Kendyl Bell entered the Miss Utah USA contest for the fourth time last month, and her persistence and hard work finally paid off. She became Miss Utah USA 2012 and a perfect reminder of her own favorite quote by Henry David Thoreau, "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

The competition was held at the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts and included 26 other beauty queens competing for the crown. The competition was even more of a challenge for Bell since she had recently undergone ACL reconstructive surgery on her knee.

As an asthma patient herself, Kendyl works with the American Lung Association and started a program to teach schoolchildren about asthma called Blue Balloon Day. Recently, she began showing her support in the fight against breast cancer by partnering with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. She has also been abroad to Zambia, Africa and Peru on humanitarian missions. And she teaches Zumbatomic, a form of Zumba for elementary-age children. A BYU grad, she works for Republic Services as the Community Relations Manager.

We passed our questions on to Kendyl to find out more about this beauty queen, representing our state.

So, what exactly happened to your knee?

“I was snowmobiling on New Year’s Day and fell off and completely tore my ACL! I refused to go to a doctor and continued teaching dance and Zumba for three months before I met with an orthopedic doctor. He didn’t even have to do an MRI to know that my ACL was torn 100 percent. I waited to have surgery until I returned from a humanitarian trip to Peru. The recovery process takes six months, and I completed my rehabilitation process Oct. 15, just six days before the competition. It really just affected my physical preparation. I had people telling me how much weight I would gain post-surgery, but the pageant really helped me stay focused on eating healthy and the second I was cleared to start doing physical activity, I went crazy—a little too crazy, I gave myself tendonitis! But I eventually found a workout and diet program that allowed me to recover properly and I was really happy with how I looked and felt at the pageant.”

Tell us a little about your background. What's your family like? Where did you grow up?

“I grew up and still live in Sandy, Utah. I have the best family in the world! My parents, Gary and Michele, are very supportive and loving. I have very talented siblings, and I have an older brother and two younger sisters. We are very close to each other and love hanging out together.”

What were your thoughts going into the pageant this past October?

“I was really calm and very excited. I felt very confident in my preparation. I was returning a stronger competitor than the years I had competed before, and I was just hoping and praying that this was my year. I really believe that timing is everything.”

How did you react when you were named Miss Utah USA?

“It was a delayed reaction, I had gotten used to not winning. I fully expected my name to not be called, and when it was, it took a moment to process. The former Miss Utah USA had to tell me to turn around so she could crown me and was very sweet to look me in the eyes and tell me, “You just won!” There are a few pictures from my crowning and the look on my face says it all.”

What was the most difficult question you were asked during the pageant?

“What sets you apart from the other girls, and why should you be Miss Utah USA? It’s hard to come up with an answer to that question when you are fully aware that all of the contestants are interesting, beautiful, and could do a great job as Miss Utah USA.”

What do you think made you stand out among all the contestants?

“I am the only contestant that works for a garbage company and that wore six-inch high heels. Ha ha… I am not really sure, but I do know that this was the first year I competed and felt really comfortable with who I was, how I competed and knew that I was ready to be Miss Utah USA if given the opportunity. I hope to bring that mindset with me to Miss USA.”

So far, what is the coolest part of being Miss Utah USA?

“I think the moment I realized that I was actually Miss Utah USA. I was at home the next day and I put my crown and sash on my niece and it hit me that I had achieved something I had worked toward for years.”

Has it been stressful at all?

“I have a fulltime career as the Community Outreach Manager for Republic Services and I teach ballet, jazz, and Zumba; the only stressful aspect is time management. I want to dedicate all my time to being Miss Utah USA, and after two weeks, I am feeling like I am able to manage being a career woman and a titleholder.”

Your a big supporter of breast cancer treatment and asthma prevention. Why did you pick these health issues to focus on?

“My grandmother passed away from breast cancer. It was hard to watch my beautiful, strong grandmother suffer from this illness, and I want to do all I can to prevent another woman from going through what I watched her go through. I also want to be a support to those that are going through treatment for the disease and celebrate with those who have survived. I have asthma; I know how it affects daily life. I understand the severity of this disease. My focus will be on early detection—I was 17 before I was diagnosed.”

What’s your number one makeup tip?

"If I only have time to put one make up item on my face, I always go for my bronzer. Invest in a good one and only put it on the places on your face where the sun would naturally hit your skin, forehead, cheeks and nose. I love looking sun kissed."

Your favorite quote is Thoreau's "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." Why is it your favorite and what does it mean to you?

“It reminds me that I have control to create the life I want—that it is up to me to make my dreams come true.”

What were your friends’ reactions to you becoming Miss Utah USA?

“My friends have been on this very long journey with me, and they are as excited as I am. They were at the pageant tweeting and texting updates and sending positive energy my way. They introduce me to new people we meet as Miss Utah USA, and they are already saving their money to come to watch me at Miss USA.”

How did your mom react?

“This is the best part of the whole pageant thus far. Right after I was crowned, we had to take pictures with all the finalists and special award winners and judges, and you can’t leave the stage. Well, the only person I wanted to hug was my mother. She was supporting me the day I signed up for my first pageant. We have been through this whole process together— selecting evening gowns, buying wardrobe, editing paperwork, dieting, working out, sewing rhinestones on everything at all hours of the night—she has been my number one supporter. So, I had to sneak to the edge of the stage, yell across the auditorium to get her attention, kneel down in my gown and six inch heels and give her a hug. It was the sweetest moment; we both just hugged and cried, and felt that same excitement that I had finally achieved my goal of being a state titleholder.”

What are your favorite local places to eat?

“Sapa, Settobello, Litza’s Pizza, Salt Lake City Burger Company and Sweet Tooth Fairy.”

What are your favorite local boutiques and shops?

“Ypsilon, Nappi Clothing, Koo De Ker and Hip and Humble.”

Are there any local hangouts people can usually find you (coffee shops, clubs, etc)?

“Pioneer Park during the summer concert series, ice-skating at the Gallivan Center, shopping at the Gateway, and hot chocolate at Salt Lake Roasting Company.”

Anything else?

“One thing I’ve learned through this whole experience is that dreams really do come true if we are willing to work hard and never give up! Also, I love making appearances and having chances to wear my crown so if anyone wants to schedule me for an event they can contact me through missutahusa.com.”

Photos by Joe Pier & Casting Crowns Productions.