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Life in Contrast - photo of Allison Biehle

Designer gowns or jeans? High heels or sneakers? Cruising “the Strip” in Las Vegas or rolling down Main Street in North Vernon, nestled in the rolling hills of southern Indiana? For Allison Biehle, her parallel lives of the “girl next door” and the “glamour girl” have defined her last few years.

As a senior in the Purdue School of Science at IUPUI, Biehle is pursuing her long-standing dream of becoming a dentist in her hometown North Vernon. As Miss Indiana USA, she's worn evening gowns and swimsuits on spotlighted runways, posed for thousands of pictures and made countless personal appearances — not to mention wearing the crown — to earn a place in the 2010 Miss USA pageant with Donald Trump in a nationally televised broadcast from Vegas.

The contrasts amuse the levelheaded 21-year-old. “Las Vegas and North Vernon are two very different places,” Biehle laughs. “It was fine being treated like a celebrity for a couple of weeks at the pageant, and I could have handled it for a year if I'd won. But I can't imagine what it would be like to go through that all day, every day.”

In reality, Biehle prefers the small-town life of a former high school cheerleader, where she found her passion for showing horses (“still one of the things I love to do most”), and is surrounded by family (parents Mike and Linda, sister Joni and brother Michael) and friends. More than anything else, she wants to follow in the footsteps of her uncle, Allan Goins Jr. (IU School of Dentistry, class of 1980), as a hometown dentist.

Dream changes

That wasn't Biehle's original career plan. “Every little girl has a dream — mine was to be a poodle groomer,” she laughs. “Not a dog groomer; a poodle groomer. I remember asking my mom to take me to where I could see people taking care of poodles. I was obsessed!”

Things changed when her family had her teeth fixed, Biehle says. “The first time I looked in the mirror and saw how my smile had changed, and how it looked exactly like I wanted it to look — everything changed,” she says. “I wanted to give other people that same feeling — it was magical!”

She got an internship with her uncle during her senior year at Jennings County High School. “He never tried to talk me into becoming a dentist. He wanted me to figure it out on my own. And I did — he's been my inspiration.”

Biehle loves “that personal relationship my uncle has with the community. He knows them as patients, but as friends and neighbors, too. I love that connection — I want that!”

Biehle knows that competition for dental school slots is fierce, a fact that “intimidates me quite a bit. There are so many smart kids who want the same thing I want. I told my mom that I've been way more nervous about getting into dental school than I was about the Miss USA pageant. She just looked at me and laughed, then said 'You walked onto national television wearing a bathing suit, Allie!' But I told her that Miss USA was a goal; dental school is my life's dream. It's what I want to be, what I want to do.”

If her dream comes true, her “best of all worlds” plan is to work with her uncle “until he decides to retire. Then I could buy his practice and help others find their smile, the way he helped me find mine.”

Dr. Richard Kiovsky of the IU School of Medicine, who has gotten to know the biology major during her time at IUPUI, calls Biehle “a young woman of values and a passion to help people.” Because she “understands the benefits of rural communities,” he asked her to speak before 250 Hoosier students at the spring 2010 Area Health Education Centers conference at IUPUI. “Her title opened the door for them to listen to her, but her message that serving in such communities would not only bless them but also the people they serve made a huge impression.”

No stranger to work

If hard work is the key to success, Biehle should be in good shape. “Showing horses is good training for hard work,” she laughs. She started riding at age 4, and has shown horses “for most of my life.” It was nothing for Allie and her father Mike to head out every weekend after a Friday night football or basketball game — after she cheered that night — for shows throughout the Midwest and as far away as Oklahoma and Texas. “It was good preparation for pageants,” she chuckles.

She became Miss Indiana USA in just her third year of pageants, and prepared for her crown-winning performance by running up and down the steps of the Indiana War Memorial. “I felt a little like Rocky,” she smiles.

Biehle told Indiana pageant officials “the busier I can be, the happier I'll be” when her state reign began. “I'll only be Miss Indiana USA once — I wanted to make the most of the experience!” she says.

Pageant life isn't easy. “It helped me become more poised, more polished around crowds,” she says. “I used to write out every little point I wanted to make; now I just speak from the heart.” She promised herself “I was going to have to be who I really am, no matter what. If that was enough for the judges, great. If not, that's OK, too.”

Most of all, the past year has taught both the “glamour girl” and the “girl next door” one key lesson: “Don't think any dream is out of reach,” Biehle says. “If you give it your all, the experience will always be worthwhile, always be memorable.”

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