Submitted by: Olivia McMillan, Miss America’s Outstanding Teen
There are many incorrect stereotypes attached to the “pageant girl” image and because of them, I thought I could never be successful in pageants. Now I’m Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, a.k.a the little sister to Miss America, and I’m letting girls know they can break stereotypes, overcome challenges and embrace their differences.
I’m a high school student who has studied classical voice for three years. I love performing, and a teacher introduced me to pageants as a great way to perform as well as gain poise, confidence and stage presence.
So when I entered and won my first local pageant, I was thrilled. While I was congratulated and encouraged by most people, some thought I was too large to compete on the state level. I was even told I was “fat.” As a 16-year-old girl who is 5’ 10” and has struggled with weight most of my life, that was really hard to hear. I knew I wasn’t fat, but I also knew I wasn’t healthy either. It made me take a good look at myself.
Rather than dwell on what people told me I couldn’t do, I decided to focus on what I could do and what was best for me. Yes, I needed to lose some weight so that I could be healthy, fit and active – but I didn’t need to be skinny. I decided to commit to eating healthier and exercising regularly. With hard work, I lost 50 pounds and achieved a size 8-10, which felt right and is healthy for me. I went on to win Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen, and then the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen against 52 other young women. I took control of my health and my body, and was able to break the pageant stereotype. I was myself through and through, and to me that is what it’s all about!
My life motto is “Beeee yourself.” It’s a quote from the genie in Disney’s “Aladdin,” and my Dad has been saying this to me since I was a little kid. It’s helped me in my experiences with pageants and in everything I do. I used to try to be what I thought everyone else wanted. That didn’t work for me. I am a biracial girl who is adopted, has lost 50 pounds, and has a brother with special needs. I used to try to cover up my story because it made me different, but I realized these experiences made me special. I learned that if I was going to be successful in pageants or life in general, I needed to be myself.
I was fortunate to be awarded nearly $30,000 in scholarship money for my college education by Miss America’s Outstanding Teen, which as an organization is committed to helping communities. As the MAOTeen titleholder, I’m the National Teen Goodwill Ambassador for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Also, each titleholder has a personal platform. Mine is the Sibling Support Project, which helps brothers and sisters of children with special needs.
I’m so happy that I could pave the way for other girls who felt like they couldn’t succeed. I got an e-mail from a girl shortly after I won who told me that she had never competed in pageants because she struggled with her weight. She said that she saw me win and it inspired her to compete in her very first local pageant. I am proud that I broke the mold of what some people think a pageant winner should be. I hope my story will give other girls the confidence to go out there and do the same!
BIOGRAPHY: Olivia McMillan, from Warner Robins, Georgia, was crowned Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in August 2014. Each year, the organization hosts a national competition that encourages and rewards the talent, communication skills, community service, and academic achievements of girls between 13 and 17 years of age. The organization has offered more than $18 million in cash and scholarship assistance in the past year alone.
To follow Olivia:
Facebook: Miss America’s Outstanding Teen
Find her at: http://www.maoteen.org
Sign up to receive inspiration and special offers on Girls Can't WHAT? gifts. It's Free!
Have you ever been told you can't because you're a girl?
This is one of many reader entries designed to encourage and inspire other women to rise to the challenge and follow their dreams. Have you ever been told you can't because you're a girl? Share your story!