With the 2022 suicide of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst serving as a catalyst for the conversation, many former Miss Americas shared feelings about the pressure they endured during their year as reigning winner, and also the struggles of transitioning back to everyday life after passing the crown to the next Miss America.
“I think that you’ll find every Miss America has struggled at some point with their mental health, their personal identity during their year,” Miss America 2016 Betty Maxwell said.
Maxwell highlighted another common experience for winners: Many expressed feeling as though they had prepared to do a certain kind of job, but there was a complete disconnect from what that job actually was. Instead of discussing topics and dealing with causes they were passionate about, everything they said and did was heavily monitored and regulated by the organization.
“When I won, I was encouraged that the Miss America program was truly the place for celebrating an authentic version of today’s woman. But my experience taught me the exact opposite,” Miss America 2002 Katie Harman said.
One of the main centerpieces of the episode was Miss America 2011 Teresa Scanlan who, at the age of 17, became the youngest to wear the crown since 1937. She said her downward spiral began shortly after she won when she started noticing all the negative comments on the YouTube videos of her pageant, calling it a “punch in the gut” right as she was coming off a major high. She said every time she spoke in public after that, she would be second-guessing herself.
Scanlan also said that she barely talked to her family during her year as Miss America and said she doesn’t remember sensing any kind of concern from the organization about someone of her young age handling such a heavy workload and travel schedule.