Miss America Contestant Praised For Slamming Flint Water Crisis In Introductory Speech
Unlike in the not-so-distant past, judging women entirely for their physical attributes is very much a no-no. Since the dawn of time, women have had to contend with their outward appearances being valued above the many other wonderful qualities which they possess, but thankfully major institutions like Miss America are moving away from this outdated and sexist view.
While it would be ludicrous to imply that beauty is no longer going to be a part of pageants, their increased emphasis on other qualities is without question a step in the right direction - as is the fact that the modeling world is slowly but surely praising different body types. And this change has recently been epitomized by one Miss America contestant's opening speech.
Instead of discussing her own achievements as so many pageant contestants are wont to do, Miss Michigan AKA Emily Sioma used her platform to criticize her home state for one of the most pressing issues in its society: the Flint water crisis.
To hear what she had to say about the problem that's plagued the state since 2014, check out the video below:
So, for anyone unfamiliar with the problem, or who lives outside the state, what exactly is the Flint water crisis? Well, despite the fact that Michigan is home to 84% of fresh water in the US, there is none available for the residents of Flint to drink.
Flint's crisis began when lead piping rendered its water supply undrinkable. This put 100,000 residents of the poor, mostly black city at risk by exposing them to high levels of lead, and they have had no option but to drink filtered and bottled water since then. While the pipes are currently in the process of being replaced, full replacement is not expected to be completed until 2020.
Emily's decision to use the competition to draw attention to such an important issue was met with considerable praise online.
"Miss Michigan just introduced herself by shaming her home state for [the] Flint water crisis," wrote Julia Terruso.
This declaration of what Emily had done was then praised as showing the true spirit of the Miss America pageant.
"Emily Sioma, @MissAmericaMI wanted to make an impact. Regardless of whether you agree with what she said or not, she is shining light on a pressing issue that we have in our state that is STILL not solved," remarked @brooklynn_kayy.
"THAT, is a Miss America [sic]."
This sentiment was echoed by @JSchipperWDRB who wrote, Miss Michigan should automatically win #MissAmerica for starting with this! #Home #GoGirl"
This, however, is not the first time that Emily has used her platform as a force for good. As a survivor of sexual assault, she decided to protest this violence at her graduation - reminding those who have no voice that they are not alone.
Taking to Instagram, Emily shared a picture of her cap which read "I survived" and the following statement:
"Two years ago I decided it was time to take a stand (quite literally) against sexual assault. Protesting my own graduation was never something I planned, but it is something I will always be proud of.
"In that moment I found a voice in silence. I found strength through the support of a true friend. I found that even though I was standing alone, I was standing for so much more.
"For every voiceless survivor, I stood. For every survivor, I still stand. I Believe you."
Sadly, Miss Michigan did not make it to the final 15 in the Miss America pageant, but there is no doubt that she has made a real impact.
The same can be said for Miss West Virginia, Madeline Collins. During a preliminary round of the pageant, she made the controversial decision to say that the biggest issue currently diving the US is President Trump.
In addition to this, Miss Virginia, Emili McPhail, threw in her two cents on the NFL kneeling debacle by saying that players "absolutely" at the right to use their position on the pitch to protest police brutality during the national anthem.
And while these protests might seem like isolated acts of rebellion, they arguably are a reflection of the major rebrand which the Miss America pageant has undergone since its CEO scandal in 2017, which has led to this year's "2.0" pageant.
"Miss America will represent a new generation of female leaders focused on scholarship, social impact, talent, and empowerment," Gretchen Carlson, Chair of the Board of Trustees, said in a statement about the changes.
One of these changes is the removal of the swimsuit round to reflect a move away from judging women entirely for their outward beauty - which has been praised by Miss New York, Nia Imani Franklin, who was awarded the 2019 crown.
"I've already seen so many young women reaching out to me personally as Miss New York asking how they can get involved because I think they feel more empowered that they don't have to do things such as walk in a swimsuit for a scholarship," she said.
"And I'm happy that I didn't have to do so to win this title tonight because I'm more than just that," the winner of the $50,000 (£40,000) scholarship said. "And all these women onstage are more than just that."
We would like to commend Miss Michigan and all the other pageant girls who have used their platform to raise awareness for issues close to their heart. Hopefully, this will incite positive societal change - and solve the Flint water crisis before 2020.