The Reality of Miss America
It’s been a little over a week since I was crowned Miss America, and what a whirlwind it has been! I’ve already taken two cross-country flights, participated in countless media interviews, and had the opportunity to attend the Clinton Global Initiative’s Annual Meeting where I met some very influential people who are doing incredible things around the globe.
It is such an honor to be Miss America 2015 — and to represent the amazing 52 women who I had the privilege of getting to know over 2 weeks in Atlantic City. They epitomize everything that Miss America is about and being chosen from among them is my greatest honor.
I’m launching this personal blog to share my year with you because I feel it’s important for people to know what it’s really like to be Miss America. It’s not just one night a year on television — it’s a 365/24/7 job. In addition to all the amazing opportunities that come with the title, it also is a year of personal growth — and challenges. This first week of being in the public eye is not something you can ever prepare for. The positives have far outweighed any of the negativity and craziness that comes with being in a high profile position, particularly on social media. But I’m learning as I go, and I hope to do my best to represent the organization and the title to the best of my abilities.
On that note, I’d like to address one specific issue that has popped up in the media. Because what type of role model would I be if I told people, young women especially, that you can’t make mistakes? That’s not real life.
When I entered the sorority recruitment process at Hofstra University in Spring 2010, I decided to join a sorority for the social life but I also thought that I was joining a legacy of success and philanthropy. My friends were joining, and for fear of being left out, I joined too. To be completely honest, I didn’t know what I was signing up for.
The worst of the so-called hazing was standing in a line reciting information, a few sleepless nights, and crafting. I was yelled at a few times. That year, the sorority got in trouble for those actions and was disciplined by both Hofstra and the national organization. However, after being brought up through that process, my class thought the only way to gain respect in the sorority was to go through it or be seen as weak.
Later on, I had the opportunity to be the New Member Educator for a semester. It was a very rewarding experience as you get to connect with the recruits on a very deep level. However, I did oversee some pledging events as part of my job description, similar to those described above. Furthermore, my termination from Alpha Phi surrounded entirely different circumstances and I would like to use this opportunity to further explain.
When I was a senior, as one of the older sisters in the sorority, I was asked by a new member educator at the time to send an email to alumni asking them to attend an event. In the email, I joked that we could make the evening scary for the pledges. That statement was a joke – we never intended to actually engage in the wrongful behavior that I have been accused of – and the alumni event I spoke of never came to fruition anyway. But this is when I learned a very important communications lesson that will stick with me for life.
The email was forwarded by someone to the national organization. Based on that information, the national office summoned me for a judiciary hearing. At the time, it was the end of the school year. Finals, graduation, and moving to New York City were at the forefront of my concerns. Based on the fact that I did not attend this hearing that was the official reason given for my termination.
I was never involved with any name-calling or use of profanity toward a girl during my time with the sorority. I was never involved in any physical hazing or any degradation of physical appearance of any kind. This has all been immensely taken out of context and manipulated purposefully because I am now in a public position.
The nameless source that is saying these things is doing exactly what it is that I was wrongfully accused of.
Now that I’m 2 years removed from that experience at the sorority, I’ve learned what healthy relationships are, and can better speak to what young girls entering college should avoid and it has further developed my platform, “Love Shouldn’t Hurt: Protecting Women Against Domestic Violence.”
I’m also proud to say that Alpha Phi Theta Mu of Hofstra University is an upstanding organization that has completely abandoned these practices and I’m incredibly proud of the work they do as an organization.
I understand that it can sometimes be hard for women to help other women. It’s so sad but I see it happening over and over. The Miss America sisterhood has taught me what true sisterhood is. It is a group of women that has elevated itself from that pettiness and is able to be happy for one another instead of trying to tear each other down.
I was one of those girls who fell victim not only to the abuse of an intimate partner but the abuse of people who I thought were my friends. In response, I imposed that attitude unto others because I thought it was right. Today, I am proud to say — as I have said before — that I have lived a lot of life in my 23 years. I have made mistakes, and I have made magnificent triumphs, most importantly the one that happened to me on September 14 in Atlantic City.
I look forward to sharing my year of service with you and continuing to engage in a dialogue about trading adversity for success. I want to be someone who people look up to as Miss America, and I also want women to understand that despite anything that has happened in your past or the mistakes that may have been made, you have the power to control the outcome of your future.