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Miss Kansas explains Ginsburg connection during Pratt visit

Fran Brownell
Pratt Tribune
Miss Kansas 2019 Annika Wooton autographs an official Miss Kansas photos for Makyla Brown (right), and other Liberty Middle School students she met with Thursday, October 1 at the Pratt Public Library.

Miss Kansas 2019 Annika Wooton came to Pratt Thursday, October 1, traveling from her home base in Wichita for an interview at the Pratt Public Library. She came to express her thoughts about the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with whom she shared a personal connection.

Ginsberg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a pioneering advocate for women’s rights, who in her ninth decade became a much younger generation’s unlikely cultural icon, died September 18, 2020 at her home in Washington. She was 87.

Wooton said her connection with Justice Ginsberg was forged through her contact with the Supreme Court Justice last year when she sought her permission to speed-draw her likeness for the talent segment of the Miss America Competition Dec. 2019 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“I have always had a great respect for Justice Ginsberg because of her perseverance and determination in overcoming challenges,” Wooton said. “I relate to her joy of perseverance.”

Wooton said she boarded a flight to Washington, D.C., to pay her respects to Justice Ginsberg, who died September 18 at the age of 87 and was the first woman to lie in state at the U. S. Capitol.

After receiving permission from Ginsberg a year ago to speed-draw the Supreme Court Justice, Wooton said she focused on practicing her art.

Wooton’s first attempt at creating Ginsberg’s likeness on a three-foot by four-foot canvas was clocked at two minutes and 22 seconds. That was in August 2019.

“I had to get it down to 90 seconds,” Wooton said. ‘My goal was to draw as few marks as possible and still produce a recognizable image.”

On stage at the Miss America Pageant last December, Wooton painted with a brush in each hand – the right for broad strokes and the left for finer marks -- white on a black canvas, dipping the brushes frequently to keep the paint flowing.

As she painted, the audio track of a video with a spoken-word poem played in the background.

“It was choreographed,” Wooton said. “I knew where I needed to be in the painting each moment as the video’s audio track played.”

But, as white strokes filled the canvas, nothing resembling Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s image seemed to emerge.

At the end of 90 seconds, Wooton laid her brushes down and grabbed the two handles attached to the painting, spinning the canvas 180 degrees and stepping aside.

The reveal gave the pageant judges and the audience a full view of a very recognizable Ruth Bader Ginsberg, which Wooton had painted upside down.

“It was almost like a magic trick,” Wooton said. “It was my dad’s idea.”

Wooton said the spoken-word video which accompanied her speed-painting performance was created with Overland Park writer Emily Wilkenson and featured intertwined quotes from Ginsberg.

The 17 women featured in the video, including students and teachers, were from Wooton’s High School, The Collegiate School in Richmond, VA. It was facilitated by her mentor Jon Shelley of Richmond who, Wooton said, was the first person to encourage her to speed-paint almost 10 years ago.

For her speed-painting portrait of Ginsberg, Wooten was named Non-Finalist Talent Winner and ranked in the Top 15 at the 2019 Miss America Pageant. She also was named Jean Bartel Social Impact Initiative Winner.

“It’s been an amazing journey as Miss Kansas,” said Wooton, whose reign as 2019 title-holder was extended through 2020 because COVID-19 concerns cancelled the 2020 competition. “I’ve learned to think outside the box.”

One of her activities as the reigning Miss Kansas, Wooten said, has been to host seminars to share with youth tangible steps for them to take to have careers in art.

Video of Wooton’s Miss America speed-painting performance is posted on Facebook at Miss America KS labeled as “RBG Speed Painting in under 90 Seconds!”.

Video of the spoken-word poem accompanying Wooton’s Miss America talent performance is posted on YouTube at

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv91NtA5C1A&feature=youtu.be .

Wooton, welcomed by Library Director Eric Killough, also took time to sign autographs for some students who came to the library when school was over. In keeping with the library’s COVID-19 policy, Wooton and the students she met with all wore protective face masks.