Misconceptions about Miss America: Pageants and Eating Disorder Recovery

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:18

I did my first pageant when I was 14, and I was hooked. There was something about the fancy dresses, the stage lights, and the whole environment that just pulled me in. 6 years later, and my love for the pageant world has only grown. Last year I took the year off from competing. I had plans to compete in January, but had to drop out because I was too sick. Many people asked me if I would ever return to the pageant world. Since I was recently crowned Miss Spirit of St Louis 2020, the answer is yes! I will be competing for the Miss Missouri crown in June.

If you don’t know a lot about pageants, I can guess what you’re thinking. But let me stop you right there. Pageants did not cause my eating disorder. Despite the stereotype, the pageant world is one of the most supportive communities I am a part of. Being able to compete again was one of my reasons for recovery. Seeing all my friends compete for Miss Missouri without me simply broke my heart. The world tends to stereotype pageants as being objectifying and image focused. I could go on and on about the benefits of pageants, but to start, here are my top 3 reasons for returning to the stage now that I’m in recovery.

1 – Community. One of the best things I have gained from pageants is the community. Many people don’t realize just how close we all become. But after competing for 6 years, we all have become pretty close. My pageant friends have been so supportive throughout this whole journey. When I couldn’t compete last year, they were by my side loving me and encouraging me. Now that I am competing again, they are still by my side 100%. We are all competing for 1 crown, but we are doing it together, not against each other.

2 – Skills. Pageants push you to be the best version of yourself. While working towards a crown, every day is spent polishing interview skills, talent, walking patterns, public speaking, and developing your social impact statement. While the prep can get exhausting, it absolutely is worth it. These are skills I will use my entire life. This is where a lot of the misconception comes in. People tend to think the pageant world is all about looking a certain way. That’s not true at all. We are encouraged to be our healthiest selves, and that looks different for every person. Now more than ever, Miss America 2.0 is encouraging body positivity and I could not be more proud of this organization.

3 – Sharing my story. This is the biggest reason I am back in the pageant world. Every Miss America contestant has a “Social Impact Initiative” or a cause they spend the year promoting. Mine is Choose Harmony. I have such a passion for eating disorder recovery, and being Miss Spirit of St Louis gives me the opportunity to reach even more people. I started competing again in October, and won a title at my third pageant. Each pageant has a private interview with 5 judges. In those 3 pageants, I was able to share my story with 15 different judges. Crown or not, I was able to educate 15 more people about the danger of eating disorders and what we can do to help.

At every pageant we give a 10 second statement about our impact statement before walking in our evening gown. Those 10 seconds are why I’m competing again. Not for the sparkly dresses. Not for the shiny crown. But to have a wider platform to connect with people and let them know that you are not alone. You are not defined by your eating disorder or whatever is holding you back. You will overcome.

“Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Together we can learn how to live not at war, but in harmony with our bodies.”

A year ago, I would have never guessed that I would be where I am now. If I could go back and tell myself anything it would be Romans 8:18 – “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Winning the title of Miss Spirit of St Louis was a dream come true. It’s been a few weeks now and I am still shocked! I cannot wait to see how God continues to change my life and use my story for His glory.

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