When Madelynne Myers was in high school, her best friend told her that she would be absolutely awful at being in a pageant. Not one to back down from a challenge, Myers went home and signed up for her first pageant. Just a few years later, on Jan. 23, she was crowned Miss Kentucky USA 2017.
“I was fortunate enough that my second year in the Miss division I ended up winning and I was thrilled,” Myers said. “It couldn’t have happened at a more perfect time. I’m graduating this year and I have to take a year off for the crown.”
Myers is a current senior at Vanderbilt majoring in molecular and cellular biology with minors in Spanish and chemistry. She has spent the past few years juggling school, extracurriculars and pageant life. While at Vanderbilt, she has been involved in Global Medical Brigades and plans to get involved in Dance Marathon this semester. She also started a study abroad program for high school students, called Cambridge Scholars Programme, inspired by her own experience studying abroad in high school.
“Balancing those meetings with pageant meetings and school, it’s different when you get called out of class because your director wants to talk to you about a press release for the Courier-Journal but you’re trying to take notes,” Myers said. “It’s like, ‘How do I balance everything?’ And it’s just, you wake up earlier, you go to bed a little later, but in the end it somehow all magically works out.”
According to Myers, she wouldn’t have made it where she is without her mother, who acts as her ‘momager.’ She said her entire family has been supportive and proud of her recent crowning, and that she valued the way pageants bring her family together.
“I saw my dad cry when I was crowned, he cried for the first time I’d ever seen and that was really powerful,” Myers said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him move so quickly before to the stage to get photos. And he was crying and I was crying and my mom was crying.”
Since winning the Miss Kentucky crown, Myers has experienced far more attention for her involvement in pageants than she was used to. She said, due to the stigma that surrounds the world of beauty pageants, she wasn’t always so open about her involvement in the. However, she said she considers the competitions just as hard as the exams she takes for school.
“For a while I kind of kept my pageant life under wraps, it would just be my fun fact that I shared around the table, because there is some stigmatism associated,” Myers said. “They always think of Honey Boo Boo, and everyone knows Ms. South Carolina’s ‘Where are the maps?’ But what people don’t realize is there’s really a lot of preparation. I’ve been training about six months out of the year on how to answer questions I’ll be asked like ‘How do you stand on different policies for refugees?’ or ‘What’s your stance on Aleppo?’”
“What people don’t realize is there’s really a lot of preparation.”
Myers said the lessons she’s learned competing in pageants have helped her in her day-to-day life as well. Not only has she met a supportive group of women through the pageant circuit, but she said the pageants have given her the chance to practice public speaking and prepare for interviews, like those she had to do for medical school.
“One of the things you’re judged on is stage presence and you know walking into very male dominated classes, I’m one of three or four [women] in my bio and organic class and [I’ve learned from pageants] not to be intimidated when people try to size you up and ask things like why are you here? Do you belong?” Myers said. “Those thoughts, yes they cross your mind but you know what, you do belong, you’ve worked for that spot, you’ve worked to get on that stage, you’ve worked to get in that classroom.”
While Myers plans to attend medical school Kentucky, she decided to defer her admission for a year to focus on the competition. During this time, she will make appearances as Miss Kentucky and will spend time preparing for the Miss USA competition, which will take place during the summer.
“I really want to dedicate myself to everything that Miss Kentucky has to offer and hopefully Miss USA,” Myers said. “And so I’m looking forward to the year.”