Staab was born in Hays, Kansas and grew up in Ralston, Nebraska. She graduated from Ralston Senior High School in 1979. In 1980 she won the Miss Nebraska USA title and competed in the Miss USA 1980 pageant held in Biloxi, Mississippi in May of the same year. She placed in the top twelve of the nationally televised event, the first Nebraskan semi-finalist in seven years. No other Miss Nebraska USA would place in the Miss USA competition for thirty years until Belinda Wright made the Top 15 in 2010.