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These Aren't Your Stereotypical Pageant Girls

As the saying goes "Miss USA contestants want to be Vicky Secret Models, Miss America contestants want to be Doctors and Lawyers" ... interpret that as you like but between that and the "dumb pageant girl" stereotype and the public's ravenous need to glorify unfortunate Youtube moments, there's a side of Miss USA contestants (and indeed, Miss America contestants too) which is under-publicised and indeed under-appreciated. It's time to bust that stereotype wide open! Whether their success be in business, science, medicine, law, education, entertainment or numerous other fields, twelve passionate, accomplished and yes, beautiful, titleholders and contestants share their stories. These are just the tip of a very, very large iceberg, and I apologise for not being able to include every single story that was shared with me.

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1. Brittany Toll - Teach for America

Brittany graduated, with honors, from New Mexico State University in the spring of 2009 with a degree in marketing and a minor in advertising. The only post-college job she applied for was Teach For America, and she was selected as one of 4,500 out of a pool of 47,00 applicants to be a 2009 Teach For America corps member. From there she began working in rural New Mexico teaching pre-Kindergarten for her two years in the corps. Immediately after Miss USA she worked a summer in Philadelphia as a Corps Member Advisor for incoming corps members and was then hired by Teach For America Oklahoma to work as a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development. She is now TFA Oklahoma's Director of Early Childhood Education, working to develop and train 65 Teach For America early childhood educators across Oklahoma who are working to ensure that their students receive the education they deserve.

Brittany was Miss New Mexico Teen USA 2005, Miss New Mexico USA 2011 and top 15 at Miss USA 2011.

(Two of Miss Teen USA 2010 state titleholders have now followed Brittany's lead and are TFA corps members in Louisiana and North Carolina)

2. Melissa Marie Younkins - Cardiac ICU nurse

Via Joe Pier (pageant photo)

Melissa graduated as a RN, with a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), with honors, at 21 years old. As soon as she graduated and passed her nursing boards, she was hired to work in a surgical ICU, at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. After working there for two years, she then moved to Arizona where she has been working in a renowned Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, in Mesa. Melissa loves caring for her patients, especially those recovering from major procedures, such as open heart surgery. She is now moving on to pursue her Masters to practice medicine as a Nurse Practitioner and intends to gain her doctorate after that.

Melissa has competed at both Miss Ohio USA and Miss Arizona USA and will compete again in Arizona this year.

3. Chelsea Welch - Environmental Science

Chelsea graduated Brown University in May 2012 with a Bachelor's of Science in Human Biology focusing in ecosystems, evolution, and the environment and a 3.9 GPA. During her Junior year at Brown she spent a semester studying wildlife conservation in Tanzania. She is currently in her last semester of a Master's of Natural Resources at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia and is applying to the Peace Corps.

Chelsea was Miss West Virginia Teen USA 2007, 4th runner-up at Miss Teen USA 2007, Miss West Virginia USA 2013, and top 15 at Miss USA this year.

4. Jamie Dragon - Business entrepreneur

Jamie attended trade school in high school, took business classes after graduation an opened her own full service beauty boutique, Lush, at age 25. Jamie was Miss Vermont USA 2012.

5. Dr Jenna Hardin Hillman - Chiropractic medicine (for humans AND animals!)

Via Images from

Jenna worked on Capital Hill for one of the highest ranking Senators in Congress at the time. Following that time in DC, she received a Bachelors in Animal Science Pre-vet and minored in Chemistry. She then followed that with a Doctorate in Chiropractic, followed by a certificate to practice Chiropractic on animals. She currently owns and manages two successful practices (one for humans and the other for animals) both which continue to more than double every year.

Jenna was Miss New Mexico USA 2004 & top 15 at Miss USA.

6. Jackie Bruno - Reporting

Jackie Bruno graduated with honors from Boston University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She worked for three years at WWLP-22News in Springfield, Mass. where she was the weekend evening anchor and Hampshire County Bureau reporter. She joined New England Cable News (NECN) in December of 2011 and anchors the weekend evening newscasts while reporting during the weekdays. She was Miss Massachusetts Teen USA 2003, third runner-up at Miss Teen USA, Miss Massachusetts USA 2008, and top 10 at Miss USA.

7. Janet Sutton Cornell - Science

Janet Sutton Cornell works for Thermo Fisher Scientific in their Immunodiagnostics Division. She was Miss Rhode Island USA 2002 and Top 10 at Miss USA 2002. Her Miss Rhode Island USA scholarship to Johnson and Wales University helped get her through college.

8. Lauren Taylor - Attorney at Law

Via Miss Teen USA photo (C) Miss Universe LP, LLLP

Lauren studied Criminal Justice and Political Science for her undergrad at the University of South Carolina and graduated with her Juris Doctor from Charlotte School of Law in 2011. She started her own family and criminal law firm in Greenville in 2012. Lauren was Miss South Carolina Teen USA 2005 and competed at both Miss South Carolina USA and Miss North Carolina USA.

9. Sarah Corinne Thomas - Paediatric ICU nurse

Sarah graduated with a Bachelors degree in biology from the University of Kentucky and recently graduated from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. She is now working in the paediatric intensive care unit at one of the top ranked children's hospitals in the world in DC. Sarah competed at Miss Virginia USA from 2010 to 2012, placing in the top five all three years.

10. LacyJane Folger - Child Life Specialist

LacyJane graduated with honors from Wheelock College in Boston, MA and achieved her Masters in just one year while balancing her position as the director of the first ever Child Life program at New Hampshire's Hospital for Children as a Certified Child Life Specialist. LacyJane leads the Pediatric Bereavement Program, Pet Therapy Program, Child Life Volunteer Program, Music Therapy Program, and Pedi Psych Committee. She also balances her professional time with volunteering for Make A Wish and other local charities. LacyJane was Miss New Hampshire USA 2011.

11. Nydelis Ortiz - Peace Corps

Nydelis Ortiz was the first in her family to graduate from college, where she studied Spanish Language and Literature and Business Administration. She worked for the Department of Homeland Security and is currently serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the community economic development program in Peru. After Peace Corps she intends to go back to school to get her masters in community economic development or public administration. Nydelis was Miss Vermont USA 2010 and unfortunately missed her graduation because she was competing at Miss USA!

12. Haleigh Stidham - Dentistry

Via Miss Teen USA photo (C) Miss Universe LP, LLLP

Haleigh has a Bachelors of Science in Pure Mathematics and Natural Sciences from SMU and a Doctorate of Dental Medicine from UAB. She is a full-time mommy, wife, and dentist with her own private practice, Pearly White Dentistry. She was Miss Alabama USA 2006 and top 10 at Miss USA.

13. Kate McCaughey - Marketing and Community Outreach

Kate has a Bachelor's in Communication and Masters of Science in Marketing from Southern New Hampshire University. She is currently working in Boston for Microsoft as a Community Development Specialist. Kate was Miss Rhode Island USA 2011.

14. Kristen Luneberg Macleod - Finance

Kristen is a Vice President for fixed income sales at Goldman Sachs in New York, and has also worked for Goldman Sachs in Tokyo. She graduated from Duke University in 2003 with a BA in public policy, minoring in German and economics. She was Miss Rhode Island Teen USA 1998 and Miss North Carolina USA 2003.

15. Onawa Lacy - Law

Onawa graduated from the University of New Mexico with a double major in English and Native American Studies and holds a Juris Doctorate from the University of New Mexico School of Law specializing in Family Law and Federal Indian Law. She was Miss Indian World 2003-2004 and Miss New Mexico USA 2006.

16. Caitlin Morrall - Broadcasting

Caitlin Morrall graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional Communication from Alverno College, consistently ranked as one of the top liberal Arts Colleges by US News and World Report's annual College Guide and praised internationally for their unique ability based curriculum.

Upon graduation she completed an internship with ESPN Radio in Milwaukee and became a regular guest on their mid-day talk show, The D-List. Caitlin joined the Milwaukee NBC affiliate, Today's TMJ4, in 2009 as the traffic reporter for Live at Daybreak, and is still part of their Road Warrior team. Prior to joining the TMJ4 team, Caitlin was a freelance reporter for Fox Sports Wisconsin. In 2008 she was a sideline reporter for the WIAA State Football Championships. She also contributed to feature reports for “Bucks Live”, the pregame show for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Caitlin was featured in the 2013 Wisconsin Summer Tourism campaign starring Robert Hays (Airplane!):

Caitlin won Miss Wisconsin USA 2007 after competing for many years in the Miss America system & placing as a runner-up at Miss Wisconsin. At Miss USA 2007, she gave Wisconsin their first semi-finalist placement since 1979!

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