The Miss America Effect

For my 21st birthday, my dad gifted me a book titled “Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People”. As I was reading this book in preparation for Miss America, I came across an interesting phenomenon called the Pygmalion Effect. In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with the statue of a woman he carved. Pygmalion desperately wanted his sculpture to be real. One day the marble became flesh, and Pygmalion’s archetype woman was born. The legend of Pygmalion transposes to modern times and insinuates that great expectations lead to great results. As I was digesting this new information, I began to wonder what my personal expectations were for the Miss America Competition, and I can assure you, the thought of making Top 10 did not even exist in my wildest dreams.


Rather than expecting awards or accolades, my Pygmalion Effect was personal, not professional. I entered Miss America with the notion that this would be my last competition, my final chance to showcase the years of hard work, perseverance, and personal growth procured since my very first local in 2015. The weeks before I left for Atlantic City, I studied. I fervently read books, reflected on my past experiences, learned from influential people in the Idaho community, and formulated an idea of what being Miss America would mean to me. Visually speaking, Miss America prep mirrored studying for the most challenging test of my life. Instead of fifty multiple-choice Macroeconomics questions or a grueling ten-page paper on infrastructure in the developing world, this was a test of self-actualization, a battle of my past’s ability to shape my present. My biggest takeaway: hard work is shown from the inside out.

image1 (3).jpeg

This was a new revelation for me considering I spent the last three years polishing my personal appearance, perfecting my evening gown walk, and practicing my public speaking skills. While those areas of preparation did help me succeed in the past, I knew that being Miss America requires skills that aren’t always displayed on stage. When I was called into the Top 15 and then the Top 10, I was astonished. After all, placement was not a priority for me. However, by focusing on performing my best, I was unknowingly setting myself up for success.


My Miss America outcome was not achieved alone. Thank you to my Miss Idaho board & volunteers for always believing in me, my family for always supporting me (my mom and sister created the majority of my “Show Us Your Shoes” Parade costume), and my sponsors for their unparalleled generosity. Allison’s Dresses, Regalia, Dillard’s, Stewart’s Gem Shop, Red Aspen, Rachel at Love Nails, Lash Divas, NanaMacs Boutique, and Marbella at Paradigm Salon all helped me shine on stage.


Perhaps the Pygmalion Effect can be described in a more specific sense and draw causation between positive, personal expectations and external success. Competing at Miss America has taught me that when you prioritize your personal success, you can find reward and satisfaction manifest to other areas of your life, and you don’t need to be on a stage to achieve it. Thank you to my dad for gifting me the most valuable birthday present I have ever received. I did not just learn “The Science of Succeeding with People”, I discovered the science of succeeding with myself, or as I now call it, the Miss America Effect.