MANTI In March 2007, Kayla Barclay called herself a failure. She competed to be Miss Manti, a title that both her older sisters had won previously, and she was instead awarded the place of first attendant. She went home in tears and opened her scriptures, turning to Doctrine and Covenants 58:4.
There she read: "For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand."
This verse inspired Barclay to persist optimistically on the pageant path and in all aspects of her life. Barclay was crowned Miss Utah at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City on July 12.
"The crown of glory is not the pageant crown, but the crown that the Lord will give you," Barclay said. "I thought, 'This is good for me, tribulation makes me stronger ... if I want to do well in the future and make it back to him I have to work for it."'
Barclay worked hard and was crowned Miss Sanpete County in August 2007. She then began to prepare for the Miss Utah pageant. She practiced the piano two hours every day, worked at her father's business eight hours a day, ran two miles a day, read opinion pieces and watched the news every day.
Beyond the mandatory physical preparations, spiritual development proved to be Barclay's most important asset. Barclay, 18, attributes her success to strength given to her by God.
"I would read my scriptures every day and prayed morning and night," said Barclay, who continued these daily practices throughout the rigorous weeklong Miss Utah pageant. "The moments when I would forget my prayers or scripture reading I would find myself not achieving as much."
As she underwent interviews, performed on the piano and modeled swimwear and evening gown attire, she says that God was close to her. She says she learned where to turn for strength from her high school seminary teacher, Evan Bingham.
"If you know God loves you and you are a child of God, that pulls you through," Barclay said. "There's no way you will do something against God, because you will lose your strength. He is the strength."
Barclay's standards were challenged from time to time throughout the pageant. Her mother worked 40 hours to sew sleeves onto the dresses she would wear. A judge also told Barclay that she would do better if she wore a two-piece swimsuit.
"If you already know who you are, you already know what you'll do," said Barclay, who wore a one-piece swimsuit in the Miss Utah Pageant. "You can do just as well with the Lord's standards as others can with the world's standards."
The judge who recommended Barclay wear a two-piece swimming suit approached Barclay's father, Michael Barclay, the day after Barclay was crowned. She apologized for the suggestion and said that Barclay's standards are where her strength is. Michael Barclay said the judges reacted to his daughter's spiritual presence throughout the pageant.
"The judges said, 'When she came out we weren't looking at the dress, we were looking at her,'" Michael Barclay said. "They saw the beauty of this girl."
Barclay said beauty is "when your characteristics shine through your skin." Throughout the pageant she tried not to compare herself to others. She recommends the same practice for young women everywhere.
"Women critique a lot," Barclay said. "Never look at someone and be happy for their faults and sad for their strengths."
Barclay was the last name read when the top 10 contestants were announced at the Miss Utah Pageant in July. Her goal was to make it that far. Once there, she relaxed and enjoyed the final part of the competition.
"I made my goal to the top 10, so I wanted to watch the talented girls," Barclay said. "I encouraged them, and I played my (piano) piece for my family and my teacher."
Barclay's heroes include her parents and seminary teacher. The Barclay family, which includes seven children, habitually has family prayer, family home evening, sings together and eats meals together "even if it means waiting an hour for someone to get home from football practice," Michael Barclay said.
"We celebrate each other's accomplishments," said Susan Barclay, Kayla's mother. "If our children are involved we're there."
Barclay's pageant platform is Internet safety. She frequently speaks to young people and parents about the dangers of the Internet and is a member of Netsmartz.org.Barclay will appear in a reality television program airing in January. She will compete in the Miss America Pageant Jan. 20 through 24 in Las Vegas. It can be viewed on cable channel TLC.