OPINION: Miss America Should Cater to Mental Health, Too

The long-standing Miss America Organization is going through another phase of adapting to the current times. Under new management, they’re bringing glamour back while keeping some of the “Miss America 2.0” concepts. 

In this new set of rules, Miss America will bring focus back to physical fitness – a portion of the competition that caught serious controversy just a few years ago. Now, with a partnership with clothing brand “Rebel FItness,” Miss America will focus on the overall physical health and well-being of their contestants.

This should be a great thing, right? Since Miss America titleholders are expected to do a lot of travelling, they have to have great overall health in order to be 100% for their appearances. However, Miss America is a highly publicized figure who can face a lot of stressful situations and potential hate and backlash. Most recently, our current Miss America, Grace Stanke, faced backlash for posing with former president Donald Trump. 

Situations like these can take a toll on someone’s mental health. Even if they take breaks from social media or remove themselves from a situation, Miss America has to have great mental health to be able to do her job. 

Former Miss America, Emma Broyles well-represented the neurodivergent community for being open about ADHD and dermatillomania. However, there is not much discussion about contestants’ and titleholders’ mental health, which becomes a big part of the job when they become state titleholders – or even Miss America.

Miss America needs to have an overall great physical and mental well-being. If she’s faced with a stressful situation that she can’t back out of, she needs to have the proper mental health tools to be able to deal with the situation.

Furthermore, she may also struggle internally. If the pressures from her internal struggles get too bad, she might not be giving her all during an appearance or another pageant activity, to which it will leave a bad reputation with that relationship.

Even at a state level, contestants go through immense amounts of training and stress to work towards the crown. There’s a lot of mental preparation that goes into hitting that stage. Even with all this prep, there’s still a lack of mental health access specifically for Miss America contestants.

Miss America provides long-term personal and professional success. Some past Miss Americas, such as Phyllis George, have been able to land careers in sports broadcasting. Others, like Broyles, have been able to pay for higher education. Something the organization hasn’t acknowledged as much is the need for overall well-being. 

The Miss America Organization has ample resources and tactics for promoting physical health, such as their “3 For Hearts Challenge” with Bills safety Damar Hamlin, as well as the more frequently used #MissAmericaFit hashtag on social media. Where they lack, however, is their little-to-no mental health iniatives.

The importance for mental health is necessary everywhere, especially with Miss America. Luckily, there are so many things the organization can do to better the mental health access for its contestants.

Starting with the state competitions, it would be worthwhile to have the contestants take a research survey about their current mental well-being. Without getting too personal as there are HIPAA laws involved, this preliminary survey can gauge how contestants are feeling about the week ahead.

Similar to the physical form in a contestant’s contract that allots permission for treatment in case of an emergency, the same can be done for mental health. A pageant is a mental game as much as it is physical, so it’s important that the women are in their best shape mentally to be able to compete. 

If a woman chooses to receive some sort of mental health treatment, they can receive mental health needs from a counselor on the state pageant board to help prepare themselves for the pageant. This can be beneficial for first-time competitors who are anxious about stepping on stage or a woman who competed in her tenth competition and needs reassurance that she is capable.

Furthermore, Miss America contestants can host mental health education workshops and social media challenges to get the conversation started about mental health. They can also partner with local and national mental health organizations, like NAMI to further the message. 

Optimizing the mental health resources for Miss America contestants will create a culture of self-care and well-being within the pageant world, something the public already believes there is a lack of in the organization. Like with the physical health, mental health opportunities will promote healthy coping mechanisms and stress management. It will also provide access to resources and destigmatizing professional help and mental health dialogue.

Creating an environment that better helps the Miss America contestants with their mental health will have lasting positive effects not only on the contestants, but also Miss America’s reputation. More mental health iniatives in the organization will enhance the contestants’ overall performance and resilience. It will inspire others through the journey of self-discovery and also build lifelong skills for personal and professional growth. Lastly, it will better prepare the women for the world as they’ll have the tools to take care of their mental well-being. 

In a job setting, it will be beneficial that an employee knows how to foster good mental health tactics for themselves and others. Miss America has a great opportunity to help jumpstart these conversations and actions.

The Miss America Organization has an obligation to focus on its contestants’ mental health. Though a crown and sash are nice, the well-being of the young women in the organization will last further than a reign. It’s up to the organization to provide the necessary tools to help its women succeed long after competing. It cannot empower women to lead if those women are not able to focus on their mental well-being as importantly as they can their physical.

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