In a country where an obesity epidemic looms large, and my generation is not projected to outlive our parents due to the effects of a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle, health and fitness are more important than ever. I grew up an athlete who understood the importance of taking care of your body and fueling it properly from a young age. I also believe that we need role models in all areas of life, including this one. The Miss America Organization recently announced that it is discontinuing the swimsuit portion of the competition. While I understand that MAO strives to maintain relevance in a world where pageantry can be misunderstood and even looked down upon for “objectifying” women, I believe this part of the competition is truly more relevant now than ever before.
I have competed onstage in both swimsuit and fitness wear and can say with honesty that this is one of the most empowering things I have ever chosen to do. I also know that every single woman who walks across that stage has worked extremely hard to be there and understands the importance of actively choosing to pursue health and fitness daily. I have experienced and observed others working to strengthen areas of weakness while conquering insecurities, becoming more confident and empowered. Preparing for the swimsuit or fitness competition helped me not only look good, but to feel good. Exercise and healthful eating reduces stress, increases heart health, and increases overall happiness and wellness.
I do not in any way believe that (role) modeling on stage in a swimsuit or activewear, showing my work in the pursuit of health and fitness in any diminishes my worth as a woman. It does not abate my true strength, lessen my credibility as a student, or in any other area of my life. It also reinforces the notion that pageantry develops a hard work ethic in all areas of the competition, and life lessons about living healthy inside and out. I cannot wait to walk across the Miss International stage in my fitness wear “role” modeling this for my younger sister. More than anything, I want all “sisters,” all women, to feel empowered and strong, so that we may fulfill our potential and become the best versions of ourselves. Let us encourage others, serve our communities, and love ourselves knowing that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by our Creator (Psalm 139:14).