“You don’t look like you would do pageants,” a statement with several variations that I have heard more times than I would like to believe. During my time competing with the Miss America Organization, I have found myself asking if the side comments and judgments were worth the abundant benefits that come along with being a contestant. I wasn’t sure if I was able to withstand the idea of sacrificing the self-worth and confidence that took me my entire life to build. I’ve been told that I’m not pretty enough, that I’m too quirky, that I should lose “at least 15 pounds,” and I can’t even begin to list the comments that have been made about my ethnicity as a Korean-American. As someone who came from a place by which I thought nothing of myself at my lowest point, I was crushed. Why am I putting myself through this?
It took an extensive period of self-reflection in order to put my own health and needs above all else, and that’s when I came to the conclusion that I would not and could not stop fighting for what I believe in. I laid out the answers to my self-doubting question, and it gave me the willpower and determination to become the strongest version of myself, which truthfully caught me by surprise. I refuse to allow any labels to define me, and I am working even harder as a representative and role model to ensure that we can change this outlook for others. I have determined that my message as a representative is to be a source of compassion and empathy for those I encounter, and to ensure that no matter where they come from or the struggles that they have faced, they can accomplish any goal or dream, just as I have. I now have the courage to stand up to the cynicism surrounding being a contestant, and I am proud to explain what the Miss America Organization truly stands for, and that I am a representative and strong believer of its efforts. I would not be the person that I am without having had this opportunity, and I would never have felt so sure of myself.
When the crown was placed on my head and I was officially named Miss City of Orange 2018, I finally felt as though I had the voice and ability to impact the lives of others and to be a representative of a larger purpose.