisconsin Princess for the National American Miss on Aug. 17, Artus encouraged her daughter to donate half of her earnings to charity.

Artus talked about her own religious upbringing.

“I was raised very Catholic by my grandma and grandpa. At 4 o’clock in the morning we would pray the rosary with my grandma. At 6 o’clock in the morning and six in the evening, we would pray the Angelus,” she said. “Ten days prior to my birthday she would pray a novena to the baby Jesus for me.” On Sundays she and her grandparents would go to church early and sweep the small chapel and prepare the altar for Mass.

While Avrianna doesn’t have to help clean their church, she does help in another way.

Each Sunday, she and her family arrive 30 minutes before the 10:30 a.m. Mass so Avrianna can greet parishioners as they arrive at church. A lot of adults aren’t comfortable doing that task, said Artus, but competing in pageants has raised Avrianna’s confidence level.

Her first competition was in the spring of 2018. Artus described their pageant journey. “Last year when Avrianna was 5 years old, she was invited to compete. We decided to try out to find out what it was all about,” she said. “She ended up being in the top 10 for the state of Wisconsin and had the chance to compete in the national pageant last November.”

Avrianna Artus, the Miss Wisconsin Princess 2019 winner, poses for a photo near a statue of Mary inside St. Pius X Church in Appleton Sept. 22. (Brad Birkholz | For The Compass)

Avrianna didn’t win, but she and her mom learned a lot from the experience.

Avrianna enjoyed doing the pageants, so she and her family made the decision to compete again this year. With more time to prepare, she took on a coach to help polish her for competition. At the state pageant on Aug. 17, she was the winner in seven areas of competition — runway, casual modeling, spokesmodel, actress, talent, top model search and most promising model — and was second runner-up in the photogenic category. She won the Miss Wisconsin Princess crown and was awarded $1,000.

“Half of the money went to Make-A-Wish Foundation and half went to her college fund,” said Artus. They decided to donate to Make-A-Wish because the beneficiaries are children, which made it more meaningful to Avrianna, she added.

Artus said that contestants were required to bring school supplies as part of the community service part of the competition. “When Avrianna won as queen, she got all of those school supplies and she donated them to the St. Francis Xavier School System and to St. Pius X Faith Formation,” her mother added.

In September, Avrianna participated in “Walk for Wishes,” a fundraiser for Wisconsin Make-A-Wish Foundation, and raised $335. “It’s very heartwarming to see the money she donates from her winnings go to a good cause to help make wishes come true,” Artus said. “She was very happy to hear the stories of these children she’s helping.”

Competing in pageants is fun for Avrianna, who wants to be Miss Universe. Her role model is Miss Universe 2018, Catriona Elisa Magnayon Gray, who is Filipino.

Next year, Artus wants to take her daughter to the Philippines. “I grew up in a very poor environment and I knew how hard it was for kids to have something to eat during the day,” she said. “I want her to see that in person so she has a deep understanding what it’s like over there.”

Compassion for others is one of the outcomes Artus hopes her daughter takes away from pageant competition.

“I tell Avrianna, whatever you win you have to give away half,” said Artus. “That’s the kind of lesson I want to instill in her growing up.”

That spirit of generosity is already there for Avrianna. This November she will compete again at National American Miss Nationals in Anaheim, Calif.

“If I win the pageant, I will give half of the money to the Make-a-Wish Foundation so when the sick little kids want something, they can get whatever they want,” she said.