Thursday, September 12, 2013


This morning I watched the video that Teresa Scanlan posted to YouTube about her depression and suicidal thoughts that started with being crowned Miss America.

I think many of us would have the initial thought, "You won Miss America! You don't get to be sad about that or about anything else for the rest of your life!" In fact, I am sure that there are hundreds (thousands?) of girls every year who are depressed because they did NOT win Miss America or another pageant title. I know many of them. I was sad. Maybe even very sad. And while we're being honest I'll admit this:  Sometimes (usually just while watching the pageant) I'm still a little sad and wonder what it would have been like to walk that famous runway with a crown on my head. I may have cried most of the way home from Atlantic City. Just keepin' it real. Isn't it funny that the second someone else wins we're supposed to give up on a dream that we've devoted every waking hour to for years (and sometimes for a lifetime) and be happy that someone else gets to live that dream? And we're supposed to do that on live TV? Am I alone here?
This is me leaving the Miss America stage after I didn't make the top five.
I remember feeling like a wrecking ball was sweeping me away.
BTW, I really just wanted a full-sequin dress. I didn't wear it during competition. Thank goodness.
Anyway, I'm not writing this about that. It's about the video, which is heartbreaking. Teresa is my favorite Miss America in the last decade. I have always loved that she is Christian and is unapologetic of how often she speaks of Christ. She is gorgeous and gracious. I keep a signed picture of her in Claire's room. I'm a fan. How unfortunate that, in our electronic society, people can hide behind the anonymity of a screen name and call good people awful things because they are jealous and vicious and sad. I get that when you enter a pageant you are asking to be judged---but you are only asking to be judged BY THE JUDGES during the pageant.

Even twelve years ago when I won Miss Utah the very first comment on a news website was, "Looks like the new Miss Utah needs to go on a diet." I remember that, word for word, and not a single other comment. Although I do remember that Danielle White stood up for me. Thank you, Danielle! In that picture I weighed about 112 pounds and hardly had any fat in my body (thanks to something I ate in Mexico!). My dress was tight on my newly acquired abs and shined strangely in the picture while I was kind of squatting to be crowned. Someone sure felt it was their right to say that about me on the biggest night of my life. Classy. I knew it wasn't true, but I've never forgotten.

This is the picture that inspired people to criticize my weight.
I hope this video can be a wake-up call to the Miss America Organization at a national and state level. I'm sure it's something that they are very aware of and probably are even addressing, but it seems like more can be done. I doubt that Teresa is alone in how she felt, and I'm sure she's joined by national and state titleholders who, like her, simply were overwhelmed by life in the spotlight and the rigorous schedule of a titleholder. We *think* we know what we're getting into, they certainly tell you what you're getting into, but you can't actually know until you've lived it day-in and day-out.

Maybe this is just because I'm married to a therapist, but I think MAO and state organizations should insist on and provide for regular preventative therapy for their titleholders. My year as Miss Utah was very stressful for many, many reasons. I want to be clear: I WANTED to be Miss Utah. I worked very hard and devoted two years of my life to become Miss Utah. I LOVED being Miss Utah. I wouldn't trade it for the world. But by the time the year was over and I had traveled to every corner of the state with nearly 800 appearances, I was done; my family was done. It is HARD to stay thin when everywhere you go everyone is taking you to the best restaurant for the best food. It is hard to keep a talent stage-ready when there just isn't time to devote to practice or when pianos simply aren't available. It is hard to ignore the nearly constant criticism, however well-intentioned, that you get from directors and travelling companions and random people on the street. You did great, BUT... You talk too fast. You wore the wrong shoes. Your lipstick is wrong. Your hair is wrong. Next time say this. Here's how to improve next time. Next time be someone else entirely. And social media, while thankfully not around when I was wearing a crown, must be brutal. I just can't even imagine.

Maybe with therapy---which offers a pair of listening, confidential ears and hopefully good advice---we'd have even better titleholders. My family and local directors were amazing at always being there and always listening, but I still felt pressure to please them. It would have been nice to talk to a disinterested party. Society isn't going to change. It's too bad. Those comments will always be made. But we need to be pro-active and help our girls before they reach the point that Teresa did. I have heard many state titleholders from Utah and around the country say that they were happy and felt loved every second. But I've also had heart-to-heart talks with other girls who felt the same or heard from others involved that things weren't well. I'm not blaming MAO or MUO. Pageants, by their very nature are a judged competition. When you compete you are saying "judge me." But when so much criticism comes from every single media outlet, and every single pageant person around you is telling you you were great but has a suggestion for next time, it is hard.

Again, I need to say that I loved being Miss Utah. It was life-changing and a privilege for which I will always be grateful. I am grateful for everyone who sacrificed for me and who devoted time to my year as Miss Utah. I will always be grateful to MAO for the experience and for the scholarships (I paid $25 for my entire education!). There are so many good things about pageants. Miss America contestants at every level offer so much good to the world through community service. I think there is absolutely a place for Miss America in today's world, and I hope that it never ends. But society is changing. Instead of embracing good, society discourages and downplays and questions everything lovely.

I admire Teresa for her courage in releasing this video during Miss America Week, and I hope that all of us in "Pageantland" can be supportive of her and not continue to be critical of her. I think she is very brave, and she is not alone. Most importantly, I hope that preventative measures can be taken so no one has to feel that way again.

**Now part of me wants to delete this and never post it. I keep thinking that maybe I'm too critical and I'll never be asked to judge or emcee a pageant ever again. And probably like two people will read this anyway, so there's nothing to worry about. I also keep thinking that I should email it to my mom, my husband, my mother-in-law, and my sister to see what they think. How odd that when I'm writing that we should just let the titleholder be herself and not try to judge her so much, that I'm still looking for approval and critiques. So I'll post it. And I know I'll be criticized.


  1. You are awesome. Thank you for posting this! It's always strange to me that our society tends to spite successful people. I catch myself doing it too! Why do we show so much hate the rich, the beautiful, or someone who is just "too good"? How can we ever hope to be successful if we spite others success? This is a good reminder to celebrate others accomplishments sincerely and be on the lookout for our own unintentional (or intentional!) criticisms.

  2. I didn't watch the video but I remember watching you win Miss Utah and I was so happy for you. I could have never gone through what you did to win. Through my mission and my masters degree in social work I learned a very valuable lesson. No matter who you, what you have been, or what you will be you will always be at risk for depression and even suicide. The world we live in now contributes to that problem. It's very sad that so many people have depression and suicidal thoughts but knowing more about it helps everyone. Thanks for your post!

  3. Well said lovely daughter of mine! Well said. I agree with you, in that Teresa Scanlan was an incredible Miss America. I remember how proud we were of her for openly speaking of Christ and of her faith and love for Him. She truly had an inner glow that encompassed her outer beauty. She really is the only Miss America (besides Katie) that I remember being so excited to follow during her year.
    It absolutely broke my heart to watch her clip. I too believe that there are many, many more kind hearted, service oriented "Misses" out there that suffer silently from...and lets just call it as it is...Bullying. No matter the source, it is all extremely hurtful whether it be social media or face to face petty jealous0y. It takes a huge amount of courage to put yourself out there for the entire world, country, state or city to scrutinize. She will always be a hero to me. Especially now. I believe that she will be helping more people now and in the future than she ever could have as a Miss America. I know that God watches over all and that His tender mercies will surround her and all who unjustly suffer as she has.