By Molly Patterson
“And your new Miss America 2019 is…Nia Franklin from New York!”
I was sitting on the fourth row from the stage in Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ when I heard the name of our new Miss America called, and I saw firsthand the life of a young woman change in front of me.
This year was different, though. There was no swimsuit competition, no traditional evening wear, the sashes had been changed and the women competing were asked to change a lot of things said when introducing themselves, including not referring to their titles with a “Miss” in front of it.
I have been competing in the Miss America organization since I was 13. I started in the teen programs, and I’m now entering my fourth year in the Miss program. I have gained lifelong friends, helped pay for my education, furthered my work in the political field by bringing awareness to voting and gained skills benefitting my life for many decades to come.
Going to Miss America this year was truly a dream come true, and being in the audience to see these new changes really helped me see what’s to come for the Miss Oklahoma pageant and every other state competition this summer.
With all of this said, I miss swimsuit.
The swimsuit competition taught me how to live a healthy lifestyle and fuel my body right. It taught me how to train, enjoy food and perseverance. This competition inspired me to not only look my best, but also feel my best in all areas of life.
I miss the elegance of the evening wear competition, and I miss the traditions I grew up watching and dreaming about if my time were to come to compete on the iconic stage with the Miss Oklahoma sash across my body.
As I am preparing for Miss Oklahoma in June, I cannot help but think about how different things are going to look and what the pageant is going to continue to evolve into.
There was so much controversy leading up to Miss America 2019, which really took over the contestants’ time to shine and made me sad since this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Change is hard and changing a 98-year tradition is really hard, but there is nothing stopping me from loving all the things Miss America stands for.
This year, my focus is primarily on my social impact initiative, “Your Voice, Your Choice,” and improving my talent and speaking skills every day.
Miss America will forever be an icon to me. She is strong, smart, independent and relevant. I truly believe Miss America is going through an intense period of change, but there will be light at the end of this tunnel.
I choose to still compete despite all of these changes, because I remember the dream I had as a little girl to go to Atlantic City and represent the best state in the nation.
I choose to still compete for all the little girls and boys out there who have a dream and still choose to chase it even when the going got tough. I choose to still compete because I believe I have everything it takes to one day be Miss America.