Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan gasps as she learns of her new title, at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, NV on Jan. 13. Photos by Steve Smith.
Fascinating, hip, and elegant were among the words used to describe Miss America’s history and evolution, as Miss New York Mallory Hytes Hagan became Miss America 2013 at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on Jan. 12. A strong public speaker, Hagan seems an ideal spokeswoman for the organization and its focus on education.
Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan shares the moment with a friend in the audience.
“I’m truly reminded of what this organization does for young women – How it helps them grow into beautiful young adults,” Hagan said. “Education is something that’s extremely important to me. I’ve kind of had a hard time finding my way, and I hope to be a role model for young women everywhere who are trying to find that path in school. I’m looking forward to working with STEM and really empowering young women to move forward in math and engineering.”
Studying advertising, marketing and communication at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Hagan said working with Miss America sponsor Artistry will be a “wonderful internship” for her.
“We’re going to make a pledge in 2013 to dedicate and become advocates for young women to lead the way in math, science, engineering and technology,” said Miss America Chairman of the Board of Directors Sam Haskell.
The new Miss America at her first press conference.
Haskell pleaded with corporate America to keep its eyes on the MAO, because education in those areas will be a frontline effort of the Miss America Organization, and added that the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has pledged his support for the effort and has asked to meet with Hagan as soon as possible.
“We’re going to promote education like it has never been promoted before,” Haskell said.
Hagan said she is also excited about being an ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network. She also plans to continue to promote her platform of child sexual abuse prevention – because, she said, many of the women in her family were sexually abused.
“It’s something that’s touched our family in a multitude of ways. It’s something I’ve definitely dealt with in my teenage years.”
As Miss New York, she has already partnered with many organizations, including Stop It Now, to promote child abuse prevention programs.
Hagan is the fourth Miss New York to upgrade her crown, and began competing in the organization as a teen.
Head Miss America Judge Mary Hart said the week spent judging became more challenging than any of the judges had expected.
”Yet, it was the most incredibly rewarding week,” she said. “We had 53 young women walk in the room, who all are so accomplished, and who all had overcome obstacles.”
While Hagan is clearly the right fit for the job, several of the contestants – when interviewed earlier in the week – had different slants on what Miss America’s style and substance is, should be, and where it is headed. Many agreed that she should keep with the times, but some thought that tradition should be a big factor. Still others thought Miss America’s style should change some to accommodate each national titleholder’s personality.
“There are definitely a lot of changes going on,” said Miss Massachusetts Taylor Kinzler. “They’re really trying to market Miss America and make it more fresh. They want to make it more sexy and market it to the younger generation.”
Miss Massachusetts Taylor Kinzler won a non-finalist talent award.
“She is absolutely the face of the organization,” said Miss Connecticut Emily Audibert said. “It’s really a year of service, and she does what she does to better the organization and to help people in all the things that she does. It’s really about making other people happy.”
“I think Miss America is someone who is classy,” said Miss Kansas Sloane Lewis. “But, I think most importantly, that she is somebody who is herself. I don’t think there is a definition of what she should look like or what she should wear. Every girl is different and everyone is unique.”
“It’s changed so much over the years, but it’s kept a lot of the same tradition, as well,” said Miss Rhode Island Kelsey Fournier. “I think it’s much more contemporary, and they want someone who’s natural. I don’t think it’s the ‘pageant girl’ anymore, it’s someone who is comfortable in her own skin.”
Miss South Carolina Ali Rogers – who was the runner-up to Hagan – also thought Miss America is a mix of the traditional and the modern. “I think the image has changed over the years,” she said. “I appreciate the American icon that Miss America used to be, and I think it should get back to the good old days, when Miss America was known by everyone in this country.”
Miss South Carolina Ali Rogers was the runner-up to Hagan.
Rogers’s over-the-border neighbor agrees.
“It’s interesting, because Miss America is such an icon,” said Miss North Carolina Arlie Sundquist, “that I think the next Miss America needs to work hard to get people to know her. Not just the icon, but the person who is underneath that.”
“We are definitely talking a lot about the different images of Miss America,” said Miss Louisiana Lauren Vizza, “where she is today and how she fits into the modern world, because it is changing. She is to remain classic and timeless, but she also has to embrace the future.”
Miss Nevada Randi Sundquist said her own style has evolved as she has progressed through her state’s pageant system, and has become more sophisticated and elegant.
”I also think Miss America needs to have a story, and I don’t mean a fairy tale,” Sundquist said. “She needs to be able to relate to people through her obstacles. That’s what makes her real. Everyone thinks of Miss America as perfect, and she never is. We all have our flaws.”
Miss Connecticut Emily Audibert enjoyed her time in the national spotlight.
The contestants also each had their own highlights of pageant week, but all said the camaraderie was the biggest thing they’ll take from the experience.
“Just meeting all the girls,” Kinzler said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, coming in. I didn’t know if the other girls were going to be mean or competitive, but we are all coming from the same place. Everyone is really relaxed and calm and we’ve been able to really connect.”
“I’ve been having a really good time,” said Miss Connecticut Emily Audibert, who added that she felt especially good about the swimsuit preliminary. “This is my first and only year where I’m going to be competing in pageants, so why not strut my stuff out there and show everyone what I’m made of.”
“It’s important to make friends while you’re here,” Fournier said. “Whether or not you win, this organization opens so many doors for you.”
The contestants said that while they were all certainly aware of each other’s talents, and strengths, there really wasn’t much competitiveness in the air, as the new friendships and a spirit of “we’re in this together” prevailed.
Miss Illinois won the longest gown award (unofficially).
Miss Kansas made one friend, sort of by accident.
“I had a malfunction with my hair,” she said, “and Miss Massachusetts [Kinzler] completely did my hair for me before I went on stage. She could have messed me up or told me my hair looked fine. So, I don’t feel that competitiveness, and if you let yourself get that way, it would make this experience so much less enjoyable.”
“It’s really awesome,” said Vizza. “It’s crazy to think that all of these girls from different parts of the country come together and become best friends, but it does happen. It’s just a big sorority.”
“You’re competing with the other girls, rather than competing against them,” Honeycutt said. “We’re all in this together, and this an experience that few people will ever have.”
“It’s been fun,” said Sundquist, who lives in Las Vegas. “Before all of these girls arrived, I felt like grandma waiting for all the kids to come home, because I live ten minutes down the street. I’ve made wonderful, wonderful friends.”
Earlier in the week, several former Miss Americas were asked what one word defined the Miss America Organization. “Fascinating,” said Miss America 2004 Ericka Dunlap, who explained that “people are mesmerized” whenever she shows off her crown.
With Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppler’s crown right behind her, Ericka Dunlap said people everywhere are always fascinated when they meet any Miss America. For more photos from Miss America 2013, visit www.stevephotographysmith.com.
“Big girls, little girls – men have worn the crown,” Dunlap said, adding that even President Obama was impressed when he met Dunlap last year. “He gave me a kiss on the cheek. He was fascinated that he got to meet Miss America.”
Miss America 1955 Lee Meriwether may have had the last word on who Miss America is.
“I value this organization and how it has grown,” Meriwether said. “I am so proud of it today. These women are magnificent, and they bring to this title such an energy and viability that is just incredible.”