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Educating Miss America

Kirsten Haglund, a senior political science major at Emory, served as Miss America 2008

By Mary Loftus | Emory Magazine | Aug. 22, 2012

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Miss America 2008, Kirsten Haglund, started a foundation for girls with eating disorders. Emory Photo/Video.

 The first thing you need to know about twenty-three-year-old Kirsten Haglund, class of 2013, is that she has heard every question you are about to ask her one hundred times over.

After her year as Miss America 2008 (twenty thousand travel miles a month, forty-eight states, two suitcases), Haglund is a seasoned public speaker and interview subject.

She's appeared on FOX, CNN, and every local affiliate waiting in the lobby of her hotel. She has sung the national anthem at dozens of pro games — for the Lakers, Pistons, Nuggets, Lions, Eagles, Phillies and Tigers. She's signed autographs at small-town Walmarts, performed in Thanksgiving parades, and attended the Commander-in-Chief Inaugural Ball, waiting in the green room with Smokey Robinson and Jordin Sparks.

Clips on YouTube show her joking with Regis and Kelly, singing the title song from her EP, American Pride, appearing on The Sean Hannity Show, and speaking at the "Redefining Beauty" lecture series at Harvard University.

You could forgive her a little wariness, indeed, weariness, of the whole process.

And yet, sipping a tall vanilla rooibos hot tea at an Atlanta Starbucks, she answers each successive query thoughtfully: How it felt to be crowned with her grandmother, Miss Michigan 1944, watching. ("I wish the camera had been on her to capture her reaction.") Her mother's battle with breast cancer. ("It was a scary time for our family.") Her struggle with anorexia. ("My dream of being a ballet dancer caused me to do a lot of things to myself and my body that were painful.") Her faith. ("I don't know how I would have recovered without it — as a child of God I found worth outside of just being beautiful or skinny.")

Stark honesty is a disarming trait in a beauty queen.

Full story in Emory Magazine >>