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Lesley Student, Miss New Bedford, Explains What Her Crown Means to Her

No, this article isn’t to yell at you for your ignorance, not even at society. We live in a world where titleholders are poo-poo’d and told they’re anti-feminists because of certain elements of the competition. I can’t lie; I felt similarly about competing before I took part in my very first quest for the crown in the Miss America Organization. Since then, I have learned so much about myself, and have seen such a transformation that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. This is the case for every single woman who has ever participated. Most people don’t understand the impact we have the ability to make in our peers, our elders, and tomorrow’s leaders. Most people don’t understand a lot of things about Miss America, and it is my job, as one of those ladies, to educate.

When someone asks me, “What do you do?” and I respond with my usual, self-programmed response, “I represent the city of New Bedford in the Miss America Organization!”, I always get a face. This face says a million things, included but not limited to, “Aren’t all of the girls’ catty?”, “So this must be your only goal in life.”, “So you’re against feminism?”, and my favorite, “You must be as dumb as a doornail.”

This is honestly just the tip of the issue. At one event in particular, a comment was overheard that we are “against women completely” and that we “shouldn’t be at an event about feminism”. These comments used to infuriate me when I first began (not that they don’t anymore); but I know it’s all just stemming from a place of ignorance. Ignorance isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s a lack of knowledge and understanding. I’ve learned that the best response to this face, is the power of knowledge. So, listen up, because you’re going to get the Miss America 101.

The crowns we wear consist of four points and represents a lot more than meets the eye. The first thing you learn as a competitor is what they stand for. The first one being: style. Now this is probably the least significant of all four, but it’s to represent how diverse the women in the organization are. You will never see two women wearing the same dress (unless everyone is wearing it, of course). The style represented at the Miss America pageant is always changing and incredibly diverse.

Success. We as an organization have crowned doctors, politicians, activists, teachers, nurses, etc. The very foundation of Miss America has always strongly encouraged women to reach their fullest potential. We have always celebrated the idea of reaching your goals. After all, the title of Miss America itself is the ultimate goal of all titleholders.

The one that really sets this organization apart from others, is the service branch. Miss America is all based around community service. We give back to our community every single day through our personal platforms, the national platform, and just as representatives of said communities. The national platform, Children’s Miracle Network is actively fundraised for by every contestant, and all of the money you collect goes you your local CMNH. We also visit the children being treated, and attend events where our fundraising efforts end up! Your personal platform, is created so you can be active in your home community.

My personal platform? Progress Not Perfection: Pushing the Importance of Body Positivity and Healthy Lifestyle. I want to empower all people to feel comfortable in their own skin, but to make sure they are doing what’s right for their body. You need to have a balanced diet and get the opportunity to get up and moving. However, you shouldn’t be completely shutting out your cravings, but paying attention to what the right amount is. I also focus on actively getting girls of different sizes to compete, because I am a 4,10’ and I wear a size 12 dress, and yet, it hasn’t stopped me. I have held two titles in both years I’ve competed, and received a non-finalist talent award at the state level. These awards and titles, have been received in the form of scholarships, which is the biggest and most crucial component of MAO.

The scholarships are the final and most prevalent component of why we do what we do. Your education, is absolutely and 100% tied to your success. There is no doubting that.  If you can learn more, you should! However, the route of higher education has become very expensive and the organization has grown in popularity. In order to have doctors, and teachers, and all of the professionals surrounding us, we have to educate! In my two years as a contestant, I have received $8,000 in scholarship monies. This organization is the largest scholarship organization for women in the world.

Every part of this organization, has been created to empower us. We are all feminists; we lift each other and always have each other’s back. The organization is made of so many strong, intelligent women, that are goal oriented and confident. I have learned so much about myself through this organization. I have found myself working harder and harder in school. I have never been a good student, but since starting my journey, my GPA has increased and I have been so focused in my education and future. Who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t want to be a role model for even just a few people? We are actively changing the world, bit by bit, where we can. Someone has to do it, and that is why we have stepped up.

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