My perception of pageants has dramatically shifted this past year.
I competed in my first pageant within the Miss America system in February 2015 and my world has been changed for the better ever since. I have significantly grown and been impacted by the performance, networking and service opportunities the organization has provided.
Allow me to educate you for a moment about the Miss America Organization.
Service. Scholarship. Success. Style.
These are the four foundational platforms the Miss America system prides itself in helping young women with across the United States. Commonly known as the "four points of the crown," each participant is expected to uphold the values and embrace the lifestyle that these elements embody.
The element that many people don't realize is a foundation to the Miss America Organization is the component of service. Many know about the scholarship money involved and that the organization promotes attractive and successful women; yet, many individuals still believe it is simply a "pageant" and that only pretty women who can walk across a stage in high heels and smile are qualified to compete. However, this is not the case. The caliber of women who compete in this system never cease to amaze me. They are driven, talented, kind, educated and passionate young ladies who have dreams of changing the world. Aside from being physically beautiful, their hearts and minds are what make them truly radiant.
Every woman who competes is required to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network, as well as develop a personal platform of her own choosing. These platforms can be anything from developing an anti-bullying campaign to speaking about body image – anything that she feels passionate about and wants to promote. Each contestant is expected to promote her platform in any way she desires, such as speaking to school classrooms or having a fundraiser supporting her platform. Aside from developing a personal platform, contestants must compete in five areas of competition: the two highest percentage areas being talent (35% of contestant's score) and interview (25%). And these interviews are by no means easy. A contestant may be asked anything from current world news to her personal views on faith and religion. The interviews test the women – forcing contestants to learn how to effectively articulate their opinions on such issues. But the element that remains central to the Miss America Organization is service.
I was already passionate about service before competing in the Miss America system. I always loved being involved in my community and experiencing the feeling that I’m giving back in some way. At Concordia, we call this BREWing: becoming responsibly engaged in the world.
Upon winning my first local title, I recognized that I was no longer just volunteering as Reyna but that I had eyes that would follow me whenever I put the sparkly crown on my head. I realized that I had been elevated to the status of being a heightened version of myself – a role model whether I liked it or not – and that I was expected to uphold a tradition of acting a certain way: to be kind, poised, inquisitive and caring to all those whom I encountered. Now that the crown rested on my head, there was an even higher level that I held myself to because I was aware of the many little eyes watching the sparkle.
However, regardless of the crown, being a part of the Miss America Organization as Miss Badlands has given me more opportunities to make service a natural part of who I am. This past year I was able to speak in elementary school classrooms about my platform, “Embracing Differences Through Kindness.” I helped and danced with hundreds of little girls at a daddy-daughter dance. I was part of a talent show at a retirement home. I was able to raise more than $600 for the Children’s Miracle Network. I volunteered at an overflow homeless shelter and was able to talk with and hear stories from individuals who are homeless. I was inspired by a 7-year-old girl who was my little “sister” during Miss North Dakota week.
Being a part of this organization has touched me – altering and causing me to grow for the better. Through the Miss America Organization, I have had the opportunity to serve and be inspired by countless individuals who have left an impact on my life.
If you are a woman who is between the ages of 17-24 and are passionate about giving back to others, I encourage you to compete in a local Miss America pageant. It is an excellent way to serve your community, be inspired, and gain incredible opportunities and experiences that will change your life.
Reyna Bergstrom '19 is studying communication, religion and nutrition at Concordia.