Being a "pageant girl" was never something I thought I would ever consider myself. I never thought I would be the girl to get excited over wearing a crown, to have that moment when you feel your whole life change because of a simple sash, but I am. I can proudly stand in front of a crowd and talk about social issues and my platform, I can walk confidently in five-inch heels on almost any surface known to man, and I am a better woman because of the Miss America Organization.
Over the past year, I have seen many changes within our organization. On September 10th, one of my dear friends, our Miss North Dakota 2017 Cara Mund, was crowned the first Miss America from North Dakota. In December of that year, emails were released from Sam Haskell about his verbal abuse and mistreatment of our Forever Miss America's. When Gretchen Carlson took over the MAO, we were all hopeful to see what the former Miss America would bring to the table.
There were talks about the swimsuit portion of competition being eliminated, but I don't think any of us saw it coming. It was a complete shock when the news hit; we were all at Miss North Dakota getting ready to compete when it happened, so we were just as confused as the rest of the world.
But, this is about so much more than walking on a stage in a swimsuit. There is a sisterhood involved, lives change, and worlds collide.
"The Miss America System is a sisterhood, first and foremost. I am so thankful to be able to have found some amazing friendships while being able to support my education at the same time." - Miss North Dakota 2018, Katie Olsen.
I am a firm believer in women empowering women. I have been able to pay for my college education, my student loans, promote my personal platform, and raise money for Children's Miracle Network. I would be a completely different person if I didn't have Miss America. I have a network of sisters from around the country that empower me to be confidently myself, and I have never felt more alive.
Cara has a band of sisters who will do anything for her and she knows that. Pageants aren't just about crowns and gowns; Miss America is the leading scholarship provider for woman in the United States. Miss America 2018 will go on to Notre Dame Law School after her year, how cool is that? We are both beauty and brains, we can ace an exam one week and then walk on the Miss America stage the next.
If you ever get the chance to meet your state title holder, a local title holder, or even our own Miss America: say hello, take a picture, and remember that we do what we do to further our lives and education.
I am a proud Miss America contestant and I know I'm not the only one. I am proud to be friends with countless forever Miss North Dakota's, Miss Texas', Miss Wisconsin's, Miss Colorado's, Miss South Dakota's, and our amazing Miss America. I owe a lot to the Miss America Organization, and I know that even through this hard time, us girls will stand together and fight for our sisterhood.
Nothing can take what we have created away from us. Our experiences are our own, our platforms will live long past the age limit, and our daughters will compete in this iconic system same as us. Long live Miss America.