"In the summer of 1921, on the boardwalk of Atlantic City, an American icon was born.
For the past 97 years, Miss America has been one of the country’s most recognizable household names and has been at the center of everything from national trends to social movements to the birth of television. The young women involved have made a significant difference in people’s lives through their charitable and community service endeavors, using the national platform to educate millions of Americans on issues facing the nation.
Miss America is more than a title, it’s a movement of empowering young women everywhere to dream big, to insist that their voices be heard and to inspire change in the world around them.
Of course, Miss America wears a crown—she rules."
As a 24 year old law student, I've often found difficulty when people in the legal profession initially discover I am involved in the Miss America Organization.
They don't understand anything about the Organization. Sure, the women who compete know everything that the Miss America website discusses above. We know the mission and vision. We know the impact the program has had in our lives. We know that "pageant" stereotypes are FAR from reality.
We, the women and volunteers who are involved in the Miss America Organization, KNOW the importance and relevance of this program.
However, the question I am faced with on a daily basis is HOW to communicate the reality of the Miss America Organization to the world.
Living out the Miss America 2.0 Mission statement is a great start.
The women who compete are the future lawyers, artists, doctors, mothers, and entrepreneurs of this country. We represent some of the BEST this country has to offer.
That may sound boastful, but it is true.
Consider the hoops the women who compete in the Miss America Organization must jump through during their journey:
Women must create, develop, and implement a personal social impact initiative.
Women visit and fundraise for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.
Women are responsible for reading and completing dozens and dozens of pages of legal paperwork in order to compete.
Women participate in numerous mock interviews to prepare for the hard personal questions and the touchy social issues the judges will ask in their private competition interview.
Women watch and read the news on a daily basis to stay abreast of current issues in the world and develop opinions.
Women write essays to try and win additional scholarship dollars.
Women make public appearances throughout their year of service. They meet children, elected officials, civic leaders, and corporate officers.
Women practice public speaking throughout the year.
Women practice hours and hours a week to perfect their onstage talent for competition.
Women write hundreds of thank you letters throughout their year to show appreciation for all those who have assisted in their success.
Women balance all these things while attending college, graduate school, or working a full-time job.
Listed are only a few of the MANY things local and state Miss America titleholders juggle on a daily basis.
It is up to US, ladies.
We, as titleholders, must fight for the future of this organization.
Realistically, the Miss America Organization is on the precipice of either success or irrelevance.
The average American without a connection to the program has no idea what's going on within the organization. Even as a titleholder, I don't really know what's going on. I only know rumors and stories from others. Though I do not know exactly what is going on at the top of this organization, I have faith in the state and local level titleholders and volunteers.
I have faith that the dedication of candidates and volunteers to live up to the mission of the Miss America Organization can lead to a solid foundation from which the Miss America Organization will continue to thrive for another 97 years!
We cannot lose hope in what this organization stands for.
We cannot give up.
We must continue to live up to the values we hold true.
First, THANK YOU!
Seriously. Your time and energy over the years is appreciated by each woman who has been apart of this program. None of our scholarship dollars or success would be possible with you.
I know I have heard the frustration from volunteers because of all of the restructuring and rebranding, but please hold on and stay strong. Please know that the titleholders and candidates value you.
We love your volunteer heart.
Remember why you started volunteering.
You are the heart and soul of this organization.
We still NEED you.
Keep it up!
You have the POWER.
You have the power to encourage new candidates to participate in this program and the power to keep the ideals of Miss America alive.
Candidly, I was NOT a fan of the elimination of swimsuit. I didn't understand how a program that began as a swimsuit competition could eliminate that portion of the contest.
I did not understand the reasoning either: "more inclusivity." On first blush, that makes sense. But a deeper look, in my humble opinion, shows a different truth. When swimsuit was eliminated it was worth only 10% of the candidate's score.
10%. Clearly not a huge percentage. Swimsuit was not going to make or break a fantastic candidate.
On the other hand, talent was worth 35% before the elimination of swimsuit which has now been increased to 50% during preliminaries at a State Competition. 50%!
Talent is now the largest percentage of any portion of the competition. I have heard many women either stop competing or shy away from beginning to compete because they did not want to sign up for a glorified talent show. Something I struggled with in choosing to compete this season as well.
I believe Miss America is a servant, scholar, and advocate for change. I don't believe she has to be a professional singer or dancer to be a vibrant, dynamic, and relatable titleholder. She's a spokeswoman. I struggled reconciling the competition percentages with what Miss America's job actually looks like.
I say all this to make it clear: I am not a blind follower and supporter of the Miss America Organization.
I have my eyes wide open. I know the flaws and complaints, some of which I agree with.
But ask yourself...
Do you love EVERYTHING about your significant other or best friend or family?
But you love THEM anyway!
Guess what ladies?
You don't have to be happy with every single aspect of the Miss America Organization to LOVE IT anyways.
You wouldn't be (1) reading this article or (2) competing in the program if that weren't true. Learn to love the organization despite its flaws.
You truly have the POWER to recruit new candidates because you can give them honest and genuine insight into what you love and have learned to love about the program.
Tell them the truth. Tell them, though there are obstacles and uncertainty, you are holding steadfast to your commitment to the Miss America Organization. Tell them how the organization has grown you as a person and professional.
You have the POWER to keep Miss America relevant.
Use that power wisely.