Story by Paige Nelson
On Sunday, Sept. 11, Savvy Shields of Arkansas was crowned ‘Miss America 2017.’
If you read about the competition online, though, you likely heard more about what Miss America is or isn’t or whether or not it is still relevant in American culture today.
For those unfamiliar with the competition, the Miss America Organization is a non-profit organization that stands as a platform for empowering and educating young women across the nation, awarding millions of dollars in scholarship money to hundreds of young women annually in each state, including Nevada.
At the age of 13, young girls can begin competing in ‘Miss America’s Outstanding Teen’ competitions.
But, the Miss America Organization is often also misunderstood by those on the outside, said one former McQueen student and pageant participant.
She said these competitions teach young girls confidence and how to be a positive influence in their communities.
Makenzie St.Cyr, who graduated from McQueen last year, has been competing in Nevada’s ‘Miss America’s Outstanding Teen’ competitions for much of her life.
“I’ve been doing pageants since I was about 5,” said St. Cyr, now 18. “Competing in the Miss America organization has been a dream since I was a little girl, so as soon as I turned 12 and was of age to compete I found my local pageant and competed.”
But, these competitions are more than just ‘beauty pageants.’
During her years of competing, St. Cyr has won the titles of Miss Reno-Sparks Outstanding Teen, Miss Washoe County’s Outstanding Teen, and Miss Douglas County’s Outstanding Teen. She says there is a real responsibility that comes with being a titleholder.
“When holding any title within the organization, titleholders are constantly in the public eye, so they are expected to be role models,” St. Cyr said. “They are essentially local ambassadors.”
While being in the public eye, titleholders raise awareness and bring attention to prominent issues within their community and nation.
“Each girl has a personal platform that she is passionate about, that she will advocate for throughout her year of service,” St. Cyr said. “Along with their personal platform, there is also the national platform, which is the Children’s Miracle Network. Titleholders will raise money and bring attention to the CMN.”
Despite Miss America’s focus on community, misconceptions still exist. Part of the problem, St. Cyr said, is confusion about the difference between the Miss America and Miss USA competitions.
“The Miss America organization is all about scholarships and serving your community,” St. Cyr said. “It is a more inner beauty-based pageant. The Miss USA system does a lot of modeling and has a lot to do with the way you look. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a matter of what someone prefers.”
After being involved with the competition for so long, St. Cyr looks at the competition as so much more than just another beauty pageant.
“This organization is not only about earning scholarship money, and serving the community. It’s about getting to know more about who you are as a person, and the things you’re passionate about,” said St. Cyr. “You will make lifelong friendships and memories that are irreplaceable.”