An Interview with Tori Kruse, Miss Missouri USA 2018

In the fall of 2018 Tori Kruse, a University of Iowa graduate, was chosen by an esteemed panel of judges to represent the Show Me State as Miss Missouri USA 2018. She beat out 43 other contestants in private interview, swimsuit, evening gown, and onstage question competitions to claim the crown. She has spent the past year serving her community as a role model and an advocate for sexual assault prevention all while preparing for the nationally televised Miss USA pageant, which aired on May 21st. Tori will crown her successor this upcoming September.

Missouri Magazine: Tell us a little about yourself.

Tori: I’m currently a professional speaker. I graduated from The University of Iowa 5 years ago with a degree in Entrepreneurial Management and then was recruited to St. Louis for an outside sales position. Most recently, I founded a program called 1st ManUpTM where I educate young men on the prevention of sexual assault and harassment. My favorite hobby has always been traveling! My family and I have traveled to 48 states and 9 provinces in Canada all in our RV.

Missouri Magazine: Why did you start competing in pageants?

Tori: Growing up I was always playing sports and loved anything competitive. So once I graduated high school and moved on to college, I really needed something competitive to do in my life. I saw an ad online for Miss USA and thought I’d give it a shot…. and that’s where it all began!


Missouri Magazine: What is your favorite part of the competition and why?  

Tori: Hands down, swimsuit! I love the high-energy it brings and the exhilarating feeling of walking on that stage in a two-piece. It’s a feeling of so much accomplishment and pride!

Missouri Magazine: We know that capturing the title of Miss Missouri USA must have taken years of dedication, tell us about that journey. What was the most rewarding part?

Tori: All together it was 7 year process and to this day I wouldn’t change a thing! Was it tough getting knocked down year after year and not winning the crown? Absolutely. But I learned from that. My faith strengthened and I also gained mental toughness. I’m a strong believer that you need to know how to lose before you know how to win. I definitely had some doubts if this was the path God wanted me on, but year after year I realized that giving up was not in my vocabulary. That moment when they announced my name as Miss Missouri USA 2018 and put the crown on my head, it was a moment of so much fulfillment. I pointed up at God and said, “Thank you, we did it!”.

Missouri Magazine: Tell us about your year as Miss Missouri USA. What are some of the highlights?

Tori: This year has been unforgettable! I have traveled all over the country going to different events and state pageants. One highlight that I will forever cherish is visiting and volunteering with our veterans all across the state. Each of them have truly made an everlasting impact on my life and I look forward to continuing to serve our veterans after my reign. A few other highlights were walking in New York Fashion Week, attending the Global Beauty Awards, and last but definitely not least, gaining 50 new friendships from all over the country at Miss USA!

Missouri Magazine: Your state crown took you all the way to the “Superbowl of Pageants”, Miss USA in Louisiana! Tell us about that experience.

Tori: It was so surreal to finally be at Miss USA and it felt absolutely incredible! The city of Shreveport-Bossier was so hospitable and gave us first-class treatment the entire time we were there. Throughout the two weeks all of us contestants had numerous events, photoshoots, and rehearsals between 8:30am and 11:00pm every single day. I was on such an adrenaline high the whole time, I just soaked up every single moment. Whenever I would get a little tired, I remember thinking to myself, “Do you realize how many girls would drop everything to be in your shoes right now?!” That energized me REAL quick! Regardless of what happened on May 21st, I wanted to walk away from that experience with zero regrets, and that’s exactly what I did. Every day leading up to the big event and while I was there, I made sure to be present and give it 150%. I never took for granted how great of an honor it was to be representing the state of Missouri on the national stage!

Missouri Magazine: You’ll crown your successor in September. Would you encourage girls to compete for your title?

Tori: Absolutely! I’ve never learned so much about myself until I got into pageantry. It lead me to my career and also helped me gain mental toughness and confidence. Because of the Miss Universe Organization I now have friendships and connections all throughout the country.

Missouri Magazine: What do you have planned next? Where will we find you a year from now?

Tori: I plan to grow my public speaking business and develop a Women’s Leadership Conference nationwide. I also plan to start a foundation to help benefit children with developmental disabilities.

Missouri Magazine: Okay, now some questions just for fun! What’s your favorite way to de-stress?

Tori: Meditation and reading a personal growth book.

Missouri Magazine: Do you have a personal quote or mantra that you live by?

Tori: Every “no” is just one step closer to my “yes”.

Missouri Magazine: Where’s your favorite place to be in Missouri?

Tori: Lake of the Ozarks

Missouri Magazine: Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

Tori: I’ve traveled to 48 states and 9 Provinces in Canada in an RV with my family.

Missouri Magazine: Okay, we’re going to get serious again for this final question, the tear jerker. What is the single most important thing that you’ve learned from your year as Miss Missouri USA?

Tori: I’ve realized how important it is to give your time to others. I’ve met so many people this year who have shared their story with me and just giving back and taking the time to listen has impacted my life in such an inspiring way.

Tori has had an incredible year as Miss Missouri USA! Would you like the opportunity to compete for the title this September? Visit for more information.