“Differentiate between character and personality.”  I was asked this question in a mock interview. It remains one of my favorite questions of all time.  In this time of evolution for the Miss America Organization, the 2.0 rebranding, this question often resurfaces in my mind.

In my opinion personality is almost equal to mood or attitude.  Personality changes frequently and is dependent upon environment, situation, and elements beyond one’s control when paired with one’s sense of self.  Character, again in my opinion, is more deep-rooted.  Character begins with genetic makeup and is solidified in formative years.  I do not believe character changes quickly; rather character truly defines a person when sometimes personality deviates from a character’s natural path.

Why is this relevant to the Miss America Organization and the 2.0 rebrand?  Miss America has both character and personality.  I view 2.0 as a personality of Miss America and personality is subject to change based on environmental factors. Being part of this very distinguished class to first experience this Miss America 2.0 personality, what I most want the public and volunteers of the organization to know is the character of Miss America will never change.  The organization is full of characters; from my understanding it always has been.  And these characters each leave a thread of themselves in the tapestry that is Miss America.  Yes, Miss America’s personality has changed, but do we, those of us who believe in the core values of the organization’s character, not owe that character the benefit of the doubt?

Miss America will always embody the characteristics of service, scholarship, style, and success.  The rebrand has not diminished these core values. What I believe is that Miss America’s personality will adapt over time to achieve one of its primary objectives; to meet the needs of its consumers, its characters.  I am very proud to be Miss North Carolina this year.  Many have said to me how much they fear that I have to compete in this first year of 2.0.  My response, I am honored to be a part of it. It makes sense to me.

Why do I want to share this with you?  There are two main reasons.  First, I want to ask each and every volunteer of the Miss America Organization to think about the organization’s character; character you helped to build.  The personality at this given moment may not be exactly as you would like it to be, but remember the character, community, networks, and friendships you’ve grown through the organization. On every level of the organization leadership is doing the best they can to act in our best interest. I have sat before the leadership of the Miss America Organization recently and walked away with a belief that 2.0 is flexible.  Our leaders need your character to take part in the design and future of the program.  Walking away, pulling out your character, removes you from a mathematical equation where the sum total has consistently and overwhelmingly been the positive change of young lives. I ask you to lend your character to the change in the Miss America personality.  Your character is needed to shape its overall culture.

Second, I want to speak to the number of young women who have expressed to me their concern about participating in the organization post/during rebranding.  So many have said so much to me. I’ve been told, “I attend a community college and Miss America now must be a university scholar.”  Too, “I have only studied piano a few years and Miss America has to be a prodigy.”  Also, “I’m not sure what Miss America is anymore and if I have a place in it.”  Very candidly, Miss America is encompassing of more healthy young women now than it has ever been. There is absolutely no shame in an education that starts or ends at a community college.  Financially it is a very wise decision and technical trades are very in demand right now, too.  You receive the best education where you try the hardest to learn.  Your education is justified by its fit for you and your future plans.  There is no reason to believe a student at Wake Technical College is any less qualified to be Miss America than one who attends Duke University. We are all capable of the Miss America job.  Talent is not summarized by technical skill; it is an outward expression of entertainment.  Your ability and preparation are not solely about formal training.  In fact, ability is more derived from heart, passion, and drive.  You should never sell short what you bring to the stage if you’ve come to entertain bringing with you the best you can offer.

The character of Miss America is still rooted in scholarship, service, style, and success.  If you considered or competed before, the core values, the character of the organization has not changed. I say this because of the 91 young women I shared the stage with in Raleigh this June and the 50 I will stand beside at the Miss America Competition.  I say this for those who have ever tried or wanted to reach the state or national level stage.  Do not give up on your dream.  Miss America has not given up on you.  In fact, the organization has broadened its acceptance for all young women.   I am immensely proud to be Miss North Carolina, and forever grateful to have had wonderful experiences as a local titleholder.  Don’t sell your character short when the personality of Miss America has evolved.  As the local competition season begins, put your name out there.  I whole-heartedly believe you will be glad you did.  And I am very proud of each of you who have the character and courage to stand before others and say, “I am worthy.”  That in and of itself will always be a victory.

Differentiate between character and personality. Each person reading this is needed in this organization to further enrich its already incredible character.  I encourage you all to give 2.0 a chance and trust it is evolving in your best interest. We collectively are Miss America, each and every one of us, and we are valuable to the future of this powerful and positive organization.

#WeAreMissAmerica

-Laura